Ted Danson Back in Prime-time Comedy
From the Akron Farm Report:
LOS ANGELES – Itâ€˜s only 8 a.m. Monday morning and the cast of “Help Me Help You” is already in group therapy.
At least one day a week, the stars of the new ABC comedy gather to spend many hours sitting in a circle, spilling out their charactersâ€˜ fears and foibles to Dr. Bill Hoffman, the therapist played by Ted Danson in this new ABC sitcom.
On a Paramount Studios soundstage, the camera moves around the office, bringing each character in the group into focus as dialogue is uttered again and again, interspersed with occasional improv.
“We are usually in that configuration, in that circle, for 14 hours, so we end up doing a lot of conversing,” says Jere Burns, whose character, Michael, is in court-ordered therapy because of anger problems
“Because itâ€˜s about therapy everyone instinctively started to share very personal stories … and we have continued to do that. We goof around a lot … but we also know the deepest, darkest secrets of each othersâ€˜ lives,” Hunt says.
The series, which airs Tuesdays at 9:30 p.m. ET, also features Jim Rash, who plays the metrosexual Jonathan, clearly in denial about his real sexual orientation, and Suzy Nakamura as Inger, professionally successful but lacking basic social skills. Jane Kaczmarek regularly guest stars as Anne, Hoffmanâ€˜s ex-wife.
“I liked the kind of arenâ€˜t-I-so-wonderful and yet tripping over himself (character), so bad at everything in life, so full of himself, yet so unexamined. Thatâ€˜s fun,” Danson says. “His therapy was real, yet he was a mess.”
Because Danson and every member of the ensemble say theyâ€˜ve been in therapy at some time or another, they remain respectful of the process. Most also acknowledge that perhaps itâ€˜s natural for actors to identify with self-exploration and are happy to be able to use their firsthand experiences on camera.
“Well you are required to go to therapy as soon as you move to Los Angeles, so Iâ€˜ve spent some time there,” Hunt laughs. “I think we are having fun with it, but showing some of the truth to it, too, because when you are in that situation, it does allow you to go to your really emotional places or your nutty inner thoughts, and I think that itâ€˜s a fun area to play with.”
Grinning gently, Rash says, “I think anyone who has been in therapy – myself included – you want that time to be yours, your time in that room is so precious.” He believes the series accurately captures “that feeling of people chomping on the bit to just say what is on their minds.”
Having guest-starred on many traditional multi-camera, live-audience sitcoms, Rash, like his co-stars, is enjoying the experience of shooting a TV comedy movie-style – with one camera, which means no studio audience, lots of breaks as the camera is reset for each new shot, and retakes galore.
“It lets scenes breathe a little bit. Itâ€˜s sort of nice to play some of those awkward silences,” he says, during – you guessed it – a pause in shooting.
“For an actor, timing wise, the single camera allows you to be a little more free, a little more real,” adds Nakamura. “It allows you the luxury of having moments … and I think a lot of the humor comes from the awkwardness and the universality of those awkward moments.”