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Ted Danson’s Not Damaged at All

July 16, 2008

Ted Danson: Dead or alive? When we last saw evil businessman Arthur Frobisher in FX’s fantastic “Damages,” he was lying shot up in some swamp.

Costar Glenn Close couldn’t get away from fans’ questions. “‘Is he dead? Was he dead?’” she said people asked her on the street. “I don’t know,” she would reply. “It’s a long shot.”

Well, apparently the people making “Damages” don’t know, either. FX boss John Landgraf said Tuesday that Frobisher survived. The show’s producers said his character would be back, but implied it would be only in flashbacks. “Arthur returns, and that’s all I’ll say about that,” Todd Kessler, cocreator, executive producer and writer, told TV critics.

Either way, Ted Danson, whose portrayal of Frobisher was the best supporting acting on TV in the last year, is happy he’ll be back when the show returns in January.

“I’ve never had carte blanche to be as narcissistic, except in real life, as I did in this part,” he quipped. “When I was in my 30s, playing an easygoing, womanizing bartender (on “Cheers”) was great. But when you’re in your 60s, this is way more fun. …

“I’m so grateful to be part of this cast, part of this show. It has made me really excited about going to work as an actor again, and that is worth everything to me.”

Danson told me that he went to Close’s acting coach, Harold Guskin, to get some pointers on playing such a self-important character. Just do whatever you want, Guskin said. If you don’t want to say all the words in the script, you don’t have to.

Danson has no plans to ditch his recurring role as one of Larry David’s friends on HBO’s “Curb Your Enthusiasm.”"It’s Larry’s world, and he just assumes we’ll show up, and I do. The phone rings, and for some sad reason, I’m available.”

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Poirot returns. Be still, my leetle grrrey cells. David Suchet will return next summer to “Masterpiece Mystery” with four new stories from Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot novels, about the impeccably dressed French (oops, sorry, Belgian) detective.

“Masterpiece” mistress Rebecca Eaton says Suchet wants to finish “the entire canon” of Poirot before he hangs up his acting shoes. That could be tough, since there are more than 50 novels and short stories featuring Hercule and his stupendous spats.

Also on tap: Four Miss Marple mysteries, featuring Julia McKenzie, so delightful as Mrs. Forrester in Cranford, as the latest incarnation of the small-town busybody.

And big boy Kenneth Branagh is stepping down from his Shakespearean throne to essay the continuing role of Kurt Wallander, senior Swedish police detective with a private life more messed up than that of the beloved inspectors Morse and Tennyson combined.

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On the road with Ken. Ken Burns’ 12-hour traipse from Acadia to Big Bend to Glacier to Gates of the Arctic should be beautiful and packed with historical wonder _ even if the boyish filmmaster with the bowl haircut stays true to form and runs a couple of hours too long.

“The National Parks: America’s Best Idea” is the Burns documentary factory’s Next Big Thing, coming to PBS in fall 2009.

I’d sure like to tour the parks and get paid for it. (I’d ditch the dusty campsites and stay in the fancy hotels _ it’s $482 a night at Yosemite’s Ahwahnee, a great price for getting back to nature on public lands.)

Burns has decided the idea to establish national parks was just as radical and American as the Declaration of Independence, and he will round up the usual zillion old diary entries and brainy talking heads to support his theory.

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Jonathan Storm: jstorm@phillynews.com

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(c) 2008, The Philadelphia Inquirer.

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