When Scott Baio describes the life of a coddled TV star, he paints quite a picture.
"It's a very Peter Pan-like existence," the former teen actor and reality TV star says. "You don't really ever have to grow up. As a TV star, you're told what to wear, what to say, where to stand, how to act, and once in a while you throw a tantrum, after which everything goes right back to being normal again.
"That's what a TV actor does."
But then the inevitable happens: The show gets canceled and the actor discovers he is ill-equipped to function in the real world.
"I've had that problem," Baio admits. "I've had issues with my wife. She sometimes thinks that I'm a very self-centered guy. And I am.
"It's because I'm so used to things being all about me that I forget other people are involved."
Which brings us to the premise of Baio's new sitcom, See Dad Run, which premieres Sunday on Nick at Nite.
Baio plays David Hobbs, an actor who spent 10 years playing the perfect father in a beloved TV sitcom. Now that his show has ended, David agrees to be a stay-at-home dad, watching over three kids while his actress wife (Alanna Ubach) resumes her soap opera career.
What David quickly discovers is that being a dad on TV is child's play compared to the real thing.
"He's not dumb, but he's not equipped, so he's trying to catch up," Baio says. "He's got a 14-year-old daughter and no idea what language she's even speaking."
The other kids are 10 and 5. "That makes for a steep learning curve," Baio says.
It also sets up a lot of clueless-dad comedy moments in a traditional multicamera, studio-audience family sitcom, the kind of show that used to cover the TV landscape like mushrooms but is rare today.
"It's a true family show," Baio says. "There aren't a lot of true family shows that are sitcoms on the air. The few that do exist have bad-taste jokes and things that are off-color. We don't do that."
Leave it to Nick at Nite, a retro TV network that specializes in endless reruns of old sitcom favorites, to make a new show that feels like a throwback. And it makes perfect sense to build that new show around Baio, 52, who became a teen TV star in the 1970s, playing Chachi Arcola on Happy Days.
As a matter of fact, See Dad Run is filmed on the very soundstage where Happy Days was shot. And the production offices are the same ones that Happy Days producer Garry Marshall once used.
Baio -- whose other TV credits include Charles in Charge, Diagnosis Murder and Scott Baio is 45 ... and Single -- is quick to admit that nothing about See Dad Run was his idea.
"It's sort of an odd story," he says. "I was, in my mind, kind of done with acting. I didn't have anything that I really wanted to do. So I was just enjoying my life. I play a lot of golf. I hang out with my wife and kid. That's what my life had become, and I liked it.
"Then Jason Hervey, who was an actor on The Wonder Years before he became a producer, called me. He said, 'Will you read a script for me?' And I said no. He said, 'Why not?' And I said, 'I just don't want to be sucked back into this game.' But he talked me into reading the script.
"Well, actually, I didn't even read all of it. And then next thing I know, Jason's calling and saying, 'We're pitching this show to a couple of networks.' And I went, 'What? Really?'
"So from doing nothing, all of a sudden I'm on a soundstage shooting a pilot and then back on TV -- and I can't really tell you how I got here."
But Baio is quick to add that he's enjoying every moment while it lasts.
"I don't allow myself to have big dreams for a new show anymore," he says. "As an actor, it's a horrible mentality that we often have, where we're always wondering and worrying about how long this will last and then what's next. It took me a long time to learn not to do that to myself.
"Now I just go day to day. I go in to work and I try to have fun. If the show goes for a couple of years, great. If it doesn't, whatever, fine. I'll go back to playing golf. I've learned to enjoy the moment.
"Somebody once told me a great line: Right now, these are the good old days. That's my philosophy now."