The WKRP Thanksgiving turkey drop is remembered around this time of year as one of the great moments in TV comedy history. But it’s not, exactly.
Hapless station manager Arthur Carlson comes up with what he thinks is a terrific promotion that will get people talking about his little radio station, WKRP in Cincinnati. He hires a helicopter and drops live turkeys into a crowd of people gathered in a mall parking lot for the mysterious promotion.
Because no turkeys were actually harmed during the filming of this episode, the action all happens off-camera.
Unsuspecting news reporter Les Nessman does a live broadcast from the scene in a stint that deliberately recalls the famous live broadcast of the Hindenberg disaster, describing in emotional detail the hideous sight as turkeys plummet to the ground “falling like wet cement.” Les’ horror is reflected with stupefied inevitability in the faces of the radio station staff listening in the studio as they realize their boss, Mr. Carlson, has messed up again.
In his dumb, well-meaning way, and with words etched in TV history, the Big Guy stumbles back into the station, disheveled and covered with turkey feathers, and declares, “As God as my witness, I thought turkeys could fly.”
It’s a hilarious moment, but it’s not just great television. Remember the part where all the action happens off-camera?
In a very real sense, the great WKRP turkey drop is an example of the power of RADIO. Remember, no turkeys were actually harmed. All of the carnage is depicted via the news guy’s horrified voice (and, OK, I’ll grant you, by the staff’s reactions in the studio) – but the actual scene occurs between your ears. The action is built through the magical connection of words and sounds and your imagination, and no special visual effects in the world can match the power of your mind when it’s tickled.
Words and imagination can do that. That’s why I’m excited to announce one of my new projects: The Myke Phoenix Podcast.
A key part of the reboot of my superhero adventure series will be dramatic readings of the revised stories – you will be able to subscribe for free and listen, and/or buy the book or ebook and read along with me.
Details to come; watch this space.