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Show's charms are hard to resist

Sunday, October 13, 2002

By Rob Owen, Post-Gazette TV Editor

Sue Thomas: F.B.Eye" is the most huggable show of the new TV season. First, there's series lead Deanne Bray, a deaf actress who plays deaf FBI employee Sue Thomas. She's a delightful, charming star whose wide smile allows her to beam her way through the role. Her character's innocence and goodness are instantly appealing.

"Sue Thomas: F.B.Eye"

When: 9 tonight (9/13) on Pax TV.

Starring: Deanne Bray, Yannick Bisson


Second, there's Sue's dog, Levi (Jesse), a golden retriever who begs to be petted.

Third, there's the premise: A kindly, God-fearing deaf woman beats the odds, overcomes adversity and gets a crackerjack job in Washington, D.C.

See what I mean? You want to wrap your arms around the star, the dog and the premise. But huggability doesn't necessarily translate to great TV.

Tonight's series premiere has some strong points, but it's brought down by an ending that's hopelessly hokey.

Sue drives from her home in Ohio to Washington, D.C., where she's set to begin a job with the FBI. She's disappointed to learn that her job entails examining and filing fingerprints as part of the "special projects program," which she says is "a fancy name for where they put people with disabilities."

Soon she meets cute with an FBI agent, Jack Hudson (Yannick Bisson), who's impressed with her ability to read lips. He enlists her in surveillance, a move that displeases other agents.

At two hours, the premiere episode feels long, but it smartly introduces viewers to Sue's world. In flashbacks, we see her frustration sitting in a classroom with a teacher who turns to face the blackboard, preventing Sue from reading her lips. "Sue Thomas" shows the everyday complications of being deaf, including not hearing the blare of a police car's siren.

Created by Dave Alan Johnson and Gary Johnson, who are also responsible for Pax's "Doc," "Sue Thomas" draws a credible portrait of a spiritual woman who is unafraid to speak the name of God. That's actually pretty brave for a medium that prefers secularism. It's not proselytizing, but "Sue Thomas" acknowledges religious belief and faith.

"My mom always said, keep moving forward, God will let you know if you're on the wrong track," Sue says as she tries to decide what road to take to Washington.

Like most Pax series, budget constraints hurt the show's credibility -- one minute Sue is driving in D.C., the next she's at a Washington gas station that looks as if it's in Mayberry -- and the plot of the premiere episode goes round the bend at the end, plunging into maudlin sap.

But that's just the first episode. "Sue Thomas" is a wholesome, family-friendly series that deserves some time to find its footing.

Rob Owen can be reached at rowen@post-gazette.com or 412-263-2582. Post questions or comments to www.post-gazette.com/tv under TV Forum.

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