Remembering WKRP's 'Turkeys Away'

CBS
CBS

When WKRP in Cincinnati aired its seventh episode more than 40 years ago on October 30, 1978, no one—including creator Hugh Wilson, who passed away in January 2018—had any idea the freshman series was about to become part of television holiday special history. And they didn’t even have to use any actual turkeys to do it.

“Turkeys Away,” which was credited to the late writer Bill Dial, was a Thanksgiving-themed entry for the sitcom about an Ohio-based radio station and its eccentric staff. For a holiday tie-in, Wilson decided to use an anecdote he had heard from Atlanta radio executive Jerry Blum: that another station had once arranged a publicity stunt in which a number of turkeys were thrown out of either a helicopter or a truck—the exact details are lost to time—and proceeded to horrify the gathered crowd with an unintended turkey massacre.

Wilson thought this would be a fine premise for a show. As he explained to the Classic TV History blog in 2012, the incident morphed into a plot in which station manager Arthur Carlson (Gordon Jump) arranged for an equally misguided stunt, where broadcaster Les Nessman (Richard Sanders) narrates from the street in a style reminiscent of the Hindenburg disaster.

Nessman’s growing horror as the birds fall “like sacks of wet cement” to the pavement below was inspired by watching footage of the accident prior to shooting. (In 1997, Sanders was present for a homage to the episode with WKRQ in Indiana humanely dropping toy turkeys from a chopper that could be redeemed for the real thing.)

You’ll have to watch the complete episode to fully appreciate the payoff—including one of the most often-quoted closing lines in sitcoms—but know that no turkeys were actually harmed.

Avengers: Endgame's Final Runtime Reported to Be 182 Minutes, According to AMC Theaters

Marvel Studios
Marvel Studios

Time and space will likely not matter to Marvel fans who have been anxiously awaiting Avengers: Endgame's arrival in theaters. But for fans who care how long the epic finale of Phase 3 will be, let’s just say you might want to invest in the extra-large popcorn and soda to get you through it. And somehow be able to hold your bladder. The movie is now reported to run a full 182 minutes long, according to Entertainment Weekly.

In early February, directors Joe and Anthony Russo said that the runtime for the final film in the Avengers series could rival movies like Titanic and The Lord of the Rings series. Though they couldn't yet give an official runtime, they estimated a possible three hours of jam-packed action and adventure. Now, as EW reports, AMC Theaters has apparently confirmed that prediction, which Fandango then co-signed.

Ahead of Avengers: Endgame's April 26th release, AMC Theaters set up a movie page for the film, which accidentally revealed its runtime. Neither Disney nor Marvel has confirmed the information, and the page has since been deleted, but it seems to be a clear confirmation that the Russo brothers weren't kidding when they said that Endgame would set the record for longest-ever MCU movie.

[h/t: Entertainment Weekly]

8 Gripping Facts About Hands Across America

LoveMattersMost, Flickr // CC0 1.0
LoveMattersMost, Flickr // CC0 1.0

Viewers of the new Jordan Peele thriller Us may walk out curious about the daisy-chain of humanity depicted in the film and whether it had any basis in reality. It does: Hands Across America was a nationwide effort to raise awareness (and money) for the plight of the hungry and homeless in America. The event took place on May 25, 1986 and involved nearly 5 million people across 16 states and Washington, D.C. joining hands for 15 minutes in a sign of solidarity. While promotional expenses ate into some of the profits, the stunt helped raise an estimated $15 million for charitable causes.

For more on this audacious '80s moment that featured Oprah Winfrey, Mickey Mouse, and Michael J. Fox, check out our round-up of facts and trivia. (Just don’t expect it to be as creepy as Peele’s interpretation.)

  1. Hands Across America wasn’t the first time someone had tried to get people to join hands across the country.

Hands Across America was the brainchild of advertising executive Geoffrey Nightingale, who had worked with USA for Africa founder and music promoter Ken Kragen on “We Are the World,” the star-studded 1985 single that raised money for the starving citizens of Ethiopia. During a New York City Ballet rendition of “We Are the World,” Nightingale told Kragen it might be a good idea to try and get people to join hands across state lines as a way to raise awareness for domestic hunger issues.

Kragen ran with the idea, but it wasn’t the first time it had been attempted. Back in 1976, a man named Marvin J. Rosenblum tried a similar event with the same name, but a lack of corporate sponsorship led to a weak turnout. (There was just one 10-mile line that formed outside of Chicago.) Rosenblum’s trademark on Hands Across America lapsed in 1977. Kragen maintained he hadn’t heard of the prior project until he had already started working on his own.

  1. There were protests against Hands Across America.

You wouldn’t imagine people having a problem with a charitable effort, but Hands Across America faced controversy early on for mapping out a route that began in New York City's Battery Park and ended up in Long Beach, California. States and cities that weren’t included in the route snaking through Pennsylvania, Maryland, Ohio, Kentucky, and Arizona, among others, objected to being left out. Senator Ted Kennedy voiced his disapproval that the link wouldn’t be running through New England.

  1. Prince sponsored a line.

Grammy and Oscar-winning recording artist Prince performs the song 'Purple Rain' at the 46th Annual Grammy Awards held at the Staples Center on February 8, 2004 in Los Angeles, California
Frank Micelotta, Getty Images

In order to successfully mount Hands Across America, Kragen looked to corporate America for underwriting. His first—and biggest—sponsor was Coca-Cola. The second was Citibank. Together, the two companies contributed an estimated $8 million to the effort. It was even advertised on McDonald’s placemats. But other sponsors could chip in for the registration fees that cost between $10 and $35 per person. Musician Prince bought a mile for $13,200. Together, sponsors and corporations accounted for roughly 2000 miles of the 4125-mile chain.

  1. There were a lot of gaps that had to be filled.

When Hands Across America launched at 3 p.m. eastern time on Sunday, May 25, 1986, the Associated Press estimated that approximately 4,924,000 people would be participating based on counts gathered from local community organizers. While concentrations were heavy in some states like New York and New Jersey, others found themselves short. Indiana needed 400,000 people, but just 250,000 showed up. In Sanders, Arizona, 109 people stood in a section that needed 1320 to appear complete. When there was a gap in the line, organizers filled it with ribbons, ropes, banners, or even cattle. When a bus driver in New Jersey saw a break in the line, he pulled over and asked his passengers to complete the connection.

  1. Prisoners participated in Hands Across America.

With a presence in 550 cities, Hands Across America made for some strange bedfellows. Major League Baseball players gathered for a game in Cincinnati, Ohio and held hands with Little Leaguers; nuns and Hell’s Angels members stood side-by-side in Pittsburgh. At Rahway State Prison in Rahway, New Jersey, inmates formed a line.

  1. There were weddings during Hands Across America.

Although Hands Across America was expected to last just 15 minutes, a number of people took the opportunity to use the gatherings as a springboard for other activities. A total of five marriages were reported to have been completed during the event, as well as baptisms and at least one bar mitzvah.

  1. Ronald Reagan was criticized for getting involved in Hands Across America.

President Ronald Reagan joined Hands Across America on the front lawn of the White House alongside his wife Nancy, the Reverend Billy Graham, and Olympic gymnast Mary Lou Retton. But Reagan was the subject of protests in Detroit’s Lafayette Park and was criticized for even being involved, as his critics believed he had done little to combat the hunger epidemic in America. The previous week, Reagan had cited a "lack of knowledge" among the poor about charitable resources as a reason they did not have access to food. The comment raised eyebrows. Reagan, however, denied his participation had anything to do with the backlash.

  1. Some people stiffed the event out of money.

Kragen had voiced hope that Hands Across America might be able to raise $50 or even $100 million in charitable donations. An estimate released a year after the event put the total number of donations at $24.5 million, with $9.5 million going to costs and $15 million to charities. In order to fill out the expected gaps in lines, USA for Africa had invited people to come join the group without registering or paying the $10 to $35 donation. Additionally, thousands of people showed up for the event who had pledged to donate but never did. An August 1986 story in The New York Times estimated the lost earnings to be between $7 and $8 million.

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