Sitcom watch: Ted Danson

On cable, episodes of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation (the original CSI, set in Las Vegas) go by, including recent ones with Ted Danson as a crime scene investigator. Danson made his mark in the memorable sitcom Cheers, an ensemble comedy that addressed many serious themes during its 11 years.

About Danson, from Wikipedia:

Edward Bridge “Ted” Danson III (born December 29, 1947) is an American actor, author, and producer, well known for his role as lead character [womanizing former baseball player] Sam Malone in the sitcom Cheers, and his role as [the churlish] Dr. John Becker on the sitcom Becker. He [then starred] in the CBS drama CSI: Crime Scene Investigation as D.B. Russell [and now will join the cast of CSI: Cyber].


He also plays a recurring role on Larry David’s HBO sitcom Curb Your Enthusiasm, starred alongside Glenn Close in legal drama Damages and was a regular on the HBO comedy series Bored to Death.

… Danson began his television career as a contract player on daytime soap opera, Somerset. He played the role of “Tom Conway” from 1975 to 1976. He then spent a few years (1977-1982) as a doctor on the daytime soap opera The Doctors. He was also in a number of commercials, most recognizably as the “Aramis man”.

[Note in passing: the beginning of Danson’s career shows a common path for American actors, many of whom cut their teeth on acting in commercials and soap operas before moving on to other parts in movies and television.]

Now, Cheers, also from Wikipedia:

Cheers is an American sitcom that ran for eleven seasons between 1982 and 1993. The show was produced by Charles/Burrows/Charles Productions in association with Paramount Network Television for NBC and created by the team of James Burrows, Glen Charles, and Les Charles. The show is set in a bar named Cheers (named after the popular toast) in Boston, Massachusetts, where a group of locals meet to drink, relax, and socialize. The show’s main theme song, written and performed by Gary Portnoy, and co-written with Judy Hart Angelo, lent its famous refrain, “Where Everybody Knows Your Name”, as the show’s tagline.

The logo for the show:


The original main characters:

Ted Danson portrays Sam Malone, a bartender and an owner of Cheers. Sam is also a lothario. Before the series began, he was a baseball relief pitcher for the Boston Red Sox nicknamed “Mayday Malone” until he became an alcoholic, taking a toll on his career.

Shelley Long portrays Diane Chambers, an academic, sophisticated graduate student. In the pilot, Diane is abandoned by her fiancé, leaving her without a job, money, and man. Therefore, she reluctantly becomes a cocktail waitress. Later, she becomes a close friend of Coach and has on-and-off relationships with bartender Sam Malone, her class opposite.

Nicholas Colasanto portrays Coach Ernie Pantusso, a “borderline senile” co-bartender, widower, and retired coach.

Rhea Perlman portrays Carla Tortelli, a “wisecracking, cynical” cocktail waitress, who treats customers badly. She is also highly fertile and matrimonially inept.

George Wendt portrays Norm Peterson, a bar regular and semi-unemployed accountant.

John Ratzenberger portrays Cliff Clavin, a know-it-all bar regular and postal worker

The first-year cast photo:


(Danson and Long in front. In back: Ratzenberger, Colasanto, Perlman, Wendt.)

Subsequent main characters:

Kelsey Grammer portrays Frasier Crane, a psychiatrist and bar regular. Frasier started out as Diane Chambers’s love interest in the third season (1984–85). In the fourth season (1985–86), after Diane jilts him at the altar in Europe, Frasier ends up frequenting Cheers and becomes a regular.

Woody Harrelson portrays Woody Boyd, a not-so-bright bartender. He arrives from his Midwest hometown to Boston, to see Coach, his “pen pal” (as referring to exchanging “pens”, not letters). When he learns that Coach died, Woody is hired in his place.

Bebe Neuwirth portrays Lilith Sternin, a psychiatrist and bar regular. She is often teased by bar patrons about her uptight personality and appearance. In “Second Time Around” (1986), her first episode, also her only one of the fourth season, her date with Frasier does not go well because they constantly argue. In the fifth season, with help from Diane, Lilith and Frasier begin a relationship. Eventually, they marry and have a son, Frederick.

Kirstie Alley portrays Rebecca Howe. She starts out as a strong independent woman, managing the bar for the corporation that was given the bar by Sam after Diane jilted him. Eventually, when Sam regains ownership, she begs him to let her remain as business manager. She repeatedly has romantic failures with mainly rich men and becomes more and “more neurotic, insecure, and sexually frustrated”.

… Although Cheers operated largely around that main ensemble cast, guest stars and recurring characters did occasionally supplement them. Notable repeat guests included Dan Hedaya as Nick Tortelli, Jean Kasem as Loretta Tortelli … , Jay Thomas as Eddie LeBec, Roger Rees as Robin Colcord, Tom Skerritt as Evan Drake, and Harry Anderson as Harry ‘The Hat’ Gittes.

The show successfully tackled controversial issues like alcoholism, homosexuality, and adultery, and frequently explored two major themes, social class and feminism.

Next after Cheers for Danson:

Becker is an American television sitcom that ran from 1998 to 2004 on CBS. Set in the New York City borough of The Bronx, the show starred Ted Danson as John Becker, a misanthropic doctor who operates a small practice and is constantly annoyed by his patients, co-workers, friends, and practically everything and everybody else in his world. He is opinionated and cheap, he smokes, and he doesn’t care what any one else thinks. Despite everything, his patients and friends are loyal because Becker genuinely cares about them. (link)

And then CSI, which he joined in 2011.

One Response to “Sitcom watch: Ted Danson”

  1. Arne Adolfsen Says:

    I first noticed Ted Danson in the 1981 film BODY HEAT, which also provided Kathleen Turner and Mickey Rourke with their breakout roles. Its nominal star was William Hurt, but those three — and especially Kathleen Turner and Mickey Rourke — stole the picture away from him.

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