The Strange But True Story Behind WKRP’s ‘Flying Turkeys’ Episode
I have to be completely honest with you here. There is actually one other radio station I'd love to work for aside from i95. That radio station is WKRP in Cincinnati. Especially around this time of year.
Each year when Thanksgiving comes around us radio junkies inevitably will recite one the funniest lines in television history and that is one spoken by WRKP Station Manager Arthur Carlson - "As God as my witness...I thought turkeys could fly."
Yes, that may be the funniest line of them all coming from a television show which packed more hilarious lines into rotation than a top 40 station packs in the hits. It came about during episode 7 of season 1 called "Turkeys Away" originally aired 40 years ago on October 30th, 1978.
The idea was for Mr. Carlson to take the chaotically-run station back under his control and come up with his own promotional idea. With the help of his tacky, plaid paints-loving salesman Herb Tarlek and his oddball, imaginary wall-creating newsman Les Nesman Carlson he turns a regular ho-hum promotional Turkey Day event into a seismic catastrophe that which hadn't been seen or heard since the Hindenburg crash. At least that's what Nesman will tell you.
That's right, the idea was to throw turkeys out of a helicopter while WKRP's top-notch newsman Les Nesman broadcast the event live as it happened.
It turns out that this promotional event actually took place. In fact, the entire show WKRP was actually based on a real station WQXI in Atlanta. Clarke Brown, a real radio exec who worked on the WKRP T.V. show, worked at WQXI. Their promotional event involved tossing live turkeys from a truck, not a helicopter, but they still went splat and much like WKRP their staff dealt with a high volume of angry callers shortly after.
A broadcaster and music journalist with obvious great taste in humor by the name of John Beaudin made this video on behalf of the YouTube channel Nail Sheet which goes into more of "The Great Turkey Drop".
So I can only hope that this serves as more of a public service announcement to those planning on making this Thanksgiving one for the books. Whatever you do, never throw turkeys out of a helicopter. Maybe someday I'll be able to broadcast that same message over the radio waves of the great WKRP. Yeah, right. When turkeys will fly.