I can’t quite remember when I first discovered Frasier. I think it was around 1997, when Paramount Comedy started running it five nights a week at 10pm. I stumbled across it one evening while trying to read Mailbox, and quickly became hooked on the show.
I’ll go as far as to say that Frasier is the greatest comedy series ever made. The writing was certainly a cut above most other shows on the air at the time, and the quality of the material was lifted still further by an amazing cast, especially David Hyde Pierce as Niles.
With such a strong cast, it might be easy to overlook John Mahoney as Martin Crane, the retired police officer forced to move in with Frasier, the intellectual son he never quite understood. Over the course of eleven years, Martin’s strained relationship with his sons, and his tendency to puncture their pompousness, provided much comedy gold. There were also some moments of extraordinary pathos amidst the high farce.
I’ve been thinking about the show a lot over the past 24 hours, since hearing the news that John Mahoney passed away on Sunday. There’s not many celebrity deaths that affect me, but this one got me, and I stayed up far too late on Monday evening watching old Frasier clips on YouTube.
I’m very pleased to see Mahoney’s colleagues lining up to say what a good man he was. Frasier writer Joe Keenan was quick to pay tribute, and fellow writer Ken Levine posted a lovely memorial on his blog.
John Mahoney was a lovely man. His Martin Crane was FRASIER's moral center; his cranky decency and bewildered love for his two improbable sons was hilarious one minute, heartbreaking the next, and you never caught him acting. It was a privilege and a joy to write for him. pic.twitter.com/Fs7RvNjxOj
— Joe Keenan (@MrJoeKeenan) February 6, 2018
Mahoney had a long career (although he only started acting professionally in his late 30s) with many critically acclaimed performances on stage, film and television. But to me he’ll always be Marty Crane, sitting on his broken Lay-Z-Boy with a can of Ballantine’s.