TCA 2011: Ted Danson cheers for his new 'CSI' gig
Ted Danson has built a varied career, from leading man in hit comedies such as "Cheers" and "Becker" to his applauded supporting roles in "Curb Your Enthusiasm," "Bored to Death" and "Damages." But though he is a showbiz veteran, he is still a bit loopy about stepping into his new starring role on "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation."
"The truth is, my jaw is still hanging a bit from the news," Danson said during a panel discussion of the series at the Television Critics Assn. press tour in Beverly Hills as he described how "surprised and thrilled" he was at getting the call from "CSI" producers. "I love going to work. It's a joy going to work."
Danson is stepping into the series following the departure of Laurence Fishburne, who left recently after appearing in the series for less than three years. Producers say Danson's arrival has energized the drama series, which is entering its 12th season.
"This is exciting for us," said executive producer Carol Mendelsohn. "We wanted to excite the audience, and wanted to excite ourselves as writers."
Danson' will play D.B. Russell, the new supervisor for the grave shift. He varies from other CSI lead investigators played by Fishburne and original "CSI" star William Petersen in that he has a more balanced life, being the happily married father of four kids. Said Don McGill, executive producer: "He grew up with counterculture parents, they traveled across the country in a van, it gives him a perspective on life that gives him a different point of view."
Producers called Danson "a huge TV star" who had the right amont of charisma for the role.
Whether Danson still has the star power to bring audiences to the aging procedual will be one of the more intriguing questions of the season. His last leading role was in the therapist comedy "Help Me Help You" in 2006, which was canceled after several episodes.
For Danson, the early days of duty on the show have been "very surrealistic." He said he went quickly from looking at the ocean in Martha's Vineyard to attending a real autopsy in Las Vegas to playing a CSI investigator.
The cast for this season will also include Marg Helgenberger, who had announced previously that she would be leaving the series. But Helgenberger said the invigoration of the writing staff and Danson's involvement made her change her mind: "It was hard letting go. I realized I wasn't done playing this character."
Although Helgenberger said this coming season would be her last, Danson playfully patted her knee and said, "Yeah, we'll see about that."
— Greg Braxton
Photos: Top: Ted Danson and Marg Helgenberger discuss CBS' 'CSI: Crime Scene Investigation' at the Television Critics press tour. Credit: Fred Prouser / Reuters. Right photo: Marg Helgenberger, Jorja Fox and Ted Danson in "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation." Credit: CBS.