"WKRP in Cincinnati" Turkeys Away (TV Episode 1978) - Plot Summary Poster

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  • Feeling left out by all the recent changes, Mr. Carlson decides to launch his own Thanksgiving promotion. With the aid of Herb and Les, the Big Guy turns a routine turkey give-away into a comic catastrophe.

  • This is the signature episode, the one that first comes to mind when one thinks of WKRP in Cincinatti. On air, Dr. Johnny Fever tells his fellow babies about Turkey Day doings. Out on the streets, "oh the humanity"... Mr. Carlson stages a top-secret holiday promotion and ends up ruffling a lot of feathers.

  • It's a couple of months into the station format change, and Mr. Carlson, still the station manager, is feeling left out of all the goings-on of the staff in the day-to-day business. Andy, as the program director, understands Mr. Carlson's feelings but still does not want him meddling in the station affairs, which on the most part are running smoothly. Andy also cannot tell him such directly to his face. So what Mr. Carlson does, in wanting to feel useful, is come up with a Thanksgiving Day turkey giveaway promotion. Although he brings Les and Herb in as much as he needs as the two among the old guard at the station, Mr. Carlson tells the rest of the staff nothing beyond the need for Herb to obtain twenty live turkeys for the live giveaway broadcast, with Les the news man in the field and the giveaway to occur during Johnny's show. What happens isn't exactly how Mr. Carlson envisions the giveaway or what the turkeys themselves would have wanted.



The synopsis below may give away important plot points.


  • The episode opens with Johnny Fever in the broadcast booth of WKRP, relaxing while "Dogs" from the album Animals by Pink Floyd plays. Mr Carlson silently enters the booth, curious as to the song being played, particularly the sounds of barking dogs sampled on the 17-minute track. Johnny appears to be ignoring the station manager, even when Carlson waves his hands in front of Johnny's trademark sunglasses. Carlson hovers over the record player and when he gets too close, Johnny calmly orders him not to touch it. Carlson asks about the "orchestra" playing the song and asks if he's hearing dogs on the song, to which the still-passive Johnny says "I do." Carlson is still puzzled but tells Johnny to keep up the good work as he slips out the door.

    Mr Carlson and Herb Tarlick are working on a Thanksgiving promotion involving a turkey giveaway. When questioned about it by the station's program director, Andy Travis, about it, Mr Carlson becomes mildly haughty, saying he has a lot of great ideas for the station. Andy leaves his boss and Herb to their own devices.

    The day of the big giveaway arrives and the station's news reporter, Les Nessman, will do live coverage of the event in the parking lot of a Cincinnati shopping mall. Les sets up in front of a store and begins to describe the scene, stopping momentarily when he's harassed by the shop's owner for standing in the doorway. Back at the station, Johnny is at the controls in the booth while Venus, Andy and Bailey listen in.

    Les sees a helicopter fly in over the parking lot, dragging a message banner behind it. Slow to read the message, Les finally reports that it says "HAPPY THANKSGIVING FROM WKRP". He then notices a dark object being dropped from the helicopter, then a second one. Believing them to be skydivers, his tone becomes increasingly cautious when he sees no parachutes are opening. After a few more moments he realizes in horror that the objects are live turkeys. Continuing his broadcast (which bears a strong resemblance to the Hindenberg disaster) he says that the turkeys are hitting the ground and that the crowd has begun running away in panic. One turkey hits a parked car. Les continues, saying the turkeys are hitting the ground like "sacks of wet cement". He tries to retreat to the store behind him but realizes he can't after annoying the owner.

    At the studio, the gang are listening, horrified themselves, when the broadcast is suddenly cut off. Johnny calmly tries to re-establish contact with Les, but hears only silence. Johnny thanks Less, telling his listeners that the shopping mall was just "bombed by live turkeys" and ends the broadcast.

    Back in the studio lobby, Herb and Carlson return, looking ragged. Carlson says he thought the promotion was foolproof and the two stalk into his office. Les returns to the studio, looking just as haggard as his boss and Herb. He says a man and his family tried to kill him and he only got away by locking himself in a phone booth. He goes on, saying that the helicopter landed in the parking lot and that Carlson must've decided, after seeing the turkeys hit the ground in the drop, that he'd simply free the others after the chopper touched down. Les says things got very bizarre afterward and tries to walk off but Andy stops him, telling him to explain the rest. Les says the turkeys seemed to mount a counteroffensive, turning on their human minders and that they were "organized."

    A few moments later, Herb and Carlson emerge from the office, still in shock. Carlson says "As god is my witness, I thought turkeys could fly."

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