Sunday 26 May 2019

Thanks for all the laughs, Martin

Actor John Mahoney
Actor John Mahoney
Ian O'Doherty

Ian O'Doherty

So farewell, then, John Mahoney, and thanks for all the laughs.

Following the seemingly endless flurry of celebrity deaths in the last two years, we have reached a sort of celeb-death fatigue.

That's understandable, and it's a psychological survival mechanism - you can't be consistently saddened by every death because there simply wouldn't be any time left in the day.

But, I have to admit, I was surprised by how taken aback I was by Mahoney's death. After all, it's hardly a case of a young man struck down in his prime.

He was 77, which is a good age to die (unless you're reading this as a 76-year-old, in which case my apologies for freaking you out), and he had been ill for a while.

Maybe, it was just because Frasier is probably my favourite sitcom of all time.

There are plenty of others that I love, of course. The Larry Sanders Show, (the death of Garry Shandling two years ago was another blow to the world of comedy), early-era Simpsons is another. I still watch repeats of Arrested Development on Netflix and the Bluth family probably come closest to the Crane boys in my heart.

But when all is said and done, Frasier is the show I still watch avidly.

Even now, nearly 15 years since the finale, I still gaze in awe at the dialogue and the delivery and the fact that, even as a youngster, Martin Crane - played by Mahoney - was the character I most identified with shows just what a brilliant everyman he was.

That show also introduced me to the genius comedic novels of Frasier scriptwriter Joe Keenan. In fact, if you haven't read any of his three books, do so now, and start with Blue Heaven. It's stunningly bitchy and riotously funny.

Yet as waspishly brilliant as the dialogue was, and as acid as the put-downs may have been, Frasier seems to emanate from a more innocent era.

While the show hobbled on for another few seasons, it was never really the same after creator David Angell and his wife were among those killed when American Airlines Flight 11 was hijacked on 9/11.

The cast and producers have all subsequently admitted that Angell's death cast an uncomfortable shadow of tragedy over the project.

But even still, Variety or The Hollywood Reporter or one of the other trade mags would run a tantalising titbit hinting at a reunion, and us fans would become deliriously excited all over again.

Well, whatever slim hopes we may have had for a reunion, they died alongside Mahoney.

There's never a bad time to watch this genuine landmark sitcom.

But now is a perfect opportunity to reacquaint yourself with a show we all loved, yet also seemed to forget all too quickly.

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