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Inquiring minds want to know: Will Buffalo area viewers be able to get the new family-friendly Pax Network when it premieres Monday with a variety of rerun programming?

And what is the owner of Fox affiliate Channel 29 going to do with Channel 23 when it begins running it after paying $33 million for the license of the public television channel?

First things first:

Since Channel 51 in Batavia won't be ready in time for the premiere of the Pax Network, it has made a one-year deal for WNGS, Channel 67, to carry a portion of its programming.

Bill Smith, the co-owner of Channel 67, said it has signed a secondary affiliation with Pax that enables it to run the network's prime-time programming at its convenience.

Since Channel 67 is affiliated with UPN and UPN is expanding its programming to five nights this fall, the Pax programming has to be run on WNGS outside the 8-to-10-p.m. time block.

Smith has only committed to carrying three of the syndicated programs that Pax has bought.

Channel 67 will carry reruns of "Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman," "Touched by an Angel" and "Dave's World" for five days or nights a week for a total of 15 hours of programming.

"Dr. Quinn" -- whose cancellation by CBS has led to an uproar among its devoted fans -- will run at 2 p.m. weekdays.

"Dave's World" -- the sitcom based on the life of humorist Dave Barry -- will air at 4:30 p.m. weekdays.

And "Touched by an Angel" -- which remains a Top 10 series on CBS -- will run at 7 p.m. weekdays and serve as the lead-in to UPN's prime time programming.

Smith says the plan is for his station to carry those Pax programs on an interim basis until Pax's own channel is ready.

Pax officials have previously stated that Channel 51 -- which will serve both Rochester and Buffalo -- has had unexpected environmental problems and also is dealing with mileage restrictions concerning its entry into Canada.

There is some irony in the deal with Channel 67. It was only able to grab the UPN affiliation from Channel 29 last April because the Fox affiliate couldn't give UPN series decent time slots.

Sinclair Broadcasting, which owns Channel 29, could have given those UPN series better slots if it had been able to purchase Channel 23 earlier.

Don Moran, Channel 29's general manager, said he also will eventually manage Channel 23 when the license is transferred to Sinclair.

The best guesstimate is that the FCC approval should be done in time for Sinclair to take over the station by December.

Moran said the plan is to program Channel 23 as an independent channel, primarily with syndicated programming and movies.

"I'll manage it and add staff, said Moran. "We've been buying up things like crazy."

Among the programs that Sinclair has purchased for the Buffalo market for future airing are the reruns of "3rd Rock From the Sun," "Caroline in the City," "Taxi," "Spin City," "Suddenly Susan" and "King of the Hill."

It also has renewed "Seinfeld" for a second run through the year 2003.

Sinclair's purchase of Channel 23 could be viewed as a defensive move because other stations in the market were believed to be among the several bidders for the property.

"It is both (a defensive move and an offensive move)," said Moran. "Almost everyone in town was looking at it. We didn't want to be up against someone with two television stations. It also gives us a lot of flexibility."

For instance, Moran notes that Sinclair will now be able to bid for the kind of sports programming that WB-49 has carried, such as Buffalo Sabres games and New York Yankees baseball.

"I could enter that business," said Moran, who notes that managing two stations is cost-efficient. "I view it as offensive."

The purchase of Channel 23 also could accelerate Sinclair's move to carry some kind of local news. The Fox network is strongly urging -- almost demanding -- that its affiliates get involved in local news.

"That's a possibility," said Moran of local news. "We're certainly not pursuing it now. It is very expressive to do. But this certainly moves us much closer to that."

Buffalo native Michael J. Sudyn, and his wife, Diana Ritter, are the filmmakers who produced "Lucy at the Circus," a one-hour special that Channel 17 is carrying at 1:30 p.m. Friday.

It is described in press materials as the whimsical story of an 8-year-old girl "whose first visit to the circus becomes a magical fantasy of performing under the big top."

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