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Pax Plans Ponderosa Prequel, Pardner

This March, Pax TV will debut a medical show starring singer Billy Ray Cyrus, and it's also developing a weekly "prequel" to the classic Western series Bonanza.

Pax TV on March 11 will premiere Doc, a two-hour movie starring Cyrus as a country doctor from Montana who follows the woman he loves to Manhattan, then takes a job there. The 13-week "fish-out-of-water" series of the same name will then launch the following Sunday, March 18.

In addition to that original fare, Pax TV is also developing two original series and another original movie for next fall. Spurred on by the strong ratings racked up by two Bonanza
marathons, Pax TV is developing a two-hour movie, The Ponderosa,
which will chronicle the early years of widower Ben Cartwright and his young sons.

The movie, slated for next fall, will be created by Beth Smith, of Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman
and David Dortort, the original creator and producer of Bonanza.
Pax TV plans to develop a one-hour dramatic series based on the telepic.

Pax TV unveiled its plans for The Ponderosa
during its recent presentation at the Television Critics Association winter press tour in Pasadena, Calif.

In addition to The Ponderosa
project, Pax TV is also developing the series Left Behind
, based on the best-selling novels centered on Biblical end-of-the-world prophecies. The series of books by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins has been a staple of The New York Times
'bestseller list, with 35 million copies sold.

Pax TV's 2001 slate also includes the original movie Miracle of the Cards, based on the true-life story of Craig Shergold, a 8-year-old English boy with a fatal brain tumor. His mother's plea for get-well cards led to a deluge of 160 million cards sent to the boy-and a miraculous recovery on his part.

Pax TV and part-owner NBC have also ordered a second season of Mysterious Ways, a one-hour drama .
Pax TV has ordered 22 episodes for the 2001-2002 season, matching its current season order.

Originally produced for Pax TV, Mysterious Ways
premiered on NBC July 24, and then began its Pax TV run on Aug. 22.

The series now airs on Pax TV on Tuesday nights at 8 p.m. NBC this month placed it back on its Monday night schedule, also at 8 p.m.

Following up on its first original Christy
movie, which aired in November, Pax TV in May will televise the two-part miniseries Christy: Choices of the Heart.