… I thought Turkey’s could fly!
October 30, 2018
“As God is my witness, I thought Turkeys could fly.”
And thus ended one of the most memorable TV episodes in history.
It was October 30, 1978, and the TV show “WKRP” had been on the air for a mere six weeks. But in that brief time it had become a hit due to the stellar ensemble cast of characters and excellent writing.
The premise of the show is that newly hired program director, Andy Travis (played by Gary Sandy), takes on the challenge of turning around Cincinnati radio station WKRP by changing it from an easy listening to a rock and roll format. Along with disc jockeys Johnny Fever (Howard Hessman) and Venus Flytrap (Tim Reid), he encounters an uphill cultural battle and deals with incompetent management.
Two of the more memorable characters are station manager Arthur ‘Big Guy’ Carlson (Howard Jump) and the milquetoast newsman Les Nessman (Richard Sanders).
A very brief description of the episode from the Infallible Wikipedia:
“Mr. Carlson decides to take a more hands-on managerial approach by doing the greatest Thanksgiving promotion in radio history – dropping live turkeys from a helicopter. Trivia: In 1997 TV Guide ranked this episode at number 40 on its ‘100 Greatest Episodes of All Time’ list. In 2009, it moved to #65. It is based on a real event that happened at WQXI, the station many of the WKRP characters were based on.”
What’s amazing about the October 30th episode, titled ‘Turkey Drop,’ is that the release of the birds – from a helicopter – is never shown. What the viewers saw, however, were the reactions of the cast members to the event as it ‘happened’ in real time. Its classic storytelling as characters stay in character the entire time and the viewer knows without a doubt everything which occurs.
I am including two clips. The first is of Les Nessman in his newsman role reporting live from the scene as the turkeys start falling from the sky. What makes this so very funny is that we also see the staff back at the radio station being appalled at the disaster of the promotion.
Here’s clip one of the turkey drop:
And the classic line:
For those who have the time, watch the entire episode. Even to this day, I laugh whenever I see the second clip which – this time of year – is likely to be several times on social media.
Here’s the entire episode:
I give credit to my brother for bringing it up the other night; he can confirm that I was truly giddy to think I would get to do my blog about this episode. It was appropriate that he was the one who reminded me of it as he has spent his entire adult life working in radio as a disc jockey. He attests to the fact that radio really is that crazy of a business. He’s been fired from more jobs than most people will ever hold. Why? Because the station decides to change format and, boom, you’re gone because you’re not the sound they want. Or because of budget cuts. Or because the program director simply does not like you. As one program director once said “it would be a great business if it weren’t for the jocks (disc jockeys).” He had a point as most of the DJ’s have strong personalities.
My brother has lived in North Bend, Oregon; Eugene, Oregon; Tacoma; Seattle; Denver; Dallas; and Yakima. He’s called some of the places home more than once. I probably have missed a few but he’s truly lived ‘up and down’ the dial like the show’s theme song says!
Nowadays many of the voices you hear on the radio are recorded earlier and are no longer live; in fact many of them are not even in the same city.
Stations like WKRP rarely exist any longer. Thank goodness they produced the show for four seasons, catching a little piece of Americana for all time. What a treasure.
About the show: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/WKRP_in_Cincinnati