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How spiritual is Bud Paxson, the co-founder of The Home Shopping Network and creator of the just-launched netlet PAX TV? Let’s put it this way: When the Supreme Court was deliberating over a case that could have severely hurt the value of his TV stations, his response was ”The Lord told me not to worry.”
And indeed the Supreme Court decision did go Paxson’s way, allowing him to forge ahead with plans for his family-oriented challenger to NBC et al. ”All our job is, is to say there is a God, and He loves you, and nothing more than that,” Paxson says.
Of course, to less ethereal business folk, it may seem that PAX TV still doesn’t have a prayer. Although Paxson owns or is affiliated with more than 80 TV stations that reach about 75 percent of the U.S., almost all of the stations are positioned on harder-to-find UHF channels with very few viewers.
As for programming, Paxson hired as his entertainment president Jeff Sagansky — whose long resume includes stints at NBC, CBS, and Sony — to work miracles. ”In Hollywood, you earn your stripes if you do an edgy, hip show with attitude, and so, consequently, every time a family show [is successful] people say it’s a fluke,” says Sagansky, who aims to overload PAX TV with such ”quirks of fate.” ”The Touched by an Angels and Seventh Heavens aren’t flukes — there is a huge audience there and that’s who we’re going to appeal to.”
PAX TV’s current lineup includes reruns of Touched; Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman; Diagnosis Murder; NBC’s 1989-91 holy whodunit The Father Dowling Mysteries; and Highway to Heaven. As of now, the net’s original programming consists primarily of low-budget talk and reality shows, with series such as a new Flipper and an adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s Little Men in the works.
Sagansky says that despite the fact that PAX TV will not pay the outrageous prices for programming that the nets shell out in the ”wasteful studio system,” its product will have the same production quality as the big boys.
They’d better, or heaven help them.