The Thanksgiving episode of WKRP in Cincinnati was based on a real turkey giveaway that went horribly wrong

Oh, the humanity, indeed!

Watch "Turkeys Away" this Sunday, November 24, at 7:30PM | 6:30C on MeTV as part of A Very Merry MeTV!

Many of the antics that viewers enjoyed on WKRP in Cincinnati were inspired by real events. In the seventh episode of the series, "Turkeys Away," Mr. Carlson conjures up an attention-grabbing Thanksgiving promotion. With the help of Herb and Les, he puts a spin on the classic turkey giveaway and makes the holiday one that won’t be forgotten — for decades to come. WKRP will drop 20 live turkeys from a helicopter.

An idea this original is hard to make up, and creator and co-writer Hugh Wilson insists that he didn’t have to — according to Wilson, this, too, happened in real life. In an interview with the Archive of American Television, he explained, "Jerry Blum, who was the general manager of WQXI [in Atlanta], told me that he had been fired from a Texas station for throwing turkeys out of a helicopter. I said to Jerry, 'You just won me an Emmy. That’s really funny.'"

Wilson's longtime friend Clarke Brown corroborates his story, fanning the flames of this wild holiday tale. In an interview with CBR.com, Brown said, "The turkey drop was actually a real incident. It was at a shopping center in Atlanta; I think it was Broadview Plaza, which no longer exists. It was a Thanksgiving promotion."

The intention was to share a little holiday cheer with the fans of the station, but there wasn’t much consideration given to the actual logistics of having livestock on hand. "We thought that we could throw these live turkeys out into the crowd for their Thanksgiving dinners," Brown admitted. "All of us, naïve and uneducated, thought that turkeys could fly. Of course, they just went…splat."

Despite this insistence that the story, indeed, true, it has been under scrutiny for years.

Jerry Blum’s son, Gary Blum, claims that much of the tale has been dressed up (forgive the wordplay).

He told CBR.com, "Contrary to growing folklore and mythical embellishment, the actual 'turkey drop' never took place in Atlanta or at WQXI. It was years earlier in the '60s when Jerry was at a station in Dallas, Texas, called KBOX."

Fair enough, the time and place may be in question, but the big question is: was there a helicopter?

"No," Gary said, "There was no helicopter…. For the radio promotion, they did attempt to throw live turkeys out of the back of a pick-up truck in a shopping center parking lot, and yes, it was a mess…."

Whichever version of the story is closest to the truth, one thing is certain: no one can hear the phrase, "Oh, the humanity!" without imagining Les Nessman watching, horrified, as his bumbling boss pushes flightless birds into a waiting crowd.

Maybe the fictional version told in this legendary episode is the one that matters most.


Save with
Are you sure you want to delete this comment?
Close

17 Comments

Post a comment
CouchPotato19 8 days ago
I never found it funny. It's just cruel, even though it's made up. Just isn't that funny.
OldTVfanatic 17 days ago
I’m surprised the Humane Society didn’t protest the episode. If this had been done today, there would be a massive uproar and WKRP would be off the air in seconds. (Thankfully no real turkeys were seen.)
Martin OldTVfanatic 17 days ago
I think they got away with it because it wasn't intentional. That's why the closing line is so funny. It showed how clueless Carlton really was.
BuckRogers 18 days ago
Les Nessman: “Happy... Thanksgiving...from...W...K...R...P!”
Kelle 18 days ago
The Bob Newhart Show is currently on Decades (2.5 in the Detroit area) and Over The River & Through The Woods will run Thanksgiving afternoon a-d it her at two or two-thirty Eastern time. Moo too gai Pan for everybody!
ChuckJohnson 19 days ago
They're hitting the parking lot like bags of wet cement.
JohnBlair 19 days ago
Ok; domesticated for market turkeys are flightless for various reasons, but the wild turkeys of the pilgrim's Thanksgiving could fly VERY well.
GeoRubik JohnBlair 3 days ago
Turkeys are the fastest flying game bird in North America.
Barry22 20 days ago
That is one of the funniest episodes ever on TV.
DawnGraham Barry22 19 days ago
My favorite episode
teire 20 days ago
“As God is my witness ... “
Pacificsun 21 days ago
If anyone can watch only 2 Thanksgiving TV episodes, (one) should be Cheers (and the food fight). And (two) it should be this episode with the turkeys. It doesn't sound funny in print. But only those WKRP characters could pull it off, hilariously! Enjoy!!
DawnGraham Pacificsun 19 days ago
I agree with both
daDoctah Pacificsun 19 days ago
And if three episodes are possible, you want the Bob Newhart show where the women are off somewhere and the guys try to prepare the turkey on their own, but get too drunk to carry it off and end up ordering Chinese food instead.
Pacificsun daDoctah 19 days ago
Oh yes, absolutely. A classic! Had forgotten about that one. I wish MeTV had included it in their lineup. Where is Newhart running now?
Careful, don't get confused. It was on "The Bob Newhart Show", not "Newhart". "And more Moo Goo Gai Pan."
Are you sure you want to delete this comment?