Beyond Turkeys: ‘WKRP In Cincinnati’

When you think of Thanksgiving episodes of TV, one of the first you think of, maybe this first, is “Turkeys Away,” the iconic WKRP in Cincinnati episode. On the flip side, if you ask somebody to tell you what they think of when it comes to WKRP in Cincinnati, the first thing you will probably mention is “Turkeys Away.” In fact, that might be the only thing you bring up. For many, “Turkeys Away” is the only lasting legacy of WKRP in Cincinnati. They made a classic episode of television that happened to tie into a holiday, and it gave the show a piece of cultural history forever. This is interesting to me. Why has WKRP in Cincinnati fallen from the landscape, and what else does the show offer than this one episode.

I will be honest. I have not seen a lot of WKRP myself, even though I love sitcoms and have seen a ton of old sitcoms. I’ve watched My Favorite Martian and The Donna Reed Show, much less The Bob Newhart Show and Cheers. Part of the problem is reruns. WKRP is set at a radio station, which meant they played a lot of music, which led to rights issues. On the occasion you can watch WKRP, it’s not with the original music. It’s like watching Daria on DVD.

The show is set at, well, a radio station in Cincinnati. The characters I really remember are Johnny Fever, a very ‘70s-style guy in a show that ran from 1978 through 1982, Venus Flytrap, who is the cool, suave, soulful DJ, and Jennifer, Loni Anderson’s character. I believe this is the show that made Anderson famous. This is a workplace ensemble sitcom, and like most of those sitcoms it takes place at a less-than-glamorous location. Sure, it’s a radio station, but it’s a struggling radio station in Cincinnati.

The show had a weird history. It went on hiatus after its eighth episode and then did a clip show for its ninth episode to remind people. Then, the show would run through four seasons. By the way, “Turkeys Away” was the seventh episode in the show’s history. After that, it never quite achieved those heights again, which is weird. Imagine being a show that ran for four seasons but only has one truly notable episode, and it was the seventh episode ever. That’s a strange legacy.

By the way, the event at the center of “Turkeys Away?” You know, with the turkeys being dropped out of a helicopter? That apparently was based on a real thing, which is true of a lot of what happened on the show purportedly. The creator worked at a radio station before getting into TV. Happy Thanksgiving!

About Chris Morgan

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