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REVIEW: PAX’s Doc serves up the right medicine

THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. (BP)–Several months ago, the PAX network sent me a screening video of their new show, Doc, starring Billy Ray Cyrus. To be honest, I was not looking forward to viewing it. I was probably the only person in the country who did not like singer Billy Ray’s “Achy Breaky Heart.” I didn’t like the song. I didn’t like the dance. And quite frankly, I wasn’t all that crazy about Billy Ray.

But years before, I remember watching another video I was not looking forward to — a dance musical from Dublin — a little show called Riverdance. As that turned out to be a most uplifting surprise, I decided to put Billy Ray’s new show in my VCR and give it a go. As with Riverdance, I was greatly surprised. Doc was engrossing, with a feel-good spirit to it. And Billy Ray was an even greater surprise. Although I’m not sure how accomplished an actor he is, his good-natured persona fit the character like a surgeon’s glove.

The show captures elements last found in Highway to Heaven and Touched by an Angel. It has more than heart, it has soul.

The premise of the hour-long comedy-drama has a country doctor following his true love to the big city. Clint Cassidy (Billy Ray Cyrus), a handsome young doctor from Montana, has followed the woman he loves to Manhattan. At first, his new colleagues look down on him much as the NYPD did when Dennis Weaver’s McCloud showed up in the Big Apple. But just like McCloud, Dr. Cassidy quickly wins over his associates, his patients, and us.

Never losing his values, common sense and fish-out-of-water demeanor, Clint adjusts to an urban lifestyle, forming new relationships and helping patients find not just a physical healing, but often a spiritual one as well. Not meant as a proselytizing weekly video track, still the program gently weaves in clues that not only does our kindly doctor have a spiritual depth, but he unabashedly acknowledges Jesus as the Christ.

Recently, I spoke with one of the show’s creators, Dave Johnson, who, along with his brother Gary, is now working on their second show for PAX, entitled “Lip Service,” inspired from a true story about a deaf woman who becomes an agent for the FBI.

Surprisingly, after the success of Touched by an Angel, there have been very few shows that have attempted to incorporate spiritual themes within their storylines. I asked Johnson if Doc had been a hard sell to network television. “Not at PAX. The erroneous consensus around network boardrooms is that Touched by an Angel was a fluke.

“Hollywood is the copycat syndrome capital of the world. If somebody gets something, I can guarantee you that everyone is going to come to the table with similar concepts, except when it comes to shows with Christian values. But the folks at PAX have been very receptive and very supportive.”

Johnson said he is able to get Cassidy’s religious beliefs into many of the program’s segments.

“Some of the shows merely hint at Christian concepts,” Johnson said. “Others, such as an episode that aired earlier this season with guest star Steven Curtis Chapman, are very overt. Depending on the storyline or the organic nature of the story, we will more or less talk about God. The thing that is very clear, and by design, is that this man believes in godly principles.”

When asked how Billy Ray felt about the Christian values when he came aboard, Johnson replied, “That’s why he came aboard. Billy Ray is a very strong believer. If you talk to Billy, he’ll tell you that there’s only one reason that he’s doing this and that’s to bring light to the world. And it’s my reason for doing it as well.

“I’ve done shows for all the networks [ABC’s Jack’s Place, NBC’s Against the Grain, CBS’s The Client and High Incident with Steven Spielberg for ABC-DreamWorks, among others], but I’m at PAX because it’s a place I felt God has led me.”

It’s difficult to find family programming that truly appeals to different age groups, but the creative team has managed to do just that. Doc airs on Sundays, 8-9 p.m. (ET/PT).
(BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo title: CYRUS IS PAX’S DOC.

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  • Philip Boatwright