These days, Christine Baranski is always smiling — and no, it's not because she's soused, either. Rather, the Cybill survivor is merely punch drunk because not only is she starring with John Larroquette in what may be this season's smartest comedy, NBC's Happy Family (premiering Sept. 9 at 8:30 pm/ET), but she's also still reaping the rewards of her stint as rich bitch Maryann.

"I so often hear from people, 'Oh, you're so much softer [than I expected you to be],'" the actress relates. "And I've had people come to do my hair and makeup for a photo and [be] like, 'Oh my God, I was so nervous about meeting you.'

"But," she adds quickly, "it's fun to have played that kind of character. I've been offered more free martinis in my life! I can step on a plane and [the stewardesses] will say, 'We'll get you your martini as soon as we take off.' So there are perks to being that character."

In the long run, however, Baranski may well find that she prefers her new role, that of Annie, a doting mother who realizes too late that her grown kids are problem children one and all. "I looked at this as an opportunity to do a [part] that was not arch and sophisticated, because you know what?" she muses. "You're almost cursed as an actor if you do something really well.

"Maryann was a great, vivid character," she continues, "and I got a lot of work out of it. But [when the script for Happy Family came along], I thought, 'Well, how nice to play someone actually closer to myself and to my own life experience.'"