LOS ANGELES--Ted Danson can't stop helping people.
In Becker, he was a bitter, acerbic physician; in Cheers, he was a bartender; and in the upcoming ABC sitcom Help Me Help You, he plays Bill Hoffman, leader of a therapy group for people suffering from social anxiety. The show is executive-produced by Alex Reid, creator of Malcolm In the Middle, and Jennifer Konner and Alexandra Rushfield, who wrote for the Judd Apatow show Undeclared.
Danson, speaking this week at the TV Critics Association press tour in Pasadena, California, said he enjoys his newest role because the character is in control, but neurotic.
"I get to be the bartender, the group therapist, then I get to [be] the total idiot at the same time," the actor said. "I like playing someone who desperately wants the world to like them. That's closer to home…at least, according to my wife."
Danson and the executive producers wanted to make sure that no one thinks they are making light of serious mental illnesses or the therapeutic process.
"I think our intention is to show that Bill Hoffman is good at what he does," Danson said. "We're not mocking the process at all."
"No, we've all spent too much time in the process to mock it," Konner said.
"We have a consultant we work with who runs groups, and we pass everything by her just for accuracy," Rushfield added.
Series star Jere Burns assured the gathered critics that the well-being of the actors was being seen to.
"And I have some pretty serious issues, so I'll recognize those when they come up," he said to laughter. "And I'll say 'That's cutting pretty close to home, let's get more general and funny.'"
Comedy equals tragedy when Help Me Help You premieres Thursday, September 26, on ABC.