“As God As My Witness…I Thought Turkeys Could Fly”
From 1978 to 1982 it was a mildly successful CBS sitcom, about a mildly successful mid-west radio station. It was "staffed" by a burned-out rock jock, a smooth, silky voiced Urban contemporary night-jock, an inept general manager, a sales manager you would expect to see selling used cars, a nerdy news man who was the 5 time winner of the Buckeye News Hawk award, an eager, fresh out of college idealist green-horn, an uber sexy receptionist and a programming director at his wits end trying to hold it all together. It was radio. For me, it was a career choice.
It was WKRP in Cincinatti.
I was a sophomore in high school when it debuted on September 18th, 1978. Life for me was the next day....football practice, algebra class and a history test I wasn't prepared for. Only weeks before I met a girl that would change my life, albeit it over 30 years later. But on that night, I met 7 people that would change my life and lead me to
where I am today. I was enthralled by what I saw. Sure I had listened to radio (thank you KRTH, KFI, KLOS & KMET), but I never gave it a second thought. Who they were, where they were and what really went on when the microphone snapped off.
On this night I did.
But it wasn't until the famous (infamous?) Thanksgiving episode (original air date 10/30/1978) did I become enthralled. It was an episode titled "Turkeys Away" and was about a station promotion gone wrong. VERY wrong. Few people know it, but it was in part based on an actual incident that happened at an Atlanta radio station WXQI-AM (Quixie In Dixie). Series creator and lead writer Hugh Wilson was working at WXQI at the time of the original incident and based the episode on that experience.
Oh the humanity...
For a Thanksgiving Day giveaway promotion, the WKRP's general manager Arthur Carlson ("The Big Guy") thought it would be a great idea to give away turkeys by tossing them from a helicopter. Unseen by the camera, the turkeys come crashing down as reporter Les Nessman provides play by play (fortunately we did not see the turkeys themselves.) Noting they are hitting the ground “likes bags of cement,” Nessman cites the old Hindenberg line, “Oh, the humanity!” but the episode will forever be known by 10 words uttered at the very end of the show. It was at this point I would decide what I had to do. And for 15 of my adult years, it has been those 10 words that have empowered and directed me toward what I have chosen as my career:
Though I did always wondered why there was never a mid-day goddess, an afternoon drive comedian and anything resembling a sales staff, I want to forever thank Howard Hessman (Dr Johnny Fever), Tim Reid (Venus Flytrap), Frank Bonner (Herb Tarlek), Richard Sanders (Les Nessman), Jan Smithers (Bailey Quarters, who by the way was my very first teen-age "crush"), Loni Anderson (Jennifer Marlowe) and Gary Sandy (Andy Travers). I want to thank series creator and writer Hugh Wilson for creating the hand book for my professional life.
But most importantly I want to thank Gordon Jump, who portrayed the misguided station manager Arthur Carlson, for one of the funniest, most perfectly delivered lines ever on television. Thank you for the laughs guys...and for the memories.
As my holiday gift to you, please enjoy the episode, and, as God as my witness...I want to wish all of you and yours a very happy Thanksgiving.