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For more than 30 years, John Kiesewetter has been the source for information about all things in local media — comings and goings, local people appearing on the big or small screen, special programs, and much more. Contact John at johnkiese@yahoo.com.

Doing A Deep Dive On The 'WKRP' Turkey Drop Episode

Courtesy MTM Productions
Les Nessman (Richard Sanders) broadcasts from WKRP's Thanksgiving promotion at fictional Pinedale Shopping Mall on Oct. 30, 1978.

Want to know more about WKRP in Cincinnati's famous "turkey drop" episode?

I did a podcast at Cincy Shirts Tuesday talking about the 1978 "Turkeys Away" episode, which repeats twice next week on MeTV – at 7:30 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 18, and at 9:30 p.m. on Thanksgiving – in Cincinnati on Channel 5.2 and Dayton's 7.2.

Owner Josh Sneed, TV fanatic P.F. Wilson and I discussed both the great and forgotten moments of the iconic episode from 40 years ago. We also talk about the show's great rock music, including the violent "hoodlum rock" band in the "Scum Of The Earth" episode on Oct. 9, 1978.

Credit Courtesy CBS
Michael Des Barres (center) was leader of the hoodlum rock band Scum of the Earth in the fourth episode of the first season. He later starred in the "New WKRP" revival in 1991-93.

Plus we talked about tons of other TV stuff -- like what makes a sitcom great; my encounters with Gregory Peck and Wil Wheaton (from Star Trek: The Next Generation and Big Bang Theory); our favorite TV shows; why all Hallmark movies seem to have the same plot; and whether a live local entertainment show could make a comeback here. (I did a podcast with Wilson at Cincy Shirts last winter about Cincinnati's rich history of live TV shows.)

If you're a WKRP fan, here's a sample of our "Turkeys Away" talk:

TURKEY DROP HISTORY: We debate the inspiration for the episode. Some say a Dallas station dropped turkeys from a truck in the 1960s. Others say a station in Atlanta (where creator Hugh Wilson lived) either dropped them from a helicopter or a truck. I believe it was by truck in Dallas. But as I wrote for the 40th anniversary on Oct. 30, Hugh Wilson remembers it as a Dallas helicopter drop.

POWER OF IMAGINATION: We agreed that the most powerful pictures from "Turkeys Away" were in our minds. WKRP viewers never saw one turkey, or even the helicopter pulling the WKRP banner (which helicopters can't do, I'm told, due to their rear rotor).

Credit John Kiesewetter
Josh Sneed (left), P.F. WIlson and I recorded the podcast in the back room studio of Cincy Shirts' Hyde Park store.

SHIRT TALK:  The Cincy Shirt guys had forgotten about this exchange between "Big Guy" Arthur Carlson  (Gordon Jump) and producer Bailey Quarters (Jan Smithers) early in the show, to help establish that Carlson felt out of the loop and needing to assert himself (so he came up with his Thanksgiving promotion).

Big Guy: Young lady, I've done thousands of promotions in my day. Now what's the problem?

Bailey Quarters: Well, uh, we... don't know whether to give away Boston T-shirts or Foreigner T-shirts.

Big Guy:  Boston. Foreign stuff shrinks.

Credit Courtesy Cincy Shirts
Cincy Shirts' T-shirt commemorating the 1978 'WKRP' "Turkeys Away" episode.

DIRECTED BY:  The episode was directed by Michael Zinberg, who is one of  television's most respected directors today. Just 34, he had moved up the ranks from a Mary Tyler Moore writer to direct the Bob Newhart Show in 1978. He's still directing NCIS, NCIS: Los Angeles and The Good Fight at age 74.

Between then and now, he's directed Family Ties, L.A. Law, Taxi, Quantum Leap, JAG, The Blacklist, Rizzoli & Isles, The Practice, Gilmore Girls, Everybody Loves Raymond, Burn Notice, Monk, Caroline In The City, The Good Wife and Young Sheldon.

LET THE DOGS OUT? Wilson and I disagreed on whether the syndicated version on MeTV includes a reference to Pink Floyd's "Dogs," which was not restored in the Shout! Factory WKRP complete series boxed set.  My notes say the music was replaced with generic dogs barks, and that these lines are missing when Carlson comes into the studio when Dr. Johnny Fever (Howard Hesseman) is on the air:

Big Guy: Yeah, it's good. What is the name of this orchestra?

Fever: It's Pink Floyd.

Big Guy: Is that Pink Floyd?

My notes say the dialog starts with the Big Guy saying: "Do I hear dogs barking on that thing?

I'll be watching WKRP next week to see if I'm right!

John Kiesewetter, who has covered television and media for more than 35 years, has been working for Cincinnati Public Radio and WVXU-FM since 2015.