Twenty-six years after the Cheers finale, Ted Danson is preparing to take his final bow on another beloved NBC comedy, The Good Place, which returns tonight for its fourth and final season.
Meanwhile, the actor has already lined up his next gig. In July, NBC gave a straight-to-series order for a new comedy, created by Tina Fey and Robert Carlock, that will star Danson as a wealthy businessman who unexpectedly wins an election to become mayor of L.A.
Danson talked with Adweek about saying goodbye to The Good Place, why he jumped right into another series and what’s in store when he appears on the next season of Larry David’s Curb Your Enthusiasm on HBO.
Adweek: What has finishing The Good Place’s final season been like?
Ted Danson: It’s been very sweet. I finished my last day yesterday. It dawned on me, I don’t have a built-in excuse to be around these incredibly sweet people. Now we’re going to have to work hard to find each other. [Creator] Mike Schur is such a remarkable human being. Not only is he an amazing writer, but he’s a really wonderful producer. [Executive producer] Morgan Sackett is his right-hand man, and the two of them create this atmosphere to work in where everybody there is grateful, everybody on the crew is incredibly talented and happy to be there, so we’re incredibly spoiled when we go to work. It will be missed.
How long have you known that Season 4 would be the final season?
We were all told I think at the beginning of this year. About two months before we start shooting, the writers gather and start working on the season, and I think a few weeks in, they realized that this was definitely the last season. It would have watered down the impact of the story [to continue it longer]. NBC had always let them do this show the way they wanted to, so it was a surprising decision, but I respect that. We all respected it.
There’s never been a comedy this heavily serialized before. Did you ever worry they’d run out of story sooner than they ultimately did?
I didn’t really worry. Season 2 was a gimme because the surprise [twist] was revealed at the end of Season 1, and you knew there would be a lot of story there. But instead of riding that switch the entire season, within three episodes they used up that particular surprise and moved on to something else. They really are remarkable writers. I have endless respect for them. So no, I didn’t worry, but I was astounded each time it made a turn that I hadn’t seen coming.
Without spoiling anything, how do you personally feel about how the show wraps up in the finale?
These are all things I should let an audience say after seeing it, but to me, it was incredibly satisfying on every level. The emotional path of all the characters was incredibly satisfying, and on a more spiritual universe level, it was incredibly satisfying. I really loved the last few episodes. I thought they were just brilliant.
The Cheers finale was one of the biggest TV events of all time, but these days it seems like there’s even more pressure on long-running shows to “stick the landing.” Have you felt that shift during your years on TV?
I suppose so. I think that’s probably more of a “everybody’s got a subjective point of view, and they only care about the ending of shows that are incredibly successful and have been enjoyed.” So everybody’s watching from that point of view, but it doesn’t really diminish the impact of whatever that show did or didn’t do. I think if people are looking at your finale and judging it, that’s probably a good sign. That means you’ve done your work up to that point.