Ted Danson Ted Danson

Sam Malone's gone procedural: Ted Danson is returning to broadcast TV, joining the cast of CSI in a leading role.

According to CBS, Danson will play the new grave shift supervisor, moving to Vegas from the Portland crime lab. "He comes to the team as they are still grappling with the professional and personal fallout from last season's take-down of serial killer, Nate Haskell," the network says.   

Danson will fill the void left by the departure of Laurence Fishburne, who announced last month that he would depart CSI after two and a half years on the veteran crime procedural. (Fishburne, in turn, replaced original star William Petersen).

The actor just wrapped season three of HBO's Bored to Death, which returns in October. Under the deal to join CSI, he'll still also continue as a regular on Bored to Death.

Last seen regularly on CBS in the sitcom Becker, Danson more recently earned raves (and an Emmy nomination) for his dramatic turn as Arthur Frobisher on FX's critically acclaimed Damages. (Bored to Death also regularly injects plenty of drama into its comedy.)

Danson's busy TV plate also includes occasional visits to HBO's Curb Your Enthusiasm. The actor, perhaps still best known for his iconic portrayal of Sam Malone in the sitcom classic Cheers, also starred in the short-lived sitcom Ink for CBS (as well as the more recent Help Me Help You at ABC). Danson received two Emmy Awards as best actor in a comedy series (out of 11 consecutive nominations) for his work on Cheers.

In creating Danson's role, CSI executive producer Carol Mendelsohn is said to have drawn up a new character that is a bit more light-hearted than Fishburne's Ray Langston character (and more in the vein of his predecessor, William Petersen's Gil Grissom).

"You can create a new character on the page, but until the perfect actor comes along and breathes life into it, it's just words," Mendelsohn says.  "We're very excited Ted Danson came along." 

CBS kicked around the idea of bringing in another major movie star for the role, but later shifted gears and started looking for someone with seasoned TV chops. Danson more than fit that bill — and may even bring a humorous touch to the role.

"From the moment we all started talking about the role, it was clear he couldn't be more perfect," says exec producer Don McGill.  "Intelligence, wit, warmth, depth of character and emotion, he brings it all.  And now he'll have to bring latex gloves, too."

Danson will also add a star presence and a bit of buzz as CSI makes the move from its longtime Thursday home to Wednesdays, where it will now air at 10 p.m. The show will return for its 12th season starting Sept. 21.

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