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‘Police Academy’ director Hugh Wilson dies at 74

Television screenwriter, producer and director Hugh Wilson poses

Television screenwriter, producer and director Hugh Wilson poses with a script in Los Angeles in 1987. Credit: Getty Images / George Rose

Hugh Wilson, an award-winning director and writer with a knack for broad and witty comedy whose credits ranged from the raucous film “Police Academy” to the popular sitcom “WKRP in Cincinnati,” has died at age 74.

Wilson died Jan. 14 at his home in Charlottesville, Virginia. His wife, Charters Smith Wilson, told The Associated Press on Wednesday that he had been battling lung cancer and emphysema.

Wilson was a Miami native and University of Florida graduate who worked for years in advertising and copywriting before he joined Mary Tyler Moore Productions in the mid-1970s. He was soon writing scripts for “The Bob Newhart Show” and “The Tony Randall Show” and in 1978 created “WKRP,” which drew upon Wilson’s time at a radio station in Atlanta. He later created such short-lived series as “Easy Street” and “Frank’s Place,” which starred “WKRP” actor Tim Reid and brought Wilson an Emmy for writing.

He was also successful in movies. In 1984, he helped launch a franchise by directing and co-writing “Police Academy,” the satire starring Steve Gutenberg that became a box office smash despite being dismissed by Roger Ebert as “the absolute pits.” Wilson didn’t direct any of the inevitable “Police Academy” sequels, but instead worked on “Guarding Tess” and the hit comedy “The First Wives Club.” His most recent film was the baseball story “Mickey,” a 2004 release directed by Wilson and written by John Grisham.

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