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Ted Danson: A Look at the Life and Career of the Iconic TV Actor

Full Name Edward Bridge "Ted" Danson III
Age 75 years old
Birthday December 29, 1947
Birthplace San Diego, California, United States
Height 6‘2"
Relationship Status Married to Mary Steenburgen
Net Worth $80 million
Social Media Twitter, Instagram

You may know him best as the charming, wise-cracking bar owner Sam Malone from the classic sitcom Cheers. Or perhaps as the afterlife architect Michael in the philosophical comedy The Good Place. But over his impressive five-decade career, Ted Danson has brought to life some of television‘s most iconic and beloved characters.

From his early start in soap operas to his recent Golden Globe win, Danson‘s humor, heart, and captivating on-screen presence have made him one of Hollywood‘s most recognizable stars. So let‘s take a closer look at the life and work of this prolific, Emmy Award-winning actor who became a TV legend.

Biography and Acting Career

Edward Bridge Danson III was born on December 29, 1947 in San Diego, California. Danson‘s father was an archaeologist and museum director who often took his family on excavations around the world. As a teen, Danson attended a prep school in Arizona where he excelled in basketball, football, and drama. He later studied drama at Stanford University before transferring to Carnegie Mellon to study acting.

After graduating in 1972, Danson headed to New York City to pursue an acting career. To pay the bills during this early stage, he worked as a bartender and took small parts in soap operas like Somerset and The Doctors. His first big break came in 1979 when he was cast alongside Tom Selleck in the crime drama The Onion Field. Danson drew praise for his emotional performance as a police officer taken hostage, proving he could take on serious roles.

But Danson‘s career took off in 1982 when he landed the part of Sam "Mayday" Malone on the NBC sitcom Cheers. As the flirtatious ex-baseball player turned bar owner, Danson charmed audiences with his comedic timing and on-screen chemistry with Shelley Long, who played the intellectual waitress Diane Chambers. Their tumultuous love story became a sitcom classic.

Cheers was an immediate hit and went on to become one of TV‘s most acclaimed and popular sitcoms, dominating the ratings for most of its 11-season run from 1982 to 1993. Danson received critical acclaim and numerous awards for his performance as Sam, including two Emmys and two Golden Globes.

After Cheers ended, Danson went on to star in several feature films like Three Men and a Baby (1987) and its sequel. He also continued working in television, including successful shows like Ink (1996-1997) and Becker (1998-2004) where he played a grumpy doctor. Danson won a third Golden Globe for his performance in Becker.

In later years, Danson took on various TV projects including joining the cast of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation in 2011 for seasons 12 and 13. One of his most acclaimed roles of late has been starring opposite Kristen Bell in NBC‘s The Good Place (2016-2020). Danson‘s portrayal of the charmingly demonic "architect" Michael earned him a fourth Golden Globe in 2019.

Personal Life and Marriage to Mary Steenburgen

Danson‘s first marriage to producer Randall "Randy" Gosch ended in divorce in 1975 after five years together. During filming of Cheers in 1987, Danson met actress Mary Steenburgen who played a recurring love interest of his character Sam Malone.

Sparks flew between the co-stars and Danson and Steenburgen married in 1995. In interviews, Danson has gushed about finding his soulmate in Steenburgen. "I just feel lucky. Mary is the most amazing person in the world," he told People.

The happy couple lives in Los Angeles and raised two children together. Danson has two daughters from his first marriage. Steenburgen talks about how Danson enjoys "just being a husband and a dad and a friend…he likes simple things." The pair recently celebrated their 27th wedding anniversary.

Why Ted Danson Became an Icon

So what is it exactly about Danson that has made him such an iconic TV star over the past 40+ years? Here are some of the qualities that have contributed to his widespread popularity and acclaim:

  • Comedic gifts – Danson had an ability to fire off witty one-liners, create funny physicality for his characters, and perfectly execute prat falls, spit takes and other sitcom hijinks.
  • Easy charm – With his tall stature, raspy voice and easy smile, Danson naturally exuded a relaxed and approachable charm that audiences loved.
  • Emotional depth – Danson skillfully navigated poignant moments like Sam‘s struggles with alcoholism. The Hollywood Reporter praised his ability to be "funny one minute, breaking hearts the next."
  • Instant chemistry – Danson‘s exciting on-screen partnerships with Shelley Long, Whoopi Goldberg and Kristen Bell kept viewers hooked.
  • Sitcom mastery – From impeccable comedic timing to memorable reaction shots, Danson understood how to command the sitcom form.

Ted Danson‘s Legacy

As he enters the fifth decade of his illustrious career, Ted Danson has cemented his place in television history thanks to his iconic sitcom roles, numerous awards, consistent success across different genres, and reputation as one of Hollywood‘s nicest and most down-to-earth talents.

Danson‘s talent and versatility have allowed him to embody characters from wisecracking womanizer to lovable curmudgeon to philosophical immortal. And he continues to take on exciting new roles, like in the upcoming comedy Mr. Mayor alongside Holly Hunter.

While Danson became forever beloved for playing Sam Malone on Cheers, he has proven over his career that his talents extend far beyond running the bar at Cheers. He has created a decades-spanning body of work, earning his place as a legendary TV icon.

When you see Ted Danson light up the screen, appreciate his mastery of comedy, ability to create dimensional characters, and skill at capturing our hearts. His impact on television comedy and culture is sure to influence generations to come.