Thanks, in part, to streaming, the TV holiday episode isn’t what it used to be. But the debate over what the greatest Thanksgiving episode ever is still rages on: is it one of the many Friends episodes devoted to the holiday? The time when the gang on It’s Always Sunny hosted a turkey dinner in an attempt to squash all their beefs? Or something else entirely?
Vulture’s Jen Chaney argues it’s WKRP in Cincinnati’s “Turkeys Away,” which originally aired in 1978. The darkly funny episode centers around Mr. Carlson’s decision to drop 20 live turkeys from a helicopter with a “Happy Thanksgiving from WKRP” banner and the chaos that ensues. “The turkeys are hitting the ground like sacks of wet cement!” newsman Les Nessman shouts. As Chaney points out, part of what makes the episode great (or horrifying, depending on how you look at it) is that it’s based on two real-life instances of stations dropping turkeys during promotional events.
“WKRP in Cincinnati was by no means the first TV comedy to do a Thanksgiving episode,” Chaney writes. “Bewitched, The Brady Bunch, and All in the Family, among others, all centered stories around the fraught, family-oriented holiday before the CBS series did. But unlike most sitcoms, WKRP didn’t focus on a disastrous turkey dinner or riff on the story of the Mayflower. It considered how the best Thanksgiving intentions can go terribly wrong, but within the context of a work event. While the Thanksgiving episode became much more commonplace on television in the decades after ‘Turkeys Away’ aired, even now, its approach feels like something fresh, different, and definitely warped.”
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