WKRP Thanksgiving: “As God is my witness, I thought turkeys could fly”

This is the classic first-season WKRP in Cincinnati Thanksgiving episode, in which the goof-balls running the station — the station manager, the weatherman (Les Nessman) and the sales manager (Herb Tarlek) — take part in the turkey-day stunt of the ages — tossing live birds out of a helicopter onto a crowd gathered at a shopping mall as a “gift” for Thanksgiving Day.

You can imagine how that worked out. The great acting and writing make this episode really special. (For those who forgot, the crowd gathered in the studio are the drive-time DJ “Dr. Johnny Fever”, the nighttime smooth-voiced DJ “Venus Flytrap”, plus the ladies — cute-but-nerdy Bailey Quarters and the secretary who actually runs the station, played by the very blonde, very smart Loni Anderson).

WKRP is one of the great post–Mary Tyler Moore Show, post–Bob Newhart Show productions that MTM made after those first two successes. The creator Hugh Wilson, by the way, also wrote and directed the darkly funny Rustlers’ Rhapsody (for you fans of small dark funny films).

First the key scenes, in a decent video version (4 minutes):

Now the setup to the key scene (in a version that’s not so well taped; 12 minutes).


About Rustlers’ Rhapsody, it contains one of the great lines in all film. The premise is that there’s a movie “good guy” cowboy type (a Gene Autry, with all the nice clothes and shooting skill), set in the real world of gritty westerns and truly dangerous bad guys. So how does a movie Good Guy get along in the real world? Well, one problem is the clothes, and we see that he actually carries a large wardrobe wagon with him of identical costumes, all clean and fresh.

The real-world bad guys can’t defeat him because of his shooting skill — he really can shoot guns out of people’s hands — plus a bunch of other abilities, so they hire a fake Good Guy to make friends with our hero and undermine his confidence.

How does he do it? Like this. They’re sitting by the campfire one night — the real Good Guy (Rex) and the fake Good Guy (Bob) — and Bob says this to Rex (my approximation; can’t find the exact quotes):

Bob: To be a real Good Guy, you have to be a confident heterosexual.

Rex: Really? I thought it was just a heterosexual.

Bob: No, you have to be a confident heterosexual.

Rex: Oh. (Silence)

For the next chunk of the movie, Rex’s skill is gone; he’s useless as a Good Guy. Genius film. Hugh Wilson, ladies and gentlemen; one of the unsung greats.

Happy Thanksgiving!

UPDATE 1: Regular commenter BeccaM has a link to the full Hulu episode in good video. Enjoy!

UPDATE 2: Thanks to commenter FatRat, we have the real “confident heterosexual” scene. Thanks! (Missed it by that much…)


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Gaius Publius is a professional writer living on the West Coast of the United States.

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