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Death Stats 2017: Celebrities Update #1

(Robyn Beck / AFP / Getty Images)

Have famous people caught a break the first two months of this year?

2016 was pretty universally declared the year of celebrity death. We kept an eye on it here at, and when I crunched the numbers, I agreed with the popular assessment: More celebrities died in 2016 than in recent previous years, and a disproportionate percentage of them were major celebrities.

I've probably been watching the celebrity death news in 2017 more closely than most people, and the main reason for that is that there hasn't been a lot of news, so far. The general public doesn't worry much about celebrity deaths when they aren't happening – but I'm thinking about them every day, whether there's new news or not.

We're almost at the halfway mark of the first quarter of the year as we approach mid-February. Mary Tyler Moore died January 25, and by my criteria, hers is the lone major celebrity death of 2017 to date. Another six celebrities, slightly less universally known, have also died (author William Peter Blatty; actors Miguel Ferrer, John Hurt, Barbara Hale, and Richard Hatch; and comedian "Professor" Irwin Corey).

How do those seven deaths compare to where we were at this point in 2016?

By Feb. 10, 2016, we had marked nearly twice as many celebrity deaths – 12. And there were four times as many major celebrity deaths. A few days later, Antonin Scalia died, adding a fifth major celebrity death to the total almost exactly at the halfway point of the quarter on Feb. 13.

So this year, so far, is substantially less busy than last year. It's also less busy than most of the other recent previous years were in their early first quarters. We've gone from one extreme to the other, it would seem.

I learned my lesson last year about making predictions, so I'm not going to make any today. All I can tell you for certain is that this year, so far, is not what I expected.