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Monday, 9 April, 2001, 12:15 GMT 13:15 UK
Aherne's success and excess
Craig Cash and Caroline Aherne
Craig Cash and Aherne have supported each other
Troubled star Caroline Aherne has turned her back on television - the medium that made her a household name.

Aherne shot to fame as gossiping granny Mrs Merton.

Her no-holds-barred-style of interviewing ensured high viewing figures for its four year reign.

Guests who braved her wit included Debbie McGee who was asked: "What was it that first attracted you to the millionaire Paul Daniels?".

To Des Lynam she said: "You're the Tom Cruise of menopausal women."

The Mrs Merton character was eventually turned into a sit-com, with Aherne appearing alongside co-writer Craig Cash as her "son" Malcolm.

Mrs Merton
Mrs Merton was not afraid to ask the questions
Aherne became the darling of the comedy scene, but soon the downside of fame started to show.


Drink problems plagued her personal life and often spilled over into the public arena.

She split from her first husband, New Order bass player Peter Hook, in 1996.

She was then involved in a relationship with television researcher Matt Bowers, who was caught on camera fighting with Hook at a celebrity launch party in Manchester.

Aherne split with Mr Bowers, who later died from stomach cancer in 1997.

Aherne had her own fight against eye cancer as child.

Throughout this traumatic time, her career continued to soar while her personal fortunes deteriorated.

A suspected suicide bid in 1998 brought into sharp focus the problems the 37-year-old was having dealing with life in the public eye.


Following the drug overdose, Aherne admitted she was an alcoholic and had not been aware of what she was doing to herself.

Her appearances at parties and award ceremonies were then scrutinised by the tabloid press, which seemed to will her to fall off the wagon.

Pictures of her with a cigarette and a glass in her hand at showbiz parties became a common image.

A stint at rehab clinic The Priory was also highly publicised.

But Aherne bounced back to co-write and star in one of the most successful British comedies ever.


The Royle Family - also written with Craig Cash - brought a whole new following to her talent.

The show, based around a Manchester family whose lives revolve around the television, was immediately a critical and ratings success.

After three series, the writers decided to finish the show off on a high.

But it was not the end of Aherne's embarrassing behaviour in public.

At the 2000 National Television Awards she was heard heckling veteran actor Sir Nigel Hawthorne.

As he collected an award on behalf of Alan Bennett, she told him to "get on with it".

He stopped his speech and replied: "Would you like to do this yourself madam? I'm not speaking for myself you understand."


The show's host, Jonathan Ross, apologised to Sir Nigel.

"Not all of us can handle the drink my friend, although normally she can," he said.

Now she hopes she can face up to her alcohol problem in private.

All her television commitments have now been cancelled.

She now plans to live abroad to escape the media scrutiny and put all her efforts into writing her autobiography.

But a warts-and-all account may well force Aherne back into the spotlight when it is released.

See also:

09 Apr 01 | TV and Radio
Royle star Aherne 'quits' TV
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