Richard Eustis, Emmy-Winning ‘Head of the Class’ Creator, Dies at 86

The screenwriter also known for “The John Denver Show” and “The Dean Martin Show” kicked off his TV career in 1962

head of the class
Brian Robbins, Dan Frischman, Suzanne Snyder in "Head of the Class" (ABC)

Writer Richard Eustis died On Monday, Oct. 31, at the age of 86 in Thousand Oaks, Calif, show writing partner Michael Elias confirmed to TheWrap.

The Emmy Award-winning screenwriter was best known for his ABC high school sitcom “Head of the Class,” which he co-created alongside Elias, his longtime writing partner. The series, which ran for five seasons from 1986 to 1991, was picked up for a 10-episode reboot in 2021 for HBO Max. 

The original series detailed the stories of a group of bright students who live in Manhattan and attend the fictional high school Millard Fillmore High School in the Individualized Honors Program. The revival show — released Nov. 4 on HBO Max — was developed by Amy Pocha and Seth Cohen. The show wasn’t picked up for a second season. 

Before his journey in television in Los Angeles, Eustis started off with a career in journalism. Some of his other work includes writing episodes for “Eye to Eye”, “Scrubs” and more. He leaves behind his wife, Tiana; two sons, John and Ronald and his daughter Madeline. His eldest daughter Sandy Eustis — who worked as a script supervisor, died before his recent death.

Elias says Eustis was the “kindest and gentlest man” he ever knew, as well as one of the most talented that he’s ever worked with.

“I would be nothing nowhere without Rich. Ours was a 20-year partnership with a handshake to seal it. Sitcom producers aren’t known for being sweet people (ah, the pressure) but Rich was. Ask anyone who worked for or with him. He was one of the first writers to move to CAA. Mike Ovitz called him a ‘charter client’,” said Elias in a statement to TheWrap.

“When I met Rich, he and his partner Al Rogers were producing ‘The Glen Campbell Show.’ He and Al split up — Rich and I started writing together, then moved to Warner Bros., where we did ‘Eye to Eye’ with Charles Durning, ‘Head of the Class,’ ‘Tall Hopes,’ ‘Billy,’ a basket of pilots, and screenplays for ‘Young Doctors in Love,’ ‘Serial, North Dallas 40,’ and ‘Back to School,’” said Elias.

“Credits don’t tell you who wrote what. I’ll just say he wrote the best parts. I know if Rich were writing my obituary, he would say the same about me. Most likely it would have been our only argument.”