Happy Thanksgiving to you.
We’ve got lots of great shows and movies about the holidays on either side of this one – Halloween specials, Christmas specials – but not many great Thanksgiving specials.
Except for one: the absolutely legendary Thanksgiving episode of the sitcom “WKRP In Cincinnati.”
If you haven’t seen it before, better stop reading here and come back to us later, cause we’re going through the plot all the way to the end, and I’d rather you hear it from the cast before you hear it here.
Okay, everybody ready?
The characters that worked at the fictional WKRP were based on real people who had worked at real radio stations.
And the story of the episode called “Turkeys Away” came from a story from one of those real life radio people.
According to showrunner Hugh Wilson, a radio station probably in Atlanta had once thought up a promotion where they would have a live turkey drop, either out of a truck or out of a helicopter.
This went so poorly that the fellow who thought the whole thing up lost his job.
Now if this sounds like a legend, consider this.
For decades, the community of Yellville, Arkansas, had an annual Turkey Trot festival in which they would drop live turkeys off the courthouse, and later, out of an airplane.
Eventually there were protests along the lines of, how on earth did we get to the point that we’re throwing turkeys off the side of buildings and airplanes?
Other people didn’t mind, because they were allowed to keep any bird they caught and have it for Thanksgiving dinner.
The festival still takes place in Arkansas each year, but nobody throws turkeys out of anything.
Anyway, when he heard the story about the radio promotion gone very wrong, Wilson told the radio man, “I think you just won me an Emmy.”
On the show, WKRP’s owner, Arthur Carlson, decides he wants to turn a standard turkey giveaway at a grocery store into the biggest radio promotion of all time.
And it goes just as far south as the real life version.
The episode doesn’t actually show any turkeys at all; the comedy comes from the reactions of the “WKRP” characters, especially the station’s newscaster, Les Nessman.
Actor Richard Sanders patterned his live description of the disastrous turkey drop off the famous broadcast of the Hindenberg disaster in 1937.
The rest of the cast back at the station watched on in real time, though they said they kept busting out laughing because how could you not?
Maybe the most famous line of the show is the one from Arthur Carlson, who can’t believe how badly his plan has gone off course.
The line they wrote is apparently almost word for word what was actually said when that real life turkey drop went all wrong.
But it’s hard to imagine he could’ve said the line any funnier than actor Gordon Jump did on the show.
Turkeys Away: An Oral History (Classic TV History)