Thursday, January 18, 2018

Godspeed Hugh Wilson

Hugh Wilson, the creator of the classic television shows WKRP in Cincinnati and Frank's Place, died on January 14 2018 a the age of 74.

Hugh Wilson was born in Miami, Florida on August 21 1943. He attended the University of Florida and graduated in 1965 with a degree in journalism. For a time he worked at Armstrong World Industries' in-house advertising department, where he met Jay Tarses and Tom Patchet, who went onto write for The Bob Newhart Show. Mr. Wilson was later a radio sales executive in Atlanta. In 1966 he went to work at the Burton-Campbell Agency as a copywriter. He became the advertising agency's creative director in 1970 and then its president in 1973.

In 1972 Hugh Wilson wrote and directed the film The Bagel Report. In 1976 he wrote his first of five episodes of The Bob Newhart Show. He went onto produce the short-lived sitcom The Tony Randall Show. He also wrote several episodes of the show. It was while he was working on The Tony Randall Show that he approached Grant Tinker of MTM with his idea for a sitcom based around his experiences as a sales executive at a radio station. WKRP in Cincinnati debuted on 1978 on CBS. Hugh Wilson produced the entire run of the show and wrote many of its episodes, including such classic episodes as "Jennifer and the Man" and "Venus and the Man". Because CBS insisted on moving WKRP in Cincinnati  around their schedule (it was moved 14 times), the show rarely had good ratings. That having been said, WKRP in Cincinnati had a cult following and it would prove to be an incredible success as a syndicated rerun. In fact, it was MTM's most successful show in syndication,beating out such classics as The Mary Tyler Moore Show and The Bob Newhart Show.

In the Eighties Hugh Wilson directed and co-wrote the movie Police Academy (1984). He also wrote and directed the movies Rustler's Rhapsody (1985) and Burglar (1987). He created the short-lived show Easy Street, and he created and produced the cult classic TV series Frank's Place. He wrote several episodes of Frank's Place. He created the short-lived series The Famous Teddy Z.

In the Nineties Hugh Wilson wrote and directed the movies Guarding Tess (1994), Blast from the Past (1999), and Dudley Do-Right (1999). He wrote the film Down Periscope (1996) and directed the film The First Wives Club (1996). He wrote two episodes of the mini-series The Rough Riders. In the Naughts he directed the film Mickey (2004).

As a writer Hugh Wilson was an incredible talent. He did not simply create WKRP in Cincinnati, but he also wrote several of the show's best episodes. If the show received great reviews when it was on the air and has maintained a large following to this day, it was largely because of Hugh Wilson's writing. Of course, WKRP in Cincinnati was not his only achievement. While Frank's Place is not as well remembered, it also received good notices and was nominated for several Emmy Awards, including the Emmy for Outstanding Comedy Series.  Hugh Wilson had a capacity for creating characters who were at the same time believable and very funny. Such characters as Johnny Fever and Les Nessman might be somewhat exaggerated, but they are also people one could actually believe existed somewhere. Even if WKRP in Cincinnati was the only thing Hugh Wilson had done, he would be remembered. As it is, he did much more.

1 comment:

Caftan Woman said...

Thanks for the laughs and fond memories.