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FIRST-PERSON: It’s time you met ‘Doc’ & ‘Sue’ on PAX

THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. (BP)–The two most successful shows on the PAX television network are “Doc” and “Sue Thomas FBEye.” Ever hear of them? That’s the struggle producers Dave and Gary Johnson are contending with.

“The Feb. 23rd airing of Sue Thomas FBEye beat ABC in Memphis. It tied that network in Providence, R.I., and in New Orleans. And it beat WB between 8-10 p.m. that night. Basically, wherever PAX has a strong signal, we are competitive with the major networks,” says creator/producer Dave Johnson. “Yet when I speak in churches, 80 percent of the folks have never heard of these shows.”

Doc, starring singer Billy Ray Cyrus (“Achy Breaky Heart”), is an hour-long comedy/drama about a country doctor living in the big city. He’s a handsome Montana good ol’ boy with the bedside manner of Marcus Welby. Practicing at a major Manhattan hospital, his colleagues are suspect of his down-home demeanor, until they realize that he’s a gifted physician.

In its third season, this highly acclaimed family drama presents a positive role model. His fish-out-of-water character never loses sight of who he is or what his values are. And the program gently weaves in clues that signify the main character’s Christian convictions. Dr. Clint Cassidy (Cyrus) often helps patients find both a physical and a spiritual healing.

The PAX cable network introduced Sue Thomas F.B.Eye this year. Inspired by the true story of a deaf woman who worked for the FBI, the lead character, as played by Deanne Bray, manages to be the female equivalent of Doc Cassidy. Entering a world that is foreign to her, she proves her professional ability while also gently demonstrating her spiritual depth.

With these two series, producers Dave and Gary Johnson, two talented Christians with several TV programs under their belts, now have the biggest hits on the PAX TV network. However, a great many people are still unaware that these two dramas are an available alternative to sex-propelled programs such as “Alias” or the numerous brain-dead reality shows.

When asked why there isn’t more episodic programming featuring characters with religious values, Dave laments, “‘Touched By An Angel’ was CBS’ biggest show, one of its most profitable shows in the last 10 years. Yet they’ll tell you, ‘Shows about God don’t work. Touched By An Angel was a fluke.’ But if they put on ‘Survivor,’ how many copycats soon follow?”

Gary adds, “If you have a success in this business, everybody tries to imitate it. Except if that success has something to do with spirituality.”

“Another problem is the erroneous belief that only 18-to-34-year-olds buy the advertisers’ products,” Dave says. “The truth is, the majority of the population is now over 50 years old. Over two-thirds of the wealth belongs to people over 45. Yet advertisers are still after this 18-to-34-year-old demographic myth.”

“The presumption that people over 40 have already made up their minds about what toothpaste they will use,” Gary interjects, “or what make of car they’ll drive the rest of their lives is no longer valid.”

“Nowadays, people change brands like they change socks,” Dave continues. “Twenty-five to 35-year-old executives are making decisions as to what concepts get developed. They’re doing what interests them. Well, I know what a 25-year-old male is interested in. I was one. But I also know as a 45-year-old male that that’s not the best thing for our culture. I really worry for this younger generation, because they don’t have television role models telling them there’s more to life than sex.

“With Doc, it has always been our intention to present an example of a Christlike male, a guy who lives a godly life and tries to do what’s right in a world that makes that increasingly difficult. How many role models like that are on TV?

“We’re attempting the same with Sue Thomas. Rather than giving the public another Brittany Spears to ogle, we’re offering a role model who’s independent, smart and who doesn’t have to take her clothes off to be interesting.

“And lots of young females are responding to that character. She’s honest. She’s loyal. She has character. Despite any differences in generations, these are qualities everyone looks for in a friend and hopes to find in their leaders.”

Doc airs on the PAX cable network Sundays at 8 p.m. Eastern/Pacific, with a repeat episode on Wednesdays at 9 p.m. Sue Thomas, FBEye follows Doc on Sundays, with a repeat episode on Mondays at 9 p.m.
Philip Boatwright reviews films from a Christian perspective. For more information about his service, go to www.moviereporter.com. (BP) photos posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo titles: POSITIVE VALUES ON PAX and STARRING AS ROLE MODEL.

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  • Phil Boatwright