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 22, 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, 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, "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.

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JeffDeWitt 20 months ago
There is a joke at the end of this that few people will get anymore.

As it's wrapping up Dr. Johnny Fever says, "The Pinedale shopping center has just been bombed with live turkeys, film at 11:00"

Younger people just won't get it. First of all WKRP is an AM radio station (obviously), so there is no video ever. Second, film at 11 is from the days when TV stations used film to record stories, and that film had to be developed.

Then there was the bit were Les was saying it was like the turkeys were getting organized and mounting a counter attack.

GREAT episode.
Olivia_Reed 36 months ago
This is the only episode of WKRP I couldn't stomach watching after its original broadcast. Everybody else seems to think it's so all-fired dad loved it.
TerriMessner 54 months ago
"Oh, the humanity" was a phrase that radio reporter Herb Morrison coined in 1937 while he was reporting on the Hindenberg explosion. We oldies would rather quote a line less associated with a historic tragedy....... "As God as my witness, I thought turkeys could fly"
CouchPotato19 56 months ago
I never found it funny. It's just cruel, even though it's made up. Just isn't that funny.
OldTVfanatic CouchPotato19 56 months ago
I’m with you.
Rick8748 OldTVfanatic 44 months ago
funniest show ever. Get a life nut job
rikkirat CouchPotato19 30 months ago
Did you see any actual turkeys die… did hear any sounds of turkeys being tortured? Of course you didn’t because it was never included in the show. I think it’s one of the funniest Tv episodes ever.
What was "cruel" about it? There are no turkeys in the episode at all.
Moverfan Amancalledhorse 16 months ago
Well, there was Herb...and Les...but they're OUR turjeys and we live them!
OldTVfanatic 56 months 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 56 months 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.
Rick8748 OldTVfanatic 44 months ago
its a tv show about stupid turkeys. Very funny.
The Humane Society didn't protest it because there was nothing to protest! As you yourself point out, there are no turkeys in the episode at all! It's all left to the imagination.
BuckRogers 56 months ago
Les Nessman: “Happy... Thanksgiving...from...W...K...R...P!”
Moverfan 56 months 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 56 months ago
They're hitting the parking lot like bags of wet cement.
Moverfan ChuckJohnson 35 months ago
Les, are you there?...Les isn't there...
JohnBlair 56 months 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 56 months ago
Turkeys are the fastest flying game bird in North America.
Barry22 56 months ago
That is one of the funniest episodes ever on TV.
DawnGraham Barry22 56 months ago
My favorite episode
teire 56 months ago
“As God is my witness ... “
Pacificsun 56 months 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!!
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Wiseguy froggyladybug 44 months ago
Betty White was only on the second revamped season. The first season was better.
Moverfan froggyladybug 35 months ago
The first season of Newhart was wonderful. Then they had to bring in Stephanie the moronic stuck-up bimbo. I quit watching after that...well, until the final episode and the dream sequence nobody saw coming.
Moverfan daDoctah 35 months ago
"Did you hear what Howard wants?"
Moverfan daDoctah 18 months ago
Emily had gone toher parents' house in Washington State--Bob was supposed to go too, but he was a bit overwhelmed by her family. Jerry and Howard wandered in when their plans fell through and Mr. Carlson just wandered in...
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