Undercurrents

Jeff Sagansky just might be living proof that anyone can be a TV executive.
Until fairly recently he had high-powered jobs in the entertainment divisions of Sony and CBS. But he left those schlocky outfits for what could have been the chance of a lifetime -- president of the West Palm Beach-based, cable-TV network PAX TV, which debuted August 31 in most major markets, including South Florida.

So in this move did Sagansky showcase his talent with fresh ideas and bold and innovative programming? Of course not. As a professional TV executive, Sagansky knows how to play it safe and survive.

His boss, after all, is Bud Paxson, a religious man who based PAX TV on the premise that there's too much doggone sex and violence on TV. What Americans needed, he decided, was some good old-fashioned family fare.

What they got was just plain old.
Consider Sagansky's choices for daytime programming: Eight Is Enough, Highway to Heaven, and Flipper. Call it a double-WAMI.

Sagansky was unavailable for comment, but Nancy Udell, a PAX TV spokesperson, lauded her boss' vision and his ability to "keep his finger on the pulse of the American public."

America must need CPR. Those shows are all decades old.
Don't worry. Udell promises the network will offer more than reruns and rehashed dramas.

But who is going to watch this drivel, especially in South Florida where it competes with all the sex and violence of a Rick Sanchez Channel 7 news broadcast?

Rob Hebenstreit, PAX's vice president of research, says the squeaky-clean network is doing better than expected in the ratings, even in South Florida, where PAX TV stations fared slightly better than their national average.

If the network's future depends upon Sagansky, however, then the prognosis is not good.

Sagansky is one of the masterminds behind the development of Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman, which PAX TV broadcasts at 9 p.m. every weeknight.

In the electrifying conclusion to last Wednesday's episode, a new day dawns in frontier-land Colorado, circa 1860. A dog barks in the distance, and Dr. Quinn awakens with a start.

"Brian," she cries out.
"Brian!" she repeats frantically as the music begins with an ominous bass line.

"Brian!!" The doctor, played by Jane Seymour, is screaming now, and running to the door in her hausfrau clothing.

"Brian!!!" she cries again as the music reaches a crescendo.
After yelling his name four more times, she finally finds him, about 50 feet away, standing on a bridge by a narrow stream.

"Brian," she says as he stares at a freshly painted, red, one-room schoolhouse. "Oh Brian," she swoons as she gives him a hug.

But what was Brian doing there? Why was he staring at the one-room schoolhouse? And how many ways can Seymour inflect the same word?

Ahh, who cares. Brian is as safe as a newborn network -- as secure as a TV executive who takes no risks -- and all is good in the world.

Click.

Undercurrents wants to know about any and all political deals, media screwups, and particularly dumb memos from bureaucrats. Let us know. Call 954-233-1581, fax 954-233-1571, or e-mail undercurrents@newtimesbpb.com.

 
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