Thursday, July 17, 2014

In Praise of Doc and Sue Thomas F.B.Eye

On August 31st, 1998, Lowell “Bud” Paxson created the national network Pax.  Designed to be a place for families to watch without the excessive violence or sexual content that plagued other networks, the show’s original programming was family friendly.  While not all the shows produced on Pax were Christian, on this network, religious, Christian programming was produced on a national scale for the first time.  Two of these shows were Doc, starring Billy Ray Cyrus, and Sue Thomas F.B.Eye, starring Dianne Bray. 

Doc was created by brothers David Alan Johnson and Gary R. Johnson.  Doc follows Billy Ray Cyrus as Clint “Doc” Cassidy, a Montana doctor in a rural town who travels to New York City to pursue his girlfriend, a reporter named Samantha who was on assignment in Montana.  When he gets to the big city, he finds a job with Westbury Clinic in downtown New York.  However, his county ways run in conflict with the big city lifestyle his reporter girlfriend was used to, and they break up.  His folksy ways aren’t appreciated initially at the clinic either by some, like Donna Dewitt, the hospital administrator and Dr. Oliver Crane, though some of the staff take a shine to him, like the nurse Nancy Nichols and Dr. Derek Herbert.  At the same time, he befriends a Hispanic mother and son living in the basement of a church.  When the mother becomes sick, she makes Clint promise to take care of her son, named Raul, and he does.  He also meets Nate Jackson, a police officer and apartment building supervisor.  Nate helps Clint find an apartment where he stays for the run of the show.  Ultimately, Raul is adopted by Nate and Beverly instead of Doc, because Clint recognizes a two-parent household is better than a single parent household.  A typical episode features a guest with some medical or mental problem and Clint tries to help them with their problem, along with scenes of interaction between the clinic staff and Clint’s time in the apartment complex with Nate, Beverly and Raul.  The episode always ends with Doc writing to his older mentor, Dr. Harley Johanson, about the week’s events.  During the first season, Tippy Williams joined the cast as a slightly loopy but quick on her feet secretary, providing some of comic relief on the show.  Doc shared a slightly flirtatious relationship with Nancy, but he never acted on it until the final episode.  The longest storyline in the show was the relationship between Tippy and the straight-laced solider Steve Doss, which ultimately resulted in their marriage and child in the final episode.  Much of the clinic atmosphere remained unchanged throughout the shows’ run, though for a four episode arc in season 3 and first episode of season 4; a man named Richard Black comes to promise positive change only to not deliver, resulting in Donna Dewitt losing her job and Clint quitting.  In the final episode, he is revealed for the fraud he is and everything is set back to right.  The show’s family friendly nature enabled it to last 5 seasons (4 production seasons) and 88 episodes. 

Sue Thomas F.B.Eye was based on a true story.  Sue Thomas was an actual deaf lip-reader who would watch surveillance and other video and tell the investigators what they subjects in the video were saying.  In this fictionalized version of the story, Sue Thomas travels across the county away from her family to join the F.B.I.  Her unique skills were put to good use in the pilot episode, and she receives a job.  She also finds a roommate with Lucy Dodson, who is the base coordinator and unit office manager.  She befriends the other members of the unit, Jack Hudson, the unit leader, Bobby Manning, an Australian charmer, Demetrius Gans, a senior agent and often supervisor, and Miles Leland, whose ego and poor attitude sometimes gets him in trouble with his fellow agents, and Tara Williams, the computer expert.  Also in the pilot episode she gets a “hearing dog” named Levi, who helps notify her to noises such as the doorbell.  Sue Thomas was more action packed than Doc by the nature of its setting, but it never had overly graphic or excessive violence.  Like Doc, there was a lot of time spend on the interpersonal relationships between the F.B.I. unit.  Unlike Doc, the show had several exciting cliff-hangers, leaving things unresolved or the characters in peril.  Sue Thomas shared a mild flirtation with Jack Hudson but ultimately, in the final episode did not act on it.  Unlike Doc, which ended when everyone including the creators and star felt was right, Sue Thomas was cancelled at the height of its popularity because CTV, its Canadian co-producer (it was made in Toronto) pulled out of funding.  The show lasted 3 seasons and 56 episodes. 

While the first season of Doc is only available right now, in 2010 the entirety of Sue Thomas F.B.Eye was released on DVD!  Check out these two awesome show and hope that we ultimately get to see all of Doc! 

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