Very frequently, when celebrities die, we tend to notice it happening in a pattern of three. That is, we just had Ed McMahon, Farah Fawcett and Michael Jackson die in quick succession, and so people observe yet again that celebrities tend to die in groups of three. I would suggest that we observe the pattern because we want to observe the pattern. The time in which the celebrities must die together is elastic, so that it only counts when three have died. This week's sad departures is easier to bunch together, but in other cases, observers will count deaths that occur a week or more apart. So, our coding criteria are flexible enough to make cases fit our rule. We will ignore those deaths that happen in isolation, so the rule is not seen as violated. If any other celebrity dies in the next couple of days, then Ed MacMahon's may fall out of our group of three.
Why does this matter? Actually, it does not really mean anything at all. Just a pet peeve.
It is sad that these folks died. I was more of a Cheryl Ladd and Kate Jackson kind of guy, but Farrah Fawcett's rise did have a big impact at a pivotal time. I remember being upset at missing the key episodes of Six Millon Dollar Man where she appeared--where were Tivos, VCR's, and Youtube when we needed them. And I was a fan of Charlie's Angels--I was just the right age. I do remember being bummed out when she and Lee Majors divorced. Her career after that took more twists and turns than most, just like her battle with cancer.
Michael Jackson's life is perhaps one of the strangest, but his talent was undeniable, no matter how much I tried to deny it. Thriller was an amazing album, but I resisted mightily at the time since it was so overplayed. As a teenager, it was my job to dislike anything that was very popular. I couldn't help but watch the amazing videos as they ranged from the ridiculous (the fight sequence in Beat It) to the sublime (the dance sequences in Billy Jean and Thriller), making MTV much less monochromatic.
I don't think we have to group these deaths into an artificial group of three to mark their significance. Despite the fact they passed after their prime, the individual losses are significant enough.