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Ink aired October 1996 until May 1997 on CBS.
Journalist Mike and Kate ( Ted Danson, Mary Steenburgen), had had a whirlwind courtship that resulted in marriage 3 months after their first meeting on the White House lawn. The marriage didn't last-their natural competitiveness and big egos got in the way-but it had produced a daughter, Abby ( Alana Austin), whom they both adored. When Kate became the first female managing editor of The New York Sun, where Mike was the star columnist, sparks flew. Wisecracking, womanizing Mike had problems coping with her as his new boss, and Kate found it difficult dealing with his macho attitude and regular snipping at her-with almost nonstop arguments the result. Abby who loved them both continued her persistant but futile efforts to get them back together. Others on the Sun's staff were Belinda ( Christine Ebersole), the over-the-hill society columnist with a drinking problem, who had outgrown her love affair with the city's rich and famous; Ernie ( Charlie Robinson), the unflappable police reporter who had seen it all; and Alan ( Saul Rubinek), the uptight, neurotic financial reporter. Donna ( Jenica Bergere), a free-spirited young editorial assistant who seemed out of place working at a mainstream newspaper, idolized Kate and barely tolerated Mike, whom she considered a chauvinist pig. Which he was.
CBS had high hopes for INK, Ted Danson's first tv series since he turned off the lights on NBC's long-running hit Cheers. With the charismatic Danson and his new wife Mary Steenburgen starring, CBS was sure they had a hit. Unfortunately it was not to be. Problems with the series pilot and the original producers prompted CBS to bring in Murphy Brown producer Diane English to take over the reins in late August, less then a month before the scheduled premiere. The premiere was delayed while Ms. English made cast changes, but the chemistry-and audience appeal-weren't there. Ink never caught on and was canceled at the end of it's first season.
An Article from the LA Times
CBS Pulls Back 'Ink' for Some Remixing
Television: Ted Danson's heavily promoted series will be delayed until Oct. 21, episodes scrapped and Diane English brought in as executive producer.
August 30, 1996|BRIAN LOWRY | TIMES STAFF WRITER
The new Ted Danson comedy "Ink" is indeed going back to the drawing board, with CBS drafting another "Cheers" graduate, Rhea Perlman, to take its place at the prime-time bar.
In a costly eleventh-hour move, CBS said Thursday that it will delay "Ink's" scheduled and heavily promoted premiere from Sept. 16 until Oct. 21 because the network and the stars were unsatisfied with initial episodes.
"Pearl"--a comedy starring Perlman as a blue-collar woman going back to college at an Ivy League school--will take its place at 8:30 p.m. Mondays for a five-week run, airing after the new Bill Cosby sitcom "Cosby."
As part of the overhaul, CBS and "Ink's" production company, DreamWorks SKG, will scrap the four episodes that have already been shot, starting over with "Murphy Brown" creator Diane English as executive producer. "Ink's" creator, former "Mad About You" producer Jeffrey Lane, is expected to leave the series. However, the premise will remain the same--with Danson and real-life wife Mary Steenburgen playing a recently divorced couple working for the same newspaper.
Sources estimate the cost of junking those episodes to exceed $4 million. In addition, CBS has been running extensive on-air ads touting "Ink" as part of its "Big Comedy Monday" lineup, a block of shows that, in addition to "Cosby," includes "Murphy Brown" and "Cybill."
"It was a tough decision," said CBS Entertainment President Leslie Moonves, adding that "Ink" is "too important a project" to the network--with too much ratings potential over the long term--to proceed with a program generating a lukewarm response.
"Ink's" pilot episode was poorly received, and even the stars acknowledged doubts about that half-hour at a session with TV critics in July. They indicated, however, that they felt the series would improve in subsequent episodes.
Danson and Steenburgen are also producers on the series and said in a statement Thursday that they are pleased to get a chance to start over "rather than put on a show that we are all less than thrilled with." The couple has been at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago, and production of the series is now scheduled to resume in October.
"Pearl" was initially set for Wednesdays, and CBS said the show will return to that night, appearing after "The Nanny," when "Ink" is ready. The show co-stars Malcolm MacDowell as the lead character's snooty professor and will be shown twice--both Monday and Wednesday--the week it premieres.
CBS was already planning to delay some of its Wednesday programs because several presidential and vice presidential debates are tentatively scheduled for that night. The change is a potential plus for "Pearl," which figures to get more exposure Monday than in its regular slot Wednesday--a night jammed with 16 comedies from 8 to 10 p.m.
Industry observers said the false start on "Ink" underscores the danger of such star-driven commitments, when deals are made with talent before the program is conceived. CBS ordered 22 episodes of the series to secure Danson after a bidding war with NBC, and ABC extended the same commitment to another DreamWorks project, "Spin City," starring Michael J. Fox.
CBS went well beyond that in committing 44 episodes to get "Cosby," which has also undergone considerable behind-the-scenes changes and re-shot its pilot episode. The standard order on a new prime-time program is 13 episodes or less.
English has a spotty track record since creating "Murphy Brown," which premiered in 1988. She subsequently gave up day-to-day involvement with that show and, under a multiple-series agreement at CBS, produced two marginally rated sitcoms: "Love & War," a romantic comedy similar in tone to "Ink," and "Double Rush." Earlier this year English produced a pilot, "Lawyers," which was passed on by the network.
Because of the glut of comedy programs, however, experienced "show runners" capable of guiding a prime-time sitcom are a scarce commodity. More than 60 comedy series are scheduled this fall on the four established networks plus the UPN and WB services.
Despite the expense and risk associated with star deals, the networks have continued to make them, hoping such big names will lure back viewers. NBC has major full-season commitments to Kirstie Alley and Tony Danza for next season, while CBS has signed Tom Selleck to star in a new comedy. ABC also landed Arsenio Hall for his first sitcom, which is expected to premiere early next year.
CBS had been working frantically to resolve the "Ink" situation. Opting to delay it now will at least allow the network time to alter its advertising in most weekend TV magazines and such publications as TV Guide.
Such last-minute changes aren't entirely uncommon. Last year, for example, ABC yanked the comedy "Buddies" only a few days before its scheduled premiere, after promoting the show on-air.
Still, the scope of CBS' commitment to "Ink" and its importance to the network's overall plans make the delay an obvious setback. When CBS announced its revised lineup last spring, officials said they hoped the new Monday shows would improve their performance by 20%, providing the basis in future seasons to spread that strength to other nights.
An Article from Entertainment Weekly
Published on September 13, 1996
Fall TV Preview
The new sitcom stars Ted Danson and his wife, Mary Steenburgen
By Dan Snierson
Perhaps it's not the meatiest scoop of the season, but here is the unedited truth about Ted Danson and Mary Steenburgen, the married stars of CBS' much-revamped sitcom, Ink: They are a disgustingly happy couple. A charming, no-you-go-first team, bursting with collective and colliding energies, gushing with mushy sentiment and mutual appreciation.
Just don't expect to see much beyond the colliding energies when you tune in to CBS Mondays at 8:30, beginning Oct. 21. ''We had no desire to play us,'' Danson says of Jack and Carrie, the divorced journalists who are thrown back together at a New York paper. ''If you're lovey-dovey at home and have to be lovey-dovey at work that's no fun.''
And that's about all Danson can tell you about Ink's characters. The show, as no doubt you've heard, has become one of the costliest, most discussed of the many troubled freshman sitcoms of the 1996 fall season. ''We don't totally know who these characters are yet,'' Steenburgen admitted in late July, and that was painfully obvious to everyone involved the stars, DreamWorks (the studio behind the series), and CBS when they viewed the pilot, a decidedly flat affair that failed to capture one jot of the couple's natural chemistry. On Aug. 29, DreamWorks and CBS announced they were scrapping the four episodes shot to date and starting from scratch with a new executive producer, Murphy Brown creator Diane English. The setback meant the original Sept. 16 premiere wasn't possible, so Rhea Perlman's new Pearl will occupy the Ink slot until the October debut. DreamWorks chief of TV Dan McDermott is betting English will add ''a sharp, contemporary point of view'' and deliver the kind of ''sophisticated, romantic, adult comedy'' the studio and network had originally hoped for. With production costs reportedly in the range of $1 million per episode, the financial loss is staggering, but, says McDermott, the bottom line is ''we'd rather make a great show than make an airdate.''
Starring on a show that hobbled out of the gate is nothing new for Danson; Cheers took a few years to become a hit, ranking 71 out of 80 shows its first season. He's prepared to grow into his Ink part, and hopes CBS will stick with its original 22-episode agreement, thus allowing the show to grow on viewers. A bigger challenge, says the actor, was performing before a live audience for the first time since 1993: ''It hit me subliminally, like Pavlov's dogs,'' Danson recalls. ''What am I doing? How do I be funny? Where are my lemons?''
Leslie Moonves believes Danson doth protest too much. The CBS Entertainment president says his star is too blissed out to worry. ''Ted has said three or four times, 'What a lucky guy I am. I get to work with the woman I love 14 hours a day!''' Steenburgen's secret: ''I'm passionate about everything, and I encourage him to listen to his instincts.... That, plus heavy petting between scenes.''
It was the 1994 film Pontiac Moon that brought the pair together. They began dating while shooting the offbeat comedy and married after finishing the NBC blockbuster Gulliver's Travels. Wanting to stick close to their L.A.-based family (four kids from previous marriages), the pair began shopping around for a TV series, finally settling on a deal with DreamWorks for the resulting show. The prospect of Danson's returning to the small screen provoked a high-stakes bidding war, with CBS ultimately beating out NBC. Not that Moonves saw Ink as a one-man show. ''As a matter of fact,'' he confides, ''I said, 'Mary's the sleeper in this equation.''' And Ink, hopes Moonves, will be the sleeper hit of his new Big Comedy Monday lineup a night of boomer-friendly sitcoms that kicks off at 8 with Cosby. ''Ted and Mary represent exactly what we're going for: 25- to 54-year-olds,'' says Moonves.
If the new episodes can capture the bantering charisma of Steenburgen, 43, and Danson, 48, CBS could very well have that hit. For, lovey-dovey though they may be, 11 months of wedded bliss does not preclude some very appealing sparring. Take, for example, the couple's recent visit with their friends the Clintons. ''I started telling Bill about a dinner that Ted and I had been to where we did this little skit,'' begins Steenburgen, ''and I said, 'Okay, Bill, so it went like this Ted, do what you said!' And Ted's looking at me with, like, total horror, that I'm going to act out this skit in the Oval Office for the President. I can embarrass him to death,'' she adds gleefully.
Danson who earned two Emmys during his 11 years as cocksure Sam Malone on Cheers has his revenge during Ink rehearsals, lavishing pointers upon his Oscar-winning-but-still-a-sitcom-rookie wife. (Steenburgen won Best Supporting Actress for 1980's Melvin and Howard.) ''I don't even give her a chance to ask me for advice,'' Danson chuckles. ''I'm shooting my mouth off every two seconds. 'Step over here and do that. It's funnier if you do this.'''
Friendly competition, claims the actor, makes for quality TV. ''Acting, if done in the right way, is a competitive sport. Obviously you're a team, so you don't want the other person to lose. But you also kind of do. Someone goes, 'Watch this,' and you go, 'Yeah? Well, watch this.' In that way you build on each other, in a good way.''
In the end, however, Steenburgen says she usually wins: ''I just hold up my Oscar.''
An Article from The New York Times
The 'Ink' Trail, From On, Then Off, Then On Again
By ANDY MEISLER
Published: October 17, 1996
STUDIO CITY, Calif. Visitors to one particular production office at the Radford Studios at CBS here have noticed a much higher-than-average level of activity recently. Gaggles of writers and producers walk faster, dress even more casually and appear paler than usual. Somewhat better-dressed individuals disappear behind closed doors for long periods. Actors awaiting their auditions spill even farther down the hallways than is customary.
A network sitcom (normal gestation period: six months or more) is being built, or rather, completely rebuilt, in slightly under eight weeks. As far as anyone can remember, no prime-time television series has ever been conceived, written and filmed in so short a time.
Nevertheless, on Monday night CBS will broadcast ''Ink,'' starring the Emmy-winning actor Ted Danson and the Oscar-winner Mary Steenburgen, in one of the most competitive ratings races in years. The sitcom will occupy the crucial 8:30 P.M. slot between ''Murphy Brown,'' one of the network's few long-running hits, and ''Cosby,'' another expensive star-driven vehicle that CBS is counting on to revitalize its prime-time schedule.
''We're on a little bit of a high wire now, aren't we?'' said Leslie Moonves, the president of CBS Entertainment, who precipitated this whole frenetic experiment.
Late in the summer Mr. Moonves surprised many in the television industry by shelving an earlier incarnation of ''Ink.'' He made this decision after the series, which had been produced in the normal fashion for a Sept. 16 premiere, had been ordered, cast, tested, scheduled and heavily promoted. By the time of the cancellation, four half-hour episodes had been filmed.
Instead of canceling the series -- or putting it on ''hiatus'' for a mid-season start -- Mr. Moonves decided to begin again from scratch for a late-fall debut. ''We made a very tough decision,'' he said. ''But the bottom line is this: when you've got Ted Danson, you've got to get him on the schedule.''
In late August, reportedly at the strong urging of CBS -- and with the agreement of Mr. Danson, Ms. Steenburgen and top executives of Dreamworks Dramatic Television, the show's production company -- ''Ink'' parted company with Jeffrey Lane, its original executive producer.
Since then, Diane English, the creator of ''Murphy Brown,'' has been working nearly round-the-clock with a hand-picked team of experienced writers and producers, actors and other production personnel.
''There's no room for error here,'' the 48-year-old Ms. English said recently. ''No midcourse corrections, no time to make a pilot, test it, make a casting change here or a tweak there. That's not going to happen.''
While maintaining the same basic premise of what could now be called ''Ink I'' -- Mr. Danson and Ms. Steenburgen, married one year ago in real life, play a divorced reporter and managing editor of a New York City newspaper -- Ms. English has changed the characters' personal histories and relationships. The tone and feel of the show are different, and gone are the original stage sets, opening titles and music as well as most of the writers and actors.
Instead of playing Jack and Kate Brittenham -- this was an inside joke; Brittenham is the name of a high-powered Hollywood entertainment lawyer -- the stars are now Mike Logan and Kate Montgomery. Instead of a run-of-the-mill reporter and a newspaperwoman raised to her position by a fluke, they are a Jimmy Breslin-like columnist and a globe-trotting war correspondent.
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. Instead of being supported by a troupe of relatively unknown character actors, their supporting cast includes Charles Robinson (''Night Court,'' ''Love and War''), Christine Ebersole (''Saturday Night Live'') and Saul Rubinek ( ''Bonfire of the Vanities'' and ''Unforgiven''). And instead of having a brittle and slangy ''Front Page'' pace, said Ms. English, ''Ink'' is now a warmer romantic comedy.
Many of these changes were made in the first week of the new regime. After meeting with the lead actors, and deciding to undertake the project, Ms. English rented a big house on Martha's Vineyard, where she had been vacationing when Jeffrey Katzenberg of Dreamworks recruited her, and flew in nine writers she had previously worked with from Los Angeles.
''In five days we had the pilot pitched out,'' she said. ''We had seven characters fleshed out.'' At the end of a week, she sent the writers back to Los Angeles to begin writing the scripts. Ms. English remained and wrote the pilot, while her casting staff began to draw up lists.
While Ms. English professes to feeling exhilarated by the whole experience, executives and accountants at CBS and Dreamworks Television may be experiencing other emotions. In addition to absorbing the estimated $4 million cost of the shelved episodes, CBS and Dreamworks have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to pay off the contracts of the actors and writers who did not make the cut, to build a new set, to hire new writers and actors and to keep reinforced teams of casting directors, production personnel and technicians working overtime. Above that is Ms. English's own hefty fee, which industry experts estimate at $50,000 an episode, or more.
Normally, a new series goes through a long process of ''development,'' from concept to script to pilot, under the constant scrutiny of the production company or network that commissioned it. It can be changed or killed at any point.
These procedures do not apply to Mr. Danson, however. In the winter, the former star of NBC's ''Cheers,'' one of the most successful series in television history, announced that he and Ms. Steenburgen would like to do a television show together. A kind of feeding frenzy began. Many production companies (including Shukovsky-English Entertainment, run by Ms. English and her husband) made bids to mount a show for the pair. The actors chose Dreamworks, which was founded by Steven Spielberg, David Geffen and Mr. Katzenberg, and which currently produces the ABC series ''Spin City'' and ''High Incident.''
Dreamworks matched Mr. Danson and Ms. Steenburgen with Mr. Lane, a former executive producer of the NBC hit ''Mad About You,'' who came up with the program's original premise. The production team presented the package to all four networks this year, then sat back and waited for bids.
The winner was CBS, then mired in third place in the ratings race. The network's new programming chief, Mr. Moonves, had seized upon the notion of hiring established stars, like Bill Cosby and Rhea Perlman, also from ''Cheers,'' to climb back up the ladder. Mr. Moonves gave ''Ink'' a 22-episode order and a guaranteed spot on the schedule.
By late spring Mr. Lane had completed the series' first episode. By June, around the time that the episode was being shown to television writers and critics, the word was that the show was in serious trouble. The attempts at screwball comedy were not working. Worse, there was little chemistry between Mr. Danson and Ms. Steenburgen.
Declaring to the press that the first episode was just a ''jumping-off place,'' Mr. Moonves stuck with the show until he, as well as everyone else, determined that it was jumping off in the wrong direction.
By that time, the beginning of CBS's make-or-break season was just a few weeks away. Staring into the abyss, Mr. Moonves and Mr. Katzenberg called on Ms. English, who had created several sitcoms since ''Murphy Brown,'' none remotely as successful.
On Oct. 8, she supervised the filming of the first episode of the new ''Ink.'' In the stands was a roughly egual mix of invited press and industry insiders, and an audience of randomly recruited adults. A sign of the great pressure the cast and crew were under was an early spate of blown lines by Mr. Danson. Because of his memory lapses, the first scene took the longest to film. But eventually the jokes and bits of business began to work and the process smoothed out. There were laughs from the audience; whether ''chemistry'' between the two stars was also being created is less certain.
Inside three hours, a relatively short time for a 23-minute sitcom, the episode was wrapped by the director, Tommy Schlamme. Ms. English was quickly surrounded by a group of industry executives offering congratulations. Most notable was Mr. Katzenberg.
Ms. English appeared relieved and delighted to have the first show behind her. ''This kind of thing takes a certain amount of good fortune, and lots of money,'' she had said several days earlier. ''I wouldn't recommend the process to just anyone.''
A Review From The New York Times
Meanwhile, Back in the Newsroom
By JOHN J. O'CONNOR
Published: October 21, 1996
Someday someone may write a play (well, maybe just a folk song) called ''The Epic of Ink.'' The new CBS series ''Ink'' has gone through more development contortions than an episode of ''The X-Files.''
It all began with Ted Danson, rolling off phenomenal success on NBC's ''Cheers,'' announcing his availability for another series and commanding big bucks. Dreamworks, the Hollywood powerhouse, went into production action. Mary Steenburgen, a fine actress and Mr. Danson's new wife, would be his co-star. The vehicle would involve a newspaper called The New York Sun. That's where the title came in. Newspaper ink rubbing off on your fingers. Get it? With enormous fanfare, a pilot and three episodes were made. Nothing. No chemistry, no fun, no nada.
Scrapping the whole treatment, Dreamworks, at enormous expense, went back to the drawing board and brought in Diane English, an accomplished sitcom veteran whose top production credit, achieved with her husband under the banner of Shukovsky English Entertainment, happens to be CBS's ''Murphy Brown.'' So the premiere of ''Ink,'' originally scheduled for September, can be seen tonight. Broadway has long had its stage doctors, brought in to fix up an ailing show. Abe Burrows was a legend at the craft. Now backstage network television, increasingly competitive and frantic, threatens to become a parallel universe of ''E.R.''
And, at least in this case, the operation is a success. The original pilot was an embarrassment, right down to Mr. Danson's George Clooney-like brushed forward haircut that gave him a Frankenstein aura. His character, Mike Logan, was something of a whining sad sack. Ms. Steenburgen, playing Kate Montgomery, merely looked stranded. Now ''Ink'' bops onto the screen with a bouncy theme while Mr. Danson, sporting a far better haircut, raises the energy level to nuclear levels. Now he's a kind of Jimmy Breslin-Pete Hammill columnist with seductive brashness. Sound familiar? Think Sam Malone in ''Cheers.''
Mike and Kate were once married for three months. They met on the White House lawn during Richard M. Nixon's resignation. Still binding them together is their 15-year-old daughter, Abby (Alana Austin), who is constantly scheming to get them back together. That possibility seems to be even more remote when Kate, a top-flight international reporter, shows up at The New York Sun as the new managing editor and, of course, Sam's boss, the mere thought of which gives him a severe crick in the neck.
With Ms. English in charge, the scene switches to professional sitcom, smooth and easy and disarmingly clever. The office staff includes Alan (Saul Rubinek), the financial reporter who readily concedes that as far as his stock tips are concerned, ''you get better odds in Vegas''; and Belinda (Christine Ebersole), the ''On the Town'' columnist who staggers into the office after a charity ball the night before shouting for aspirin and swearing that ''I've got a hangover that would down Kitty Dukakis.''
The banter snaps and crackles and frequently pops up inspired. After one typical spat in a restaurant about their daughter, Kate says, ''I blame you for this.'' He retorts lamely, ''Well, I blame you.'' A passing waiter mutters darkly, ''I blame television.'' Mr. Danson is back at full-throttle charm, doing neat turns about his bald spot, which a toupee masked on ''Cheers.'' Ms. Steenburgen still seems a bit uneasy with the comic fluff of television sitcom, but she has loosened up and is clearly enjoying herself more.
It's impossible to say on the basis of one episode how ''Ink'' will evolve. But clearly this new version has a shot. And a good one.
CBS, tonight at 8:30
(Channel 2 in New York)
Diane English, Ted Danson and Mary Steenburgen, executive producers; Stephen Nathan, co-executive producer; Jack Burditt, supervising producer; Marc Flanagan and Shannon Gaughan, consulting producers; Keith Addis, executive consultant; Jeffrey Klarik, creative consultant; Thomas Schlamme, consultant and director; produced by John Amodeo and Bruce Chevillat; written by Diane English. A production of Shukovsky English Entertainment in association with Dreamworks SKG.
WITH: Ted Danson (Mike Logan), Mary Steenburgen (Kate Montgomery), Alana Austin (Abby), Jenica Bergere (Donna French), Christine Ebersole (Belinda Carhardt), Charlie Robinson (Ernie Trainor) and Saul Rubinek (Alan Mesnick).
An Article from Time Magazine
Monday, Oct. 28, 1996
By RICHARD ZOGLIN
Whether it succeeds or fails, the CBS sitcom Ink (Monday, 8:30 p.m. ET) will be remembered for inspiring one of the most refreshing bursts of candor in television history. When the pilot episode for the Ted Danson-Mary Steenburgen comedy was finished, the people involved could scarcely contain their lack of enthusiasm. Danson, at a press conference, said he didn't want to "disclaim the baby" but promised the show would improve. Steenburgen likened the series to making a batch of pancakes: sometimes "you throw out the first." A few weeks later CBS tossed out all four episodes completed up to that point, fired the producer and delayed the premiere for a month so the show could be retooled. Said CBS Entertainment chief Leslie Moonves: "It is better to do it right than do it fast."
They still did it fast. Diane English, the creator of Murphy Brown, was brought in as executive producer, and she scrapped virtually everything but the two stars (who are married to each other) and the basic premise--a divorced couple working together at a New York City newspaper. The show was rebuilt from scratch in just five weeks, starting with a brainstorming session that English convened with a handful of writers on Martha's Vineyard. "I flew in the day after Hurricane Eduoard and flew out the day before Hurricane Hortense hit," she says. "We thought it was very symbolic."
And it turns out they did it right: Ink doesn't stink. The first version was a strained attempt at something resembling '30s screwball comedy: Danson and Steenburgen finalized their divorce in the opening scene and were back at adjoining desks the very same day; when Steenburgen offered to quit, she was made managing editor instead. Even if the setup had been more plausible, the show proved how unfriendly TV is to stylized screwball comedy. Viewers don't want to be distanced by brittle, rat-a-tat comedy patter; they want comfortable characters they can relate to.
Ink II provides them. Danson and Steenburgen are now a couple who have been divorced for 10 years (with a 15-year-old daughter) but are thrown back together when she is hired as the managing editor of the paper where he's a star columnist. "Have you seen the buses?" he boasts to his ex-wife. "I'm on the M4, the M10--and the 6. That's crosstown, baby." She's a high-strung but determined professional woman trying to give up smoking; he pesters their daughter to find out whom her mom is dating. Next headline: ROMANTIC TENSION BREWING.
Danson, with his mix of insouciance and egotism, is in peak form--trying, for example, to foment a rebellion among his co-workers against "Evita in there" after they've been thoroughly snowed by their new boss. Steenburgen needs to spend a few hours at the word processor before she'll convince us that she belongs inside a newsroom, but she plays off him well. The secondary characters are better than their pilot predecessors as well, largely because most of them (like the mousy business reporter played by Saul Rubinek) aren't pushed on us too hard. The one exception is Christine Ebersole as a brassy nightlife reporter who's been to one too many charity soirees; but since she also has the funniest entrance of the show (maybe of the season), she's excused. Ink is now a workplace comedy that really works.
English is still recovering from the mad dash to finish the show. "There was not an iota of room for a mistake, a misstep, for losing a day or even half a day," she says. After all the pressure, she had a "momentary freak-out" half an hour before the first taping. "I was pacing around in my office and expressing tremendous anxiety. It all just came out. I was exhausted." The stars, too, sound relieved that the ordeal is over. "From the beginning, we poured our heart and soul into this," says Steenburgen. "Diane's biographical work on who these people are feels much more right to us."
The question is whether it will feel right to the audience. "Shows are not hatched; they develop and evolve," says Jeffrey Katzenberg, co-founder of DreamWorks, the program's producer. "The fact that Ink wasn't there out of the box is not atypical." What is atypical is the spotlight the show is under--as one of CBS's most highly touted fall series and a high-profile vehicle for two very expensive stars. At least now the vehicle seems in shape for the long haul.
--Reported by Jeffrey Ressner/Los Angeles
With reporting by Jeffrey Ressner/Los Angeles
Another Article From The New York Times
A Sitcom Family Confronts Marijuana
By JOHN J. O'CONNOR
Published: November 11, 1996
Marijuana! Reefer madness! Did you-know-who inhale or not inhale 25 years ago? The hypocrisy surrounding the subject of pot is astounding. Even the electorate seems to be fed up with it. A gesture toward perspective is attempted tonight in, of all places, a sitcom. CBS's ''Ink,'' starring Ted Danson and Mary Steenburgen, delicately tackles a subject that tends to leave so-called drug czars looking like fools.
The newspaper journalists Mike Logan (Mr. Danson) and his former wife, Kate Montgomery (Ms. Steenburgen), baby-boomers both, are stunned to find a bag of grass belonging to their 15-year-old daughter, Abby (Alana Austin). ''Oh my God,'' exclaims Mom, ''and she's a Republican,'' a status that Dad suspects is the leading cause of death among teen-age girls.
At a hastily arranged lunch, his daughter tells a semihysterical Mike, ''Like the man says, just don't do it.'' Comes the reply: ''You just quoted Bob Dole. Are you high now?'' The point, of course, is that both Mom and Dad smoked marijuana in the past. Abby asks quite reasonably, ''Why is it your generation is so bent on rewriting history?''
As someone whose cultural education began more or less seriously in 1960, in Greenwich Village haunts like the San Remo restaurant bar, I have long been puzzled by the subject of marijuana. I never took to the stuff, but over the years I've had friends whose association with the weed has ranged from casual toker to outright pothead. With one or two exceptions, none have fallen into the pits littered with the bodies of alcoholics and hard-drug addicts. The booze factor is duly noted in this episode. And Abby makes sure to note that ''cigarettes are legal and they kill people.''
In the end, this episode of ''Ink'' waffles. There are the easy one-liners. Belinda (Christine Ebersole), the office's society roustabout dismisses any possible problem with Abby: ''She's about as likely to smoke dope as I am to wake up in my own bed.'' And Abby's problem may not be as serious as initially perceived. Finally, the flabby message is that age 15 is too young to be experimenting with anything. Nice, but judging from the young people I meet nowadays, pointless. Still, this ''Ink'' levels a rare prime-time assault on the hypocrisy barricades.
Note: Tomorrow NBC's ''Mad About You'' reaches its 100th episode, the magic number for eternal life in syndication reruns. Something special is deserved, and delivered. Jamie (Helen Hunt) gets a visit from her parents, who turn out to be Carol Burnett and Carroll O'Connor. It's a dynamite combination, leaving even Paul (Paul Reiser) almost speechless. Both Ms. Burnett and Mr. O'Connor get rousing welcomes from the studio audience on their entrances. A star is a star is a star.
CBS, tonight at 8:30
(Channel 2 in New York)
Diane English, Ted Danson and Mary Steenburgen, executive producers; Stephen Nathan, co-executive producer; Jack Burditt, supervising producer; Marc Flanagan and Shannon Gaughan, consulting producers; Keith Addis, executive consultant; Jeffrey Klarik, creative consultant; Thomas Schlamme, consultant and director; produced by John Amodeo and Bruce Chevillat; written by Diane English. A production of Shukovsky English Entertainment in association with DreamWorks SKG.
WITH: Ted Danson (Mike Logan), Mary Steenburgen (Kate Montgomery), Alana Austin (Abby), Jenica Bergere (Donna French), Christine Ebersole (Belinda Carhardt), Charlie Robinson (Ernie Trainor), Saul Rubinek (Alan Mesnick), John Del Regno (Vince) and Peter Iacangelo (cop).
An Article from the Washington Post
'INK'-STAINED STARS STAND UP FOR SITCOM
By Linton Weeks December 3, 1996
Mary Steenburgen and Ted Danson were in town yesterday -- on their way from Pittsburgh and to Charlotte -- beating the drum loudly for their floundering CBS sitcom, "Ink."
The plot revolves around a New York City newsroom. Danson is a columnist. Steenburgen, the managing editor, is his boss. The columnist and the editor were married for a short while many years earlier. They have a daughter.
The show has had a burdensome beginning. The first four episodes were so bad, the network chucked them out. "Ink" had a strong debut, albeit a month late, but was panned by many critics. By mid-November it had fallen to 30th place among all prime-time shows and last place in CBS's high-priced Monday night lineup that includes "Cosby" and "Murphy Brown."
A tad defensive, Steenburgen was quick to point out that her husband's long-running hit "Cheers" also got off to not such a cheery start. At this point in its run, he added, the show was even lower in the ratings.
Despite the tumult, or perhaps because of it, but most likely totally unrelated to it, Steenburgen and Danson really do seem sweet on each other. At the WUSA (Channel 9) studios, the couple, who've been married just over a year, touched softly now and again as they recorded promotional spots.
Danson was dressed in a tweed jacket, green cords and a white Oxford cloth shirt. Steenburgen was dressed casually in a green pantsuit. They were telling people on the set about their Thanksgiving dinner, which turned out to be a disaster. Danson's 80-year-old mother took a fall and he rushed her to the emergency room while Steenburgen held down the fort.
There was no humor in their telling, no irreverence -- just caring and concern.
They bantered. "Are you perspiring?" she asked.
"No. Not where you can see it," he said.
They flubbed their lines. They told each other to shut up. They acted like young lovers, still getting to know each other. Steenburgen tap-danced a little. "Steve Martin and I used to play stump the step," she said.
"He's very good," said Danson.
There was in their patter the under-layer of many miles and many years apart. The two have well-publicized pasts. They wanted to do a TV series together so they could have some semblance of a family life. And they didn't want to play themselves -- a happily married couple -- because "we didn't want to comment on our life together and try to make some TV version of that and put it on the screen," Steenburgen said in a preseason interview.
We know the Emmy-winning Danson, 48, from his 11-year run on "Cheers." We know the Oscar-winning Steenburgen, 43, from her movies, and from her 10-year marriage to Malcolm McDowell. We know of Danson's divorce, his interlude with Whoopi Goldberg and his over-the-line appearance at the Friars Club that some thought might relegate him to "Hollywood Squares." We know of Steenburgen's longtime friendship with fellow Arkansan President Clinton. The Steenburgen-Danson relationship has been tabloid fodder since they met in 1993.
Now they expect viewers to just accept that they are a screwball comedy team?
Oddly enough, there are not many examples of real-life married people playing opposite each other on TV. In the early days, there were a couple of couples: George Burns and Gracie Allen, Ozzie and Harriet. Tom Arnold was on Roseanne's show for a while, but not as her husband. The classic duo, of course, was Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz.
That show worked, and still works, for many reasons. For one thing, Ball was the comedian and Arnaz was the straight man. And there was always that possibility that Arnaz just might strangle his wife.
According to critics, none of that Ball-Arnaz magic appears in "Ink." Soft, demure Steenburgen doesn't seem truly wicked enough. Danson isn't volatile. They aren't at each other's throats. In the early episodes, they seem on the verge not of killing, but of kissing each other.
There was more sexual tension between Danson and Shelley Long on "Cheers." And where is the ink in "Ink"? The main settings seem to be the employee lounge and an off-site bar. Perhaps because Danson is more comfortable there.
Or perhaps because executive producer Diane English and her writers, parachuted in after the first four debacles, haven't done their homework. Steenburgen said yesterday that movie director Paul Mazursky will appear in a coming episode as her boss, "the bureau chief." Hmmm, at all newspapers we know of, the bureau chief answers to the managing editor. But Steenburgen and Danson dismiss such concerns. They exhort critics and reporters to focus on their relationship.
Okay. In "I Love Lucy," Ball and Arnaz pretended to like each other, but didn't in real life. In her autobiography, "Love, Lucy," which has just been published, the late Ball wrote of Arnaz, "It was like living on top of a volcano; you never knew when it would erupt or why."
In "Ink," Steenburgen and Danson must pretend to dislike each other, though they really seem to be in love.
Or were they just acting like they were in love yesterday? Or were they just acting like they were acting like they were in love? CAPTION: Stop the presses: Ted Danson and Mary Steenburgen at WUSA studios to promote their faded sitcom, "Ink." CAPTION: Mary Steenburgen and Ted Danson drop in at CBS affiliate WUSA to record promotional spots for their stumbling sitcom "Ink."
To watch episodes of Ink go to https://www.dailymotion.com/search/ink%20ted%20danson
For more on Ink go to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ink_(TV_series)
For a look at the crossover between Ink and Murphy Brown go to http://www.poobala.com/inkandmurphy.html
For a page devoted to the crossover character played by Jay Thomas on Love And War go to http://www.poobala.com/inkandlaw.html
For the Mary Steenburgen Photo Gallery go to http://www.fanpix.net/gallery/mary-steenburgen-pictures.htm
For some Ink-related interview videos at the Archive of American Television go to https://interviews.televisionacademy.com/shows/ink
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Keywords: Ted Danson Mary Steenburgen (Links Updated 7/30/18)