Writer and director Hugh Wilson has died. He was 74. No information about a cause of death was given.
Wilson got his start in advertising before writers Jay Tarses and Tom Patchett discovered him and got him a job with MTM Productions as a screenwriter. He worked as a writer on The Bob Newhart Show (which Tarses and Patchett produced) and a writer/co-producer on The Tony Randall Show before Wilson came up with a show idea of his own.
In 1978, the show, based on Wilson’s experience in the sales department of Top 40 Atlanta radio station, went on the air.. That sitcom was WKRP in Cincinnati.
“To this day, WKRP is the most accurate TV show about radio, comedy or otherwise,” said former radio personality, current professional actor Greg Korin in his tribute to Wilson. “This guy had been there. That radio station was populated with characters with whom I had worked at various stations….those people all really existed. In fact, one of the reasons I left radio was because I thought I was turning into Johnny Fever.”
The TV show was a critical success and cult favorite during its run, but its constant movement on CBS’s schedule made it hard to become a lasting success. It was cancelled in 1982. However, the show gained a bigger audience in syndication, and inspired a sequel, The New WKRP in Cincinnati, which ran in syndication from 1991 to 1993.
The show was nominated for a Primetime Emmy for Outstanding Comedy Series in 1980,1981 and 1982. This got the notice of Warner Brothers and the Ladd Company, who chose Wilson to rewrite a script about a group of wacky police trainees. As an incentive to do the rewrite, Wilson was offered the job of directing the film as well. That film was Police Academy and it was Wilson’s mainstream film directorial debut.
Wilson went on to enjoy a productive career in films. He had a hand in writing Stoker Ace, directed The First Wives Club and wrote and directed films such as Rustlers’ Rhapsody, Burglar, Guarding Tess, Blast from the Past and Dudley Do-Right. In television, he created Frank’s Place (which won him an Emmy for Outstanding Writing) and The Fabulous Teddy Z.