PASADENA, Calif. — Ted Danson is going au naturel in his new ABC series "Help Me, Help You." He's not wearing a hairpiece, and he's not coloring his hair.

He's not completely bald, of course. But he is completely gray, a look he never had on either "Cheers" or "Becker." A look he went to some lengths to hide when he was on those shows.

"My hair became a topic of conversation in the beginning of 'Cheers,'" said Danson, who said he had a small bald spot when that show began, which he'd hide with brown coloring "and comb my hair over it."

"And then the tabloids said that I'm wearing a huge hairpiece. And I couldn't go, "No, no — 'I just color it in.' "

After "Cheers" was about five years into its run, "I indeed did have to wear a little divot hairpiece for Sam Malone. ... And then one of the tabloids airbrushed my entire head and said that I'm one of the people who is totally bald.

"And I, once again, couldn't say, 'No, no, I just wear this little ... "

At the behest of the networks involved — NBC for "Cheers" and CBS for "Becker" — Danson also colored his hair for the runs of both those shows.

Now that he's at ABC, "I'm out of the closet. It's very nice not to sit around with a bunch of ladies with silver things in my hair getting dye jobs. So I'm happy to be gray."

WITH TWO SUCCESSFUL SITCOMS under his belt, you'd think that Danson could pretty much sit home and not have to work anymore. But, at 58, he's not ready to retire.

"Yeah, I enjoy going to work. I really do like that," he said. "I love that process. And I have, like the rest of the world, mortgages to pay. There's a reason to work for me."

But, he said, his main motivation to take on "Help Me, Help You" — in which he stars as a therapist with lots of his own problems — is because he enjoys it so much.

"I love going to work and, as a group, trying to find out what's true about something, and then tilting it a little bit and being ironic or funny," Danson said. "I love that as the preoccupation of my day."

This time around, though, it's going to be a bit different. "Cheers" and "Becker" were both filmed on a soundstage in front of a live audience — on a schedule that actors love. But "Help Me" is filmed on location, with long, hard days.

The earlier shows "were three weeks on, one week off, 9-to-3 jobs. That's hardly a job," Danson said. "That's not a workaholic. That's a dilettante.

"I think I'm now about to earn my keep. ... We are doing 14-hour days and no weeks off."

DANSON HAD MET one of the creators/executive producers of his show, Jennifer Konner, although he didn't know it.

And, in the middle of the news conference, Konner piped up with, "He won't remember this, and this is actually the first time I'm telling (Danson) this, because I had to appear serious, but I was an intern on 'Cheers' for a month and a half when I was 16 years old."

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"Was I nice?" Danson asked.

"You were so nice," Konner said.

"Ah, thank God," Danson said.


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