INTERIOR: Dr. Kenwood's Exam Room – Day
I wanted to give George a disease in which his masculinity would be threatened. This was intended as a metaphor for something I had gone through in which I felt like my balls had been dosed with radiation and shrunken terribly. And by balls, I mean one's sense of courage and conviction.
I survived this situation with my balls intact, but they did get severely deflated and it took a month of swimming in the ocean for them to heal. I love to swim in the ocean. It gives me great joy. It's in my top three of self-erasing joyful activities, in which wrestling with dogs and licking arm-pits are the other two. Maybe I should make the list have four categories. Nursing also gives me great joy.
Anyway, I wanted George's balls to be in danger, in much the same way that my metaphorical balls had been in danger. I wanted him to be tested. I wanted to see how we would react, to see what his character was made of. At first, he doesn't take the news well. He laments, "Oh, my God...I can't die. I haven't figured anything out."
I have him say this because this is a great fear of mine, destined to come true - to die and to never have really grasped what's going on.
Then Dr. Kenwood, a sympathetic and kind soul, takes George to her breast, where he can indulge in number 4 on my list of joyful activities, and I love the look on Ted Danson's face in this moment, how he goes from utter despair to a sort of beautiful incredulity - "Is this doctor really going to give me what I most need in this moment? Is she really going to hold me to her beautiful breasts?"
And then showing his true character, in a very good way, I think, he doesn't flinch at this gift which the universe is giving him - he buries his face in those wonderful breasts and holds on! Life isn't over yet!
One other little thing from this scene: I have Dr. Kenwood (the magnificent Jessica Hecht) mention congealed salad dressing because I always have a rotation of ancient salad-dressings in my refrigerator, which I clear out about every three years or so. My refrigerator is more of a morgue for dead food-stuffs as opposed to a larder where I might actually seek out nutrition and sustenance.
Oh, one other thing: when Jessica auditioned for the part, I had her hold the female casting director in much the same way that she would later hold Ted Danson. And it looked so good in this non-descript office at HBO in New York, where we do our casting, that I knew she would be perfect for the role.