PAX: A growing emphasis on original production

The plan

Two rerun staples are still sprinkled throughout prime time (Diagnosis Murder
and Touched by Angel), but less liberally than in past years as the family-friendly, feel-good network continues to ramp up on original production. Pax is adding four new prime time dramas next season and a slew of made-for-TV movies for its Friday and Saturday movie slots.

"Now that we're at 86% distribution, we're just going to try to add as many original shows as we can going forward," Paxson President and CEO Jeff Sagansky said at the upfront presentation.

The network is bulking up in other dayparts as well. Pax is launching three daytime strips: new versions of Beat the Clock
and Family Feud
and a Martha Stewart-type show called Right at Home With Susan Crenshaw.

Pax will air off-syndication Feud
episodes hosted by Louie Anderson to start but, beginning in 2003, will do original episodes with new host Richard Karn, of Home Improvement

One big difference in the Pax upfront presentation this year: no references to NBC.

The reason, of course, is that Paxson Communications has launched an arbitration proceeding to void its strategic alliance with NBC. Top NBC executives, including CEO Bob Wright and network president Randy Falco, attended the Pax upfront—but only as observers. Last year, NBC Sales President Keith Turner was part of the presentation.

But not this year, even though NBC still oversees its national sales while local sales are coordinated with many NBC owned and affiliated stations.

Paxson Chairman Bud Paxson said the sales relationship is working quite nicely. But he still wants out of the NBC alliance, he says, because NBC violated its terms by making another acquisition (Telemundo), which, because of current FCC broadcast ownership limits, precludes NBC from acquiring the two-thirds of Paxson it doesn't already own.

New for the fall


Body & Soul—
Two doctors—one real, one a quack—try to make folks well and be "darkly funny." Peter Strauss and Daphne Zuniga star. John Whelpley and Peter Tortorici are executive producers.

Just Cause—
She's an ex-con single mom, but she didn't do it, and she earned a law degree while she was in jail. On the outside, she goes after her deceitful ex-husband and helps others in legal trouble. It stars Gabrielle Fitzpatrick. Jackie Zambrano and Gail Morgan Hickman are the executive producers.

Lip Service—
A deaf woman (Deanne Bray) gets a clerical job at the FBI, but her lip-reading skills prove valuable and make her a full-time crime fighter. Based on a true story. Dave Alan Johnson and Gary R. Johnson are executive producers.

Young Blades—
Next-generation Musketeers are a lot hipper than D'Artagnan and his gang, and one of them is a woman. Georges Campana, Dan Angel and Billy Brown are executive producers.

Made-for-TV movies

Friday Family Flix—
Comedies, family adventures, "inspiring" dramas and holiday spectaculars. From Headland Productions.

Saturday Mystery Movie—
Whodunits, including seven based on books by Mary Higgins Clark and three based on those of Robin Cook.