High up in his room at the Las Vegas Four Seasons, Ted Danson is looking out the window at the Nevada desert beyond all the bright lights, still buzzing about his success as wastrel magazine publisher George Christopher on HBO's Bored to Death. "George should be worn out and jaded from all of his life experiences," says Danson. "And yet he cannot wait to hang out with his young friends and experience something new. He desperately does not want to be left behind." For George, this mainly involves smoking a lot of pot with the show's two other leads, Jason Schwartzman and Zach Galifianakis. But he also has other things to worry about. George boozes too much. He's got a strange fondness for the female armpit. He's got herpes. And prostate cancer. In other words, he's one of the greatest total messes to ever hit prime time.
Few TV actors have played a wider range of iconic characters than Ted Danson. After 11 years as Sam Malone on Cheers and six years as the misanthropic Dr. Becker, he's on an even bigger roll at age 63, playing a smug version of himself on Curb Your Enthusiasm and until recently the corrupt billionaire Arthur Frobisher on Damages. Then a couple weeks ago, as he was lazing about in Martha's Vineyard, a call came in. CBS wanted him to replace Laurence Fishburne on CSI, and they wanted him to do it now, like, today. So now Danson is in Las Vegas, clad in only a T-shirt and his customary "fetching sweatpant-pajama things," having risen at 4 a.m., about to start filming and still struggling to process what he saw the day before. "As research," he says, "I went to my first autopsy. I was holding body parts. It was the real deal. Four autopsies going at once. Talk about getting some perspective. It was one of the bigger days of my life."
By Erik Hedegaard