This article includes a list of general references, but it lacks sufficient corresponding inline citations. Please help to improve this article by introducing more precise citations. (October 2018) (Learn how and when to remove this template message)
Hugh Wilson
Hugh Hamilton Wilson Jr.

(1943-08-21)August 21, 1943
DiedJanuary 14, 2018(2018-01-14) (aged 74)
EducationUniversity of Florida
Occupation(s)Writer, director
Charters Smith

Hugh Hamilton Wilson Jr. (August 21, 1943 – January 14, 2018[2][3]) was an American film director, writer and television showrunner. He was the creator of the TV series WKRP in Cincinnati and Frank's Place, and was the director of the film comedies Police Academy and The First Wives Club.


Wilson was born in Miami, Florida. He attended Coral Way Elementary, Ponce de Leon Jr. High, and Coral Gables Sr. High, where he was a member of the Ching Tang Fraternity. He entered the University of Florida in 1961 and graduated in 1964 with a degree in journalism. At Florida, he was a member of the Blue Key Honor Society and president of his fraternity, Phi Delta Theta. Wilson received the school's Distinguished Alumnus award in 1982. He has also served as a guest professor of media studies at the University of Virginia.


In 1966, he entered the advertising business in Atlanta at the Burton-Campbell Agency. He was a copywriter before becoming creative director in 1970 and president in 1973. Tom Patchett and Jay Tarses, producers of the Bob Newhart Show, were instrumental in getting Wilson a position with MTM Enterprises in 1975. They, along with Grant Tinker, gave him his first writing assignment for the Bob Newhart Show in early 1976 and in 1977 made him a co-producer of the Tony Randall Show. In 1978, Wilson created WKRP in Cincinnati (1978–1982) for CBS. Two of his WKRP scripts won Humanitas Prizes and the show was nominated twice for the Emmy in the Best Comedy category. The character of Bailey Quarters on WKRP was based on Wilson's wife.[4]

Wilson attempted to break into movies by re-writing a low-budget comedy on the condition that he could direct it. The result was the first Police Academy for the Ladd Company (Warners) and producer Paul Maslansky. It was a surprise hit of 1984. In 1985, Wilson shot the singing cowboy comedy Rustlers' Rhapsody, starring Tom Berenger and Sela Ward. The movie was filmed in Spain. "I grew up watching Roy and Gene and Hopalong Cassidy," Wilson said in the production notes. "That was my idea of a movie." The movie failed at the box office but has gained a strong cult following over the years. The same year, he created the short-lived television series Easy Street starring Loni Anderson.

In 1988, Wilson returned to CBS to create and co-produce with Tim Reid the highly regarded but short-lived (22 episodes) Frank's Place. Along with The Days and Nights of Molly Dodd (created by Jay Tarses) the two shows were the first to be done in the style that has come to be known as "dramedy." Wilson received three Emmy nominations for Frank's Place and won the Emmy for Best Writing. Wilson also created the CBS show The Famous Teddy Z (1989) and directed the movies Guarding Tess (1994) and Blast from the Past (1999).

His biggest film hit after Police Academy came in 1996 with The First Wives Club. The film became a surprise box-office success following its North American release, eventually grossing $181,490,000 worldwide, mostly from its domestic run, despite receiving mixed reviews, and developed a cult following particularly among middle-aged women. For its stars, including Bette Midler, Goldie Hawn and Diane Keaton, the actresses' highest-grossing project of the decade helped revitalize their careers in film and television.

In 2003, Wilson and John Grisham teamed up to make Mickey, an independent movie about little league baseball.

Personal life

Wilson married Charters Smith in 1979, with whom he had five children. Daughter Caroline Charters Wilson is an actress and singer. Wilson moved to Virginia in 1992 and sometimes taught screenwriting at the University of Virginia. He was a Roman Catholic.

Wilson died on January 14, 2018, in Charlottesville, Virginia, at the age of 74 of lung cancer and emphysema.[5][6][7]



Year Title Director Writer Producer Notes
1972 The Bagel Report Yes Yes Yes Also editor
1983 Stroker Ace Yes
1984 Police Academy Yes Yes
1985 Rustlers' Rhapsody Yes Yes
1987 Burglar Yes Yes
1994 Guarding Tess Yes Yes
1996 Down Periscope Yes
The First Wives Club Yes
1998 Southie Yes
1999 Blast from the Past Yes Yes Yes
Dudley Do-Right Yes Yes Yes
2004 Mickey Yes
2012 Keepers of the Flame Yes Documentary short

Acting roles

Year Title Role
1984 Police Academy Angry Driver
1985 Rustlers' Rhapsody Complaining John
1987 Burglar Customer at Mayday
1994 Guarding Tess President (voice)
1996 The First Wives Club Commercial Director
1999 Blast from the Past Levy
One More Kiss Frank's false teeth
2004 Mickey Munson


Year Title Director Writer Executive
Creator Notes
1976 The Bob Newhart Show Yes 3 episodes
1976–78 The Tony Randall Show Yes Yes Yes Director (4 episodes), writer (6 episodes)
1978–82 WKRP in Cincinnati Yes Yes Yes Yes Director (2 episodes), writer (17 episodes);
Also theme song writer
1986–87 Easy Street Yes Yes Yes Yes Directed 3 episodes, wrote episode "The Mad Gardener"
1987–88 Frank's Place Yes Yes Yes Yes Director (7 episodes), writer (9 episodes)
1989–90 The Famous Teddy Z Yes Yes Yes Yes Director (3 episodes), writer (4 episodes)
1991 Sunday in Paris Yes Yes TV short
1991–93 The New WKRP in Cincinnati Yes
1997 Rough Riders Yes Miniseries

TV movies

Year Title Director Writer Producer Notes
1977 The Chopped Liver Brothers Yes Yes
2000 The Contender Yes Yes Yes Unaired pilot for UPN

Acting roles

Year Title Role Notes
1978 WKRP in Cincinnati Policeman #1 Episode: "Hold Up"
1988 Frank's Place D. Wayne Thomas Episode: "Where's Ed?"


  1. ^ "Hugh Wilson Biography (1943-)". August 8, 1943 – January 14, 2018. Retrieved October 9, 2012.
  2. ^ "Hugh Wilson 1943 - 2018 - Obituary". Retrieved Sep 2, 2020.
  3. ^ "Hugh Wilson, comic director of 'Police Academy' and TV's 'WKRP,' dies at 74 - The Washington Post". The Washington Post.
  4. ^ Kassel, Michael B. (June 15, 1993). America's Favorite Radio Station: WKRP in Cincinnati. Popular Press. ISBN 9780879725846. Retrieved Sep 2, 2020 – via Google Books.
  5. ^ "Hugh Wilson Dead: 'WKRP in Cincinnati' creator dies at 74". EW. January 16, 2018. Retrieved January 16, 2018.
  6. ^ "'WKRP in Cincinnati' creator Hugh Wilson dies at 74". Variety. January 16, 2018. Retrieved January 16, 2018.
  7. ^ "Police Academy director dies aged 74". BBC News. 1 October 2018.