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My Wildest Dream

The same week as the third episode of the Goon Show’s sixth series aired (see ‘The Last Emperor’), producer Peter Eton roped in Harry Secombe for a new type of panel show titled My Wildest Dream.

Perchance to Dream ‘What kind of a panel is this?’ we asked Peter Eton, producer of the Goons, when he told us of his new venture, a panel game called My Wildest Dream, which begins on Monday in the Light Programme. For we had just heard of the ‘experts’ he had signed up for the first of the series – Tommy Trinder, Jimmy Edwards, Ted Ray, and Harry Secombe. ‘The idea,’ said Peter, ‘is to present a not too serious game in which listeners will challenge the panel to guess their no-longer-so-secret dreams and wishes, whether they be about people, places, or circumstances.’ In the chair to see fair play will be Peter Haigh, taking time off from television.

(from the Radio Times, issue 1664, page 6, published 30 September 1955)

Reading through newspaper reviews, My Wildest Dream was a divisive programme. On the one hand, as Sunday Mirror reviewer Paul Boyle wrote after the first few episodes, the show was “the most uninhibited rag in broadcasting”.

Peter Eton, the producer, records an hour of sheer bedlam, then edits it down to thirty minutes. And if he ever wants to put out a best-selling record, there’s a honey to be made from the gags that DON’T get past the BBC! Seriously, though, My Wildest Dream is the finest tonic radio could have.

(from the Sunday Mirror, published 30 October 1955)

Boyle goes on to tell TV execs to keep their hands off this show.

On the flipside, though, readers of the Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer were unimpressed by the first episodes. The paper’s radio critic, the wonderfully named Archibald Kenyon, reported that readers had taken “a poor view” of the show, and criticised the choice of questions put to the panel.

Aside from accusing the programme planners of scheduling My Wildest Dream to maximise the “contrast between adult tomfoolery and adolescent dignity” – if anyone knows what on earth this means please let me know – Kenyon took a dim view of the noise.

… I found this week’s performance unobjectionable. All the same it was no great achievement to the credit of the team as comedians. Their guessing was clever but done too noisily and with too many interruptions, making it sound like push and shove match to capture the microphone. It is possibly fun for the studio audience to see a frisky team running loose. For listeners they are better with their script writers’ harness on.

(from the Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer, 21 October 1955)

Harry Secombe appears to have only featured in the first episode, after which he was replaced by David Nixon and Terry-Thomas. Perhaps that’s why, by mid-November, the critics had really turned on the programme: they wanted more Ned!

From The Sketch, published 19 October 1955
Only a few weeks ago I clapped both hands with glee when My Wildest Dream began on the Light Programme. After hearing this week’s effort I am left wringing both hands with despair. Most of the time could hear nothing but the blare and racket caused by ill-timed cross-talk and constant interruption from members of the panel. And what I did manage to hear I didn’t like. Peter Haigh, the chairman, spent a harassed half-hour trying to restore order without success. Messrs Ray, Trinder, Edwards and Terry-Thomas seemed to think they had been granted [a] free period on the air in which to advertise themselves and their own particular brands of humour. The competition was cut-throat. As a result real wit was at a low ebb, and the comedians concentrated on calling each other names in schoolboy fashion. The attempt to mate Twenty Questions with Ignorance is Bliss has failed miserably.

(Kevin Portland writes in the Aberdeen Evening Express, 19 November 1955)

To get an idea of what the show was actually like, we turn to the pages of the Lincolnshire Standard and Boston Guardian from October 1955. A Mrs Beryl Hall wrote in offering her dream: to be a pair of Victor Sylvester’s dancing shoes, “because then all my life I would never put a foot wrong”.

Arriving at the Playhouse Theatre in Northumberland Avenue, she was introduced to her fellow challengers, after which they were briefed – and warned – by the producer [Peter Eton] and chairman Peter Haigh. Said the latter: “Don’t worry if the panel don’t get around to asking you any questions. It’s complete bedlam – I gave up trying to keep them in order long ago.” And Mrs Hall, who was the first challenger to face the inquisitors, says: “It certainly was bedlam. “When one of them asked a question, before you could open your mouth to reply, one of the others had cut in. And away they went again. I spent most of my time on stage just listening! “But it was good fun – and an experience I wouldn’t have missed.”

(from the Lincolnshire Standard and Boston Guardian, 29 October 1955)

Mrs Hall’s husband, who just happened to be the newspaper’s chief reporter, laments at the end of the article that she should have chosen to be something more sensible, “such as a pair of Stanley Matthews’ football boots”.

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