Diane Haithman is contributing to Deadline’s coverage of TCA.

More laughs than screams? At today’s CSI: Crime Scene Investigation panel at TCA, producers and actors from the long-running procedural drama said viewers should expect a lighter tone than in recent seasons with the introduction of Ted Danson’s new character, D.B. Russell.

Executive producer Carol Mendelsohn said the 12th season of CSI will still tend to open with “one or more dead or maimed bodies,” but that more humor will be injected into the procedure. “I think you can infer it — last year we were chasing a serial killer; that arc has come to an end … we will have more humor than last season.” After the session she reiterated that blood will still spill: “It will be our usual gore that we’ve all been desensitized to. … I don’t think we are going to lose our template.”

Said Mendelsohn of the decision to hire Danson: “We wanted a Sherlock Holmes — we did not want a science nerd. And we started the premiere of Season 1 with, ‘Here comes the nerd squad.’ We said, how do we get someone of great intelligence who is not a nerd?” That led, she said, to making Danson’s character the son of intellectual, Left Coast hippie parents.

Comedy veteran Danson, who is replacing the ever-dour Laurence Fishburne (who replaced William Petersen), said that recent roles including his turn on Damages are good preparation for taking on a drama, but he also said his years as Cheers bartender Sam Malone didn’t hurt, either. “Trying to hold together a crazy group of people, whether they are crazy-bright or crazy-silly, is something that I respond to,” he said.

Unlike the other characters with their lonely, troubled personal lives, Danson’s character will be a family man with kids and a supportive wife. Joked executive producer Don McGill: “We joke that if you have sex on our show, you die. [Danson’s character] has had sex four times.”

Co-star Marg Helgenberger, who said she was leaving at the end of last season but has decided to stay for one more season only, said that the appearance of a new supervisor on the team will cause her character some stress, but though there will be a little resentment, the Danson character will be “too endearing” for too much strife. She said she is definitely leaving at the end of season, prompting Danson to chime in, “Well, that’s what she says…”

As he enters a new dramatic role, Danson seemed a little embarrassed by questions about whether he felt that he was adequately compensated financially for his many years on Cheers. “I think I was overly fairly compensated. … I go around saving oceans because of guilt for Cheers compensation,” he said. “I was so compensated that we should change the subject.”