Ted Dan­son in a good place as star of NBC’s ‘The Good Place’

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - FEATURES - By Fra­zier Moore

NEW YORK » While prep­ping for his role on NBC’s “The Good Place,” Ted Dan­son stopped by Wardrobe to get his char­ac­ter out­fit­ted.

“I was kind of floun­der­ing. I wasn’t quite sure how to do this. Then the costume de­signer said, ‘I don’t know how you feel about bow ties, but I have some.’ And I said, ‘Oh! THAT’S who I am!’

“Bow ties make a real state­ment,” he ob­serves, flash­ing his bright smile. “They’re al­ways slightly overea­ger. My bow tie gave me per­mis­sion to be as silly as I needed to be.”

On “The Good Place” (air­ing to­day at 8:30 p.m. EDT), he plays Michael, a bow-tie-sport­ing ce­les­tial su­per­vi­sor who, in­deed, is a bit overea­ger, some­times over­wrought and clearly in over his head. De­spite his ea­ger­ness to prove him­self to a cer­tain Higher-up, things don’t al­ways go smoothly in the sec­tor of the af­ter­life that Michael over­sees.

For in­stance, un­be­knownst to him, he is har­bor­ing an un­de­serv­ing soul named Eleanor (co-star Kris­ten Bell) who, through a screw-up, has landed in the Good Place rather than the Bad Place, where she be­longs.

Eleanor’s chal­lenge: to mas­quer­ade as good enough to keep Michael from catch­ing on to this ma­jor snafu, even as her pres­ence dis­rupts the all-per­va­sive bliss in var­i­ous chaotic ways.

For Dan­son, “The Good Place” has been a good time.

“Here’s the hard­est part: to not talk about the en­tire sea­son. I just want to gig­gle and tell you the whole story,” he says.

“The Good Place” is a se­ri­al­ized com­edy with a story arc stretch­ing across the sea­son’s 13 episodes as crafted by the show’s cre­ator, Michael Schur (“Brook­lyn Nine-Nine,” “Parks and Re­cre­ation” and “Mas­ter of None”), who has likened its evolv­ing, any­thing-goes essence to “Lost”-with-laughs.

“I wanted to do an­other com­edy,” says Dan­son, who made sit­com his­tory a quar­ter-cen­tury ago in “Cheers” and since then has scored with “Becker,” “Bored to Death” and “Curb Your En­thu­si­asm.”

“I lis­tened to Mike pitch his idea for an hour,” he says. “He had the en­tire first sea­son nailed down, and it was so strange! I signed on with­out see­ing a script, which is kind of un­heard of.”

Though pro­duc­tion wrapped last month, Dan­son was just get­ting started.

“Shoot­ing was fun, but watching it has been very scary,” he con­fides. “The first time I watch an episode, I’m dev­as­tated that I’m just me, Ted, and I’m pick­ing my­self apart. The next time, I go, ‘Ah, I guess I’m not that bad.’ And around the third time, I think, ‘There are OTHER ac­tors in this piece and aren’t they won­der­ful! And — oh, look — there’s a STORY!’” He chuck­les. “It takes me that long to re­ally see it.

“My wife” — fel­low ac­tor Mary Steen­bur­gen — “gets so mad at me!”

For all its ab­sur­dity, “The Good Place” does have a se­ri­ous un­der­cur­rent. As Michael in­forms new ar­rivals, ev­ery­thing a per­son has done in life has a rip­ple ef­fect that puts a cer­tain mea­sure of good or bad into the uni­verse.

Maybe there isn’t re­ally a quan­tifi­able scor­ing sys­tem that de­ter­mines if you’re a Good Place can­di­date (and only one out of ev­ery 450odd cases are, as Michael ex­plains), but Dan­son be­lieves there’s a les­son here nonethe­less.

“A lot of times we for­get that ev­ery­thing we do has an im­pact,” he notes. “In this Twit­ter world, we some­times be­have as if it doesn’t mat­ter how we act. And it does.”

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