On October 21, 1996, CBS introduced “Ink,” a Ted Danson-Mary Steenburgen comedy plagued by backstage drama.
Originally, the couple played Jack and Carrie, two recently divorced journalists who work together at a New York City newspaper.
CBS filmed a pilot and three episodes – then decided “Ink” wasn’t working. The network delayed the show’s debut by five weeks and replaced the original producer with “Murphy Brown” impresario Diane English, who reinvented the show from scratch.
Danson and Steenburgen still played journalists, but now they were named Mike Logan and Kate Montgomery. The New York Times explained other changes:
Instead of being recently divorced and still fiercely angry at each other, they are now reunited in the workplace 10 years after their breakup, and plagued by renewed bursts of passion for each other. Instead of being childless, they have a 15-year-old daughter. Instead of working in a dingy failing newspaper, they circulate through a bright, modern newsroom.
The supporting cast was also overhauled. Example: Charlie Robinson – a crusty barber in the original setup – became a crusty crime reporter.
“Ink’s” debut was seen in 11.5 million homes, ranking 20th in the weekly ratings.
Viewers drifted away as the season progressed; CBS finally cancelled the show after 22 episodes.
Here’s the prime-time lineup for Monday, October 21, 1996:
8: “Dangerous Minds” (ABC), “Cosby” (CBS), “Melrose Place” (Fox), “The Jeff Foxworthy Show” (NBC)
8:30: “Ink” (CBS), “Mr. Rhodes” (NBC)
9: “Monday Night Football” (ABC), “Murphy Brown” (CBS), “When Disaster Strikes” (Fox), “Danielle Steel’s The Ring” (NBC)
9:30: “Cybill” (CBS)
10: “Chicago Hope” (CBS)
For the week of October 20, 1995:
Top novel: “Desperation” by Stephen King
Top song: “Macarena” (Bayside Boys Mix)” by Los Del Rio
Top movie: “Sleepers”
Top TV show: World Series, Game 5 (Fox)
In the news: Apple Computer planned a comeback
Captions: “Ink” stars Ted Danson and Mary Steenburgen in a photograph from TV Guide’s September 14, 1996, fall preview issue (top, photos by Fergus Greer and Greg Lavy); CBS’s advertisement for the series premiere, from the magazine’s October 19, 1996, edition.