Today, it was announced that actor Ted Danson will be joining the cast of the hit crime drama CSI. Since he is typically associated with comedic roles (Cheers, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Three Men and a Baby, etc.), the news came as a bit of a shock. However, Danson has veered away from his comedic roots at various times throughout his career, taking on challenging and often bizarre roles. In honor of his latest attempt at career reinvention, we’ve put together this list of five atypical Ted Danson roles.
Technically, taking a cameo role on Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! isn’t really stepping away from comedy. That said, the show has about as much in common with traditional sitcoms as David Lynch has in common with Brett Ratner. So while Danson’s performance as “Little Danson Man” may still be comedic, it is certainly atypical.
When watching this gritty World War II drama for the first time, the last thing I expected to see was T.V.’s Sam Malone. But somewhere between all the dismembered limbs and dead krauts, Becker managed to pop up. Sure, the role was small, and it wasn’t exactly crucial to advancing the plot. But at the time, the image of a white-haired Ted Danson shooting Germans was so out of character that it’s managed to stick with me for all these years.
Of all Ted Danson’s bizarre performances, this might be the strangest. In 1993, the Cheers star performed a racially-charged monologue while wearing blackface at a Friar’s Club roast in honor of his then-girlfriend Whoopi Goldberg. The idea of Danson dating Goldberg is strange enough. But the idea of him dressed like a minstrel while dropping N-bombs is truly mind boggling. Clearly, Danson meant no real offense toward blacks. After all, it was a Friar’s Club roast, and the whole point of such an event is to be offensive. Goldberg, who is black, was in on the joke, and even helped him write his monologue. But even so, the performance went over about as well as a pedophile joke at a Catholic baptism. Actually, that gives me a great idea from my nephew’s christening.
Almost every episode of CSI involves a murder. The good news for Ted Danson is that he’s covered that ground before. In the 1982 horror film Creepshow, he played a character who was murdered in cold blood for sleeping with another man’s girlfriend. What’s even stranger is that the murderer was played by fellow funnyman Leslie Nielsen. Talk about atypical casting.
The name Ted Danson isn’t usually associated with political satire. But in 1996, the actor starred in an adaptation of the Jonathan Swift classic, Gulliver’s Travels. The series was well received by critics, and went on to win five Emmy awards, including “Best Miniseries.” Compare that to the recent Jack Black adaptation, which went on to win the Jame Gumb 2011 “Most Annoying Movie I’ve Been Forced to Sit Through on an Airplane Award.” At any rate, we started this list with a tiny Ted Danson, so it’s only fitting that we end on that note, as well.