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Ted Danson Movies and TV Shows: How He Went from ‘Cheers’ to ‘The Good Place’

Learn more about the fascinating career of the iconic sitcom actor

Although he is best known for the hit sitcom Cheers, set at the bar “where everybody knows your name,” there are countless Ted Danson movies and TV shows over his well-renowned acting career that are worth the watch.

Danson’s journey as an actor started long before his 1982 to 1993 series aired, but it came to life as a result of his role as the womanizing, now-sober bartender. Danson, however, has said he was the complete opposite of his character. He recalled on The Late Show with Seth Meyers, “It took me a year and a half on Cheers playing Sam Malone [to feel comfortable]… I never went to bars, I never picked up women.”

Ted Danson at with his star on the walk of fame
Ted Danson with his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame (1999) Steve Granitz / Contributor / Getty

His ability to put a comedic spin on everything he said and did in Cheers won him multiple awards, as well as a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1999.

MUST READ: ‘Cheers’ Cast: 11 Wild Behind-the-Scenes Secrets Revealed

Ted Danson early career

Ted Danson was born in 1947 as Edward Bridge Danson III in San Diego, California. The actor attended Stanford University where he became interested in acting, and soon transfered to Carnegie-Mellon University, where he got his Bachelors in drama. A few years after his 1972 graduation, Danson moved to Los Angeles where he studied and taught classes at the Actor’s Institute.

Ted Danson
Ted Danson (1982) NBC Television / Handout / Getty

Early on in his career, Danson had a few small roles on multiple television series, his first bout with the medium being the daytime soap opera Somerset (1970). Though his role was minor, it was the first time Danson was seen on screen.

Afterwards, he made appearances on The Doctors (1975), The Amazing Spider-Man (1979), B.J. and the Bear (1979), Laverne & Shirley (1980) and Magnum, P.I. (1981). He also appeared in some movies early on his career, including The Onion Field (1979), Once Upon a Spy (1980) and Our Family Business (1981).

Where everybody knows your name

Man and woman discussing at a bar; ted danson movies and tv shows
Ted Danson and Shelley Long in “Cheers” (1982) Productions

Ted Danson’s career skyrocketed in 1982 when he booked the role of Sam Malone on Cheers, and throughout its run, everybody knew his name. Danson’s character, though a philandering, newly sober bartender, was a joy to have on the screen. His charming demeanor and good looks — accompanied by a truly great ensemble of actors — drew in an audience of nearly 26 million viewers weekly.

Man leaning over a woman; ted danson movies and tv shows
Ted Danson and Kirstie Alley in Cheers (1987) Productions

Though the show struggled initially, many tuned in every Thursday to see the passionate, on-again, off-again relationship between Sam and Diane Chambers (Shelley Long). Danson remained on the series for the entirety of its 11-year run, even after Diane left. But in season 6, audiences met Rebecca Howe (Kirstie Alley), who played his next love interest.

Ted Danson with an award
Ted Danson with an Emmy award (1990) Vinnie Zuffante / Stringer / Getty

Danson won two Golden Globes and two Emmys for his role in the series. He recalled his time on the show to Entertainment Tonight in 2022, reflecting, “It still makes me laugh when I watch sometimes. It’s funny and it’s great to see my friends and they make me laugh. I was so blessed.”

In 1993, Danson decided the series and his time as an aging player needed to come to an end. The last episode of Cheers, which pulled in a whopping 80.4 million viewers, was the second most-watched TV series finale of all time.

MUST-READ: Kirstie Alley Young: Take a Look Back at the Career of the ‘Cheers’ Actress

Ted Danson movies and TV shows during Cheers

Throughout his time on Cheers, Danson’s film career soared, his roles during the show’s early years including Cowboy (1983), Allison Sydney Harrison (1983), Little Treasure (1985) and Just Between Friends (1986).

Two man standing and smiling
Ted Danson and Howie Mandel in A Fine Mess (1986) Pictures

In 1984, Danson was cast opposite Glenn Close in the Emmy-winning film Something About Amelia, for which he scored a second Golden Globe award. He then starred in the film A Fine Mess (1986), and was later featured in the music video for The Temptations song of the same name.

Three men and a baby; ted danson movies and tv shows
Ted Danson, Tom Selleck and Steve Gutenberg in “Three Men and a Baby” (1987) Pictures

Ted Danson movies and TV shows wouldn’t be what they are without his 1987 film, Three Men and a Baby. Starring alongside Tom Selleck and Steve Guttenberg (and directed by Mr. Spock himself, Leonard Nimoy), the film was a massive success as the biggest box office hit of the year, grossing $240 million worldwide. The cast came back for the sequel in 1990, Three Men and a Little Lady.

RELATED: 20 Throwback Photos of Tom Selleck Young That Prove He’s Always Been a Hunk

Post Cheers Ted Danson movies and TV shows

Man and boy at baseball game
Ted Danson and Macaulay Culkin in Getting Even with Dad (1994) (MGM)

Danson followed up his sitcom with multiple films, including 1993’s Made in America with Whoopi Goldberg, with whom he later had a high-profile affair. He then went on to star in Getting Even with Dad (1994) with Macaulay Culkin.

Danson worked with his current wife, Mary Steenburgen, on the set of his next movie, Pontiac Moon (1994). Though the couple met 10 years prior, their relationship didn’t begin until 1994.

MUST-READ: Ted Danson and Mary Steenburgen’s Simple and Oh-So Sweet Secret to Long-Lasting Love

Following his film stint, Danson had guest appearances on different series, among them The Simpsons (1994) as well as the Cheers spinoff, Frasier (1995). In 1996, he and Steenburgen produced the series Ink, and he also appeared in former co-star Kirstie Alley’ show, Veronica’s Closet (1998).

In 1998, Danson shifted genres from comedies to war movies, starring in Thanks of a Grateful Nation as well as having a small role in the Oscar-winning Saving Private Ryan, alongside Tom Hanks and Matt Damon.

New Ted Danson TV shows

Group of people in Becker
Ted Danson and the cast of Becker (1998) Hackel Productions

Danson booked the medical sitcom Becker in 1998, which lasted for six seasons and saw him portraying the pessimistic Dr. John Becker. He was nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actor in a Television Series – Comedy or Musical in 2001, but lost to former Cheers co-star, Kelsey Grammer, who won for Frasier.

In 2006, Danson booked the lead in the series, Help Me Help You, playing Dr. Bill Hoffman, who leads a therapy group. The show only lasted for 14 episodes before it was canceled in 2007.

RELATED: ‘Frasier’ Reboot: What To Know About Dr. Crane’s Much-Anticipated Comeback

Man at a desk; ted danson movies and tv shows
Ted Danson in CSI: Crime Scene Investigation (2014) Productions

Just two years later, Danson starred as a book editor in the HBO comedy series Bored to Death (2009), which ran for three seasons and a total of 24 episodes. Soon after, he was cast in the role of D.B. Russell in season 12 of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation (2011), remaining a part of the show until its end in 2015. Danson went on to appear in other CSI spinoffs, including CSI: NY (2013) and CSI: Cyber (2015).

Recent Ted Danson movies and TV shows

Man and woman shocked
Ted Danson and Kristen Bell in The Good Place

Finally, in 2016, he booked a TV series that stuck, scoring the role of Michael on The Good Place. His character is the architect of the Heaven-like utopian afterlife the show is named for. When Danson was pitched the show by creators Michael Schur and David Miner, they simply said, “Comedy misses you.” Danson’s response to the pitch of his character was, according to Vanity Fair, “I literally just sat there listening in awe, and asked a few questions at the end, and said yes.”

Two men talking
Ted Danson and Larry David in Curb Your Enthusiasm (2004)

In 2021, he became Mr. Mayor on his new series, but it only lasted for two seasons. He has also been a minor recurring character on Curb Your Enthusiasm (2024), appearing on the show since 2000 and, in this, the final season of the show.

Danson is now working on a new project titled A Classic Spy, which is currently in production.

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