WKRP Turkey Drop Actually Based on a Real Incident in Texas
Like most people in radio, or at least those of us who have been around a while, I grew up a huge fan of WKRP in Cincinnati. Who didn't want to be Dr. Johnny Fever? WKRP and the 1978 movie FM were influential in my teen years directing my desire to 'be in radio.'
If you don't remember, and most people probably don't, the movie FM was about a rock station in the 70's battling the evil 'corporate empire' wanting to sell an ad schedule to the US Army for recruitment. A rather innocuous plot by today's standards, but in 1978 to this junior in high-school, it was high art. It featured Martin Mull, (then fairly unknown) Eilleen Brennan, Alex Karras, James Keach, and Cleavon Little. If you don't think you know them, look them up, and you'll go "Oh yeah!" It also featured live concert footage of Linda Ronstadt. And what 16 year old American male in 1978 didn't have a huge crush on Linda Ronstadt.
If you look back over sitcoms, a lot have Christmas episodes, but other than Friends, not many had Thanksgiving episodes over the years. And NOBODY had an episode more memorable than WKRP's turkey drop episode entitled, "Turkeys Away." Just thinking about the title makes me laugh.
Mr. Carlson's Bright Idea
In the episode, the station manager, Mr. Carlson came up with a publicity stunt to give away turkeys to listeners for Thanksgiving.... by dropping them from a helicopter. Well, in case you don't know, turkeys can't fly. And what ensued went into the annals of television history as one of the most famous episodes in sitcom history.
The Real Story
But what you may not realize, is that this episode was actually based on a real live event. Some iterations of the story have it happening in Atlanta, while some say it actually happened in Dallas, Texas. The Dallas story seems to hold more water. According to a metv.com story, Jerry Blum was the general manager of WQXI in Atlanta and told the story of how he got fired back in the 60's from a Dallas station called KBOX.
Blum said there was no helicopter, but rather, they threw live turkeys out of the back of a moving pickup in the parking lot of a shopping center. According to Blum, "It was a mess." As Les Nessman said.. "Oh the humanity!"
The episode ended with the station manager, Mr. Carlson, uttering that famous line, "As God is my witness.... I thought turkeys could fly."