Tuesday, November 23, 2010

“As God is my witness, I thought turkeys could fly.”

That’s one of the funniest and best known lines ever uttered on television. It was from WKRP in Cincinnati's "Turkeys Away"
episode, a comic account of a disastrous promotion initiated by the station's owner Arthur Carlson.
As a publicity stunt, WKRP drops live turkeys out of a helicopter over a shopping center as a Thanksgiving Day giveaway. The domestic turkeys, which cannot fly, plunge to their deaths as shoppers run for their lives.

The entire event, however, occurs entirely off-screen, as the viewer only sees and hears Les Nessman describe the scene in words reminiscent of the “real life” Hindenberg disaster. “Oh, the humanity!”

Most people are under the impression that WKRP in Cinncinati was a “sit com.”

No, no.

The episodes on WKRP were documentaries!

Having spent a lot of years of my life working in small radio stations, I know what I’m talking about.

Almost without exception, every one of those stations had their own version of just about every character on the TV series.

And the situations they found themselves in were very familiar to small stations throughout the country.

For example, Thanksgiving was always a big day for small stations to promote themselves...usually by giving away Turkeys.

WCHL in Chapel Hill is a good case in point. That little station was well represented by ex CHS students beginning with Charles Kuralt in 1954. Barry Clark and I worked there from 1955 til ’58.

Ty Boyd, who later replaced Charlotte icon Grady Cole was there during that time too. Ty was always so enthusiastic, especially about our turkey give aways, that Barry and I nicknamed him “Turkey Ty.”

Finally, the turkey story on the WKRP show was actually based on real events that occurred at WQXI in Atlanta, a station at which series creator Hugh Wilson worked while in the advertising business.

Have a happy Thanksgiving everybody, but don't forget to "look up" from time to time.
You never know.  -Ed