Oh, the humanity! WKRP’s ‘Turkeys Away’ is still the best Thanksgiving episode ever
Pretty much every sitcom has done a Thanksgiving episode at some point. Cooking mishaps, unwanted relatives stopping by, travel woes—everything about the holiday just seems ripe for TV comedy.
From Cheers to Friends, plenty of shows have cooked up classic episodes about Thanksgiving. But the all-time greatest still has to be WKRP in Cincinnati.
WKRP, which aired for four seasons from 1978 to 1982, was a workplace sitcom about the employees of the titular fictional radio station. It still has its fans and remains popular in reruns, but even if you’ve never seen the show it’s still worth checking out its most famous episode, “Turkeys Away.”
It starts with a pretty standard sitcom set-up: Arthur “Big Guy” Carlson, WKRP’s general manager, keeps insisting to the staff that he has a brilliant idea for the station’s turkey giveaway at the shopping center.
His big plan is kept a secret until the end… but it’s one of the funniest twists in sitcom history.
The reveal comes when character Les Nessman, the station’s news reporter, reports live from the scene, still not knowing what his boss has planned. He narrates the scene as what appear to be skydivers jump out of a helicopter… but then he realizes what they really are:
“Oh my god, they’re turkeys!”
It’s classic TV’s most hilariously morbid gag: the employees listen in horror as Nessman describes, Hindenberg-style, the scene of turkeys “crashing to the earth” breaking car windshields.
“This is terrible! Oh, the humanity! The turkeys are hitting the ground like sacks of wet cement! The crowd is running for their lives!”
It’s a great scene capped off with an amazing final line, as Carlson comes in to the studio with this simple explanation: “As God as my witness, I thought turkeys could fly.”
It’s easily WKRP‘s most famous and best-regarded episode. Not only is it considered the best Thanksgiving episode ever, it’s considered one of the best TV episodes ever: TV Guide ranked it as the 40th best TV episode of all time.
One of the craziest things about this episode is that it was actually based on a true story! Clarke Brown, the radio executive who inspired the character Herb Tarlek, recalled that “Turkeys Away” was based on a real turkey giveaway promo his station once did.
“The turkey drop was actually a real incident,” he recalled in an oral history of the episode. “We thought that we could throw these live turkeys out into the crowd for their Thanksgiving dinners. All of us, naïve and uneducated, thought that turkeys could fly.”
(Luckily, these turkeys were only thrown from a truck and not a helicopter, saving real-life shoppers from the same chaos.)
The episode aired over 40 years ago, but it still holds up as a classic sitcom moment. It’s always worth rewatching for Thanksgiving.
Is “Turkeys Away” part of your holiday tradition? Share this story to share the memories!
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