Television & Broadcasting Achievements of Roy Ward Dickson
Starting Out in Canada
In the early fifties, it became clear that audiences were shrinking; the heyday of radio had come and gone. The impact of television was being felt. CBC's monopoly on the major broadcasting centres had a great many people deeply worried. Careers were dying; sponsors were turning away; audiences were diminishing. Many performers were unable to transition to live broadcasting. Roy, barred from the "major stations" and unwilling to kow-tow to CBC, mounted his first television show What d'you Know? in 1953/54 at CHCH-TV, Channel 11, in Hamilton, Ontario. This fast-paced Sunday afternoon game was soon to be joined by a simulcast version of Fun Parade. Having a show simultaneously broadcast by radio and television was a novel concept at the time, not to mention a daring suggestion on Roy's part.
Other RWD programs followed within months: a regular weekly TV version of Turnabout (circa 1954) and a two-hour daily afternoon magazine show called PM. These were followed in short order by a very popular panel game called Claim to Fame (with the panel including Roy's wife Shirley, seen above), and a celebrity talk show called People. Roy was producing and writing literally day and night.
The tight fist of the CBC, the relentless pace, and the accumulating fatigue caught up to Roy. On a blizzardy late night drive back from the studio in Hamilton, he narrowly avoided an exhaustion-induced accident on the Queen Elizabeth Way. Arriving home, he explored the options with his wife Shirley. Fed up with the CBC's hegemony, he called a press conference to challenge the politically appointed head of the CBC to a public debate at Maple Leaf Gardens. He got lots of media, but the challenge was ignored by the CBC. Frustrated and disillusioned, Roy set his sights on Britain, where the independent television battle had been won.
Off to Britain
Roy acted quickly on his decision and found the British broadcasting industry receptive to his ideas. The next four years in the UK were busy, with a succession of successful television programs that Roy devised, produced and/or hosted. Turnabout (1954), Bonanza, The £1000 Word, Full House, and then Abracadabra aired on Associated-Rediffusion, ITV and/or TWW. These were happy and productive years for Roy and Shirley and their growing family. Back home, during this time, the Royal Commission on Broadcasting disempowered the CBC, allowing licensing of competitive television stations in Canada.
In 1960, Roy — having made a commitment in the press to return to Canada when there was democracy in broadcasting — now made good on his promise. He devised the first morning magazine TV show, A.M., for Ken Soble at CHCH Television. The first show to book a slot on the new CTV network was Roy's popular Take a Chance! Roy also nationally produced and hosted Think of a Word and Try for Ten (which were broadcast in Britain along with Abracadabra).
In 1963, CFTO's program manager wanted "something different" from Roy. RWD came up with a format titled Mr and Mrs, which proceeded to run non-stop on CTV for 780 episodes. Mr & Mrs was also picked up over in the UK, where it enjoyed a run for twenty-one years. In 2006, Celador International, through Derek Batey, licensed the rights to the Mr & Mrs format from Roy's estate, with plans to update the format for a 21st century audience.
Eventually, Mr & Mrs, Sion a Sian (the Welsh version) and Three Little Words became major hits in Britain. Throughout the sixties and into the seventies, Roy's fame and stardom had spread with national television. He had truly arrived at the pinnacle of success. And yet, he wasn't happy. At the height of his television career, Roy had become disillusioned with corporate rules and the business culture in which he had, of necessity, become immersed. In the late 1960's, this disenchantment propelled him to opt out of the "rat race" to retire to beautiful Victoria, BC.
Shows by Roy Ward Dickson
Over a forty-year career in radio and television, Roy devised, produced, and/or emceed dozens of successful shows. These include:
- Mr & Mrs (21 years)
- Sion a Sian (Wales, about 13 years)
- Taro Deg (Wales, 5 years)
- Juniors Try for Ten! (Scotland)
- Try For Ten! (6 years)
- Gair Am Air (Wales, 3 years)
- Three Little Words (3 years, then national)
- Think of a Word
- Think of a Number
- Pwy Fase'n Meddwl (Wales, 3 years)
- Claim to Fame (3 years)
- The £1000 Word
- Abracadabra (national, 3 years)
- Full House (national)
- Turnabout (national, 3 years)
- Bonanza (1956! national)
- Abracadabra (national)
- Mr & Mrs (national, 3 years)
- Try For Ten! (national)
- Think of a Word (national)
- Tentez Votre Chance! (6 years)
- Take a Chance! (national, 6 years)
- Claim to Fame (2 series)
- Fun Parade (simulcast)
- What d'you Know?
- Turnabout (national, 4 years)
- Tentez Votre Chance! (5 years)
- Take a Chance! (national, 6 years)
- The Money-Makers (national, 4 years)
- Tell Me More!
- Dollars and Sense The Wonderful World of Plants
- Live 'n Learn
- Battle of Words
- Kitchen Quizz
- Fun Parade (national, 17 years)
- K-plus Kollege
- What Do You Know?
- People, Places, Things
- The Quizz Club (national)
- Professor Dick and his Question Box (1935)
Next: on to "retirement" and life as an author.
For more in-depth information on the life of Roy Ward Dickson, see Roy's autobiography, Take a Chance!