Saturday, November 17, 2012

WKRP In Cincinnati: "Turkeys Away"

"As God is my witness, I thought turkeys could fly!"
-Arthur Carlson

First aired October 30, 1978

WKRP's station manager Arthur Carlson (Gordon Jump), aka "The Big Guy", is feeling like a fifth wheel at the radio station.  He asks program director Andy Travis (Gary Sandy) "what do I do?"  Travis tells him "you're the boss and you do...boss stuff."  Carlson says that's not good enough, he wants to be in charge of everything at the station.

Carlson reminds Andy Travis that he's "the Big Guy."
Carlson hovers over everyone, asking if he can help and gets on everyone's nerves.  He won't leave anyone alone.  DJs Johnny Fever (Howard Hesseman) and Venus Flytrap (Tim Reid) get sick of Carlson's interference.  Newscaster Les Nessman (Richard Sanders) complains that Carlson is hanging around his teletype machine and wants to go on assignment with him.  He tries to take over Bailey Quarters' (Jan Smithers) t-shirt promotion.  Ad manager Herb Tarlek (Frank Bonner) says Carlson's meddling cost him a sale. They all take their complaints to Travis and ask him to get Carlson off their backs.

WKRP's staff complains to Travis about Carlson's meddling.

Carlson barges in and tells the staff he's "just concluded  a deal that's gonna make radio history...the greatest promotion idea of all time. All it's gonna take is your complete cooperation, absolute secrecy and 20 live turkeys."  WKRP will sponsor the greatest Thanksgiving promotion in history...!

Carlson puts Herb in charge of obtaining the 20 turkeys from a local farmer.  When it's time for the promotion, Les is sent to do a live radio feed outside a local mall, with Johnny working at the studio.  Suddenly, a helicopter appears overhead, carrying a banner that reads "Happy Thanksgiving From WKRP".  A door opens in the back of the helicopter, dropping (in Les' words) "a dark object. Perhaps a skydiver."  But it's not a skydiver.

"Oh, my goodness! Oh,the humanity!"
What has Carlson done?  Will this go down as the greatest Thanksgiving promotion of all time or the worst disaster in Turkey Day history?

J.A. Morris says:

WKRP was one of the best "workplace sitcoms" of my lifetime with one of the best ensemble casts.  "Turkeys Away" is the finest episode of the series, and one of the most memorable episodes of any series.

Venus, Jennifer (Loni Anderson), Andy and Bailey work on damage control
For once we get a Thanksgiving episode that has nothing to do with carving turkeys or kitchen disasters. Even before it gets to the "Thanksgiving" portion of the story, it's already a great episode.  Gordon Jump is excellent as Carlson here.  We've all felt left out at some point in our lives, so we can sympathize with Carlson...until he tries to micromanage everyone.  But the MVP of the episode is Richard Sanders as Les.  He makes us believe Carlson's "promotion" is actually happening.  Sanders deserved an Emmy for his work in "Turkeys Away."

The amazing thing about this episode (especially the finale, which I'm reluctant to spoil) is that it's almost done entirely through dialogue.  I could almost see this story being dramatized on the radio.

"Turkeys Away" can be found on dvd, as part of  WKRP in Cincinnati - The Complete First Season
and it also streams for free on Hulu.  But beware, this cut of the episode will have all the original music removed.  There's a great scene where Carlson visits Johnny Fever in the DJ booth that's heavily edited due to music rights issues.  It's worth seeking out the original version of "Turkeys Away" if you can find it.  

"I thought it would work!"
A great episode and not a bad introduction to the series for those who've never seen WKRP.

J.A. Morris' Rating:
4 Pumpkin Pies!

RigbyMel says:

This is a classic sitcom and a classic Thanksgiving holiday episode.  I've seen it many times and it never fails to make me laugh.

Much credit should be given to Bill Dial who wrote the episode as well as to the actors (especially Richard Sanders' portrayal of Les Nessman) for their great comic delivery. 

As J.A. Morris says, it is a shame that current releases of this episode do not contain the original music cues due to rights issues.   There are some great scenes throughout the WKRP series that simply don't work as well with "generic" replacement tunes.   Also,  you miss out on a rather brilliant in-joke as Creedence Clearwater Revival's "It Came Out Of The Sky" plays during the climactic scene in the original broadcast version.   Even with the music related edits, though, this episode is one of the greats.

RigbyMel's rating:
4 pumpkin pies

1 comment:

bga said...

This was hilarious when first aired and I still remember the episode so it must have been good.