Push, Nevada

Kirsten Markson

In Push, Nevada, producers Ben Affleck and Sean Bailey have come up with a show that is, oddly, both original and formulaic.

Push, Nevada

Airtime: Thursdays, 9pm EST
Cast: Derek Cecil, Scarlett Chorvat, Jon Polito, Conchata Ferrell, Melora Walters
Display Artist: Ben Affleck, Sean Bailey
Network: ABC
Creator: Sean Bailey

Push, Nevada would be pretty much a rip-off of David Lynch's far superior Twin Peaks if not for one quirky twist -- it is also an "interactive" game show, inviting viewers to solve the crime at the center of the plot to win a real jackpot of about a million dollars. It is unclear thus far exactly what winning the game entails, since it seems unlikely there will be only one viewer who can "solve" the mystery, based on the clumsy assortment of "clues" offered in the first two episodes.

In Push, Nevada, Affleck and Bailey have come up with a show that is, oddly, both original and formulaic. Even if paying off viewers for their careful attention might be something new, the series' style and plot are stale. With its rockabilly aesthetic, "eerie" soundtrack, and clipped dialogue, Push is more than a little reminiscent of Twin Peaks, which also followed the exploits and curiosities of a federal agent who enters into the twisted universe of an isolated small town. But where FBI Agent Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) had some experience investigating murders, Push's Agent Jim Prufrock (Chris Isaak look-alike Derek Cecil) emphatically does not: he's employed by the IRS, and drawn to the titular town by a mysterious fax.

The decision to make Prufrock an agent of the much-maligned IRS is surely provocative, considering ongoing corporate scandals. Great pains are taken in the premiere to show that Prufrock takes his mandate -- protecting average-income-bracket Americans from suffering because corporations evade tax responsibilities -- very, very seriously. In his encounters with Silas Bodnick (Jon Polito), the crooked manager of the Versailles Casino, Prufrock gives a series of moralizing monologues in which he spells out his belief in the principles of straightforward accounting. While this might strike a chord with today's audiences, it's not enough to counter the facts that for most, taxes are a boring subject and, worse, Prufrock's sincerity is laughable.

That a bookkeeping error might be insufficient motivation for risking his life does not occur to Prufrock because he is bafflingly determined. Jim refuses to leave town, despite repeated warnings from Mary (Scarlett Chorvat), the local hottie he meets at Sloman's Slow Dance Bar, and stays to uncover just what the strange accounting at the Versailles Casino is covering up. What he finds in Push is a town full of "quirky" denizens and a conspiracy that runs deep and wide. The problem with Push's cast of characters is that their wackiness seems forced and deliberate. Perhaps, the characters will eventually fly their freak flags more believably and fully. For the moment, they are silly caricatures, badly acted.

For armchair sleuths and conspiracy theorists, Push offers an attractive possibility: actual money for all the time wasted watching bland made-for-TV mysteries, always knowing who committed the crime within the first five minutes. However, this prize will not come easily, for viewers must keep rapt attention during the entire season, accumulating clues from each episode in order to win. Whether or not the tepid drama can support such sustained interest is the true mystery.

The promotion of the show, however, is already intense, including a campaign to implant the title into viewers' short-term memories. Using so-called "guerilla marketing," hitchhikers have allegedly been strategically placed at select Los Angeles intersections with signs pleading for a lift to "Push," which does not exist. If you search for "Push, Nevada" on the internet, you will also find a website for the "Push Convention and Visitor's Bureau" that is cheesy and quite believable. You can even have the Push Times sent directly to your e-mail inbox. Various flaps about this marketing "push" have made news, due to the extreme and deliberate blurring of the lines between advertising, editorial content, and everyday life.

Running somewhat counter to this cryptic, if aggressive, advertising strategy, the show has already dumbed itself down. In a repeat of the pilot presented as the lead-in to Thursday's new episode, the clues were outlined in red boxes-- beating any joy out of the process of discovering the game. The show's makers appear to think viewers are too unsophisticated to figure out that repeated number sequences and a flashing web address during the opening credits are clues. The apparent desperation behind making the clues even more obvious a second time around contradicts the producers' assertion that the drama is more fascinating than the game show aspect. Really, neither the concept nor the plot is that interesting. Instead of being dragged into Push, Nevada, buy a lottery ticket and rentTwin Peaks.






Padma Lakshmi's 'Taste the Nation' Questions What, Exactly, Is American Food

Can food alone undo centuries of anti-immigrant policies that are ingrained in the fabric of the American nation? Padma Lakshmi's Taste the Nation certainly tries.


Performing Race in James Whale's 'Show Boat'

There's a song performed in James Whale's musical, Show Boat, wherein race is revealed as a set of variegated and contradictory performances, signals to others, a manner of being seen and a manner of remaining hidden, and it isn't "Old Man River".


The Greyboy Allstars Rise Up to Help America Come Together with 'Como De Allstars'

If America could come together as one nation under a groove, Karl Denson & the Greyboy Allstars would be leading candidates of musical unity with their funky new album, Como De Allstars.


The Beatles' 'Help!' Redefined How Personal Popular Music Could Be 55 Years Ago

Help! is the record on which the Beatles really started to investigate just how much they could get away with. The album was released 55 years ago this week, and it's the kick-off to our new "All Things Reconsidered" series.


Porridge Radio's Mercury Prize-Nominated 'Every Bad' Is a Wonderful Epistemological Nightmare

With Every Bad, Porridge Radio seduce us with the vulnerability and existential confusion of Dana Margolin's deathly beautiful lyricism interweaved with alluring pop melodies.


​​Beyoncé's 'Black Is King' Builds Identity From Afrofuturism

Beyoncé's Black Is King's reliance on Afrofuturism recuperates the film from Disney's clutches while reclaiming Black excellence.

Reading Pandemics

Colonial Pandemics and Indigenous Futurism in Louise Erdrich and Gerald Vizenor

From a non-Native perspective, COVID-19 may be experienced as an unexpected and unprecedented catastrophe. Yet from a Native perspective, this current catastrophe links to a longer history that is synonymous with European colonization.


John Fullbright Salutes Leon Russell with "If the Shoe Fits" (premiere + interview)

John Fullbright and other Tulsa musicians decamped to Leon Russell's defunct studio for a four-day session that's a tribute to Dwight Twilley, Hoyt Axton, the Gap Band and more. Hear Fullbright's take on Russell's "If The Shoe Fits".


Roots Rocker Webb Wilder Shares a "Night Without Love" (premiere + interview)

Veteran roots rocker Webb Wilder turns back the hands of time on an old favorite of his with "Night Without Love".


The 10 Best Films of Sir Alan Parker

Here are 10 reasons to mourn the passing of one of England's most interesting directors, Sir Alan Parker.


July Talk Transform on 'Pray for It'

On Pray for It, Canadian alt-poppers July Talk show they understand the complex dualities that make up our lives.


With 'Articulation' Rival Consoles Goes Back to the Drawing Board

London producer Rival Consoles uses unorthodox approaches on his latest record, Articulation, resulting in a stunning, beautiful collection.


Paranoia Goes Viral in 'She Dies Tomorrow'

Amy Seimetz's thriller, She Dies Tomorrow, is visually dazzling and pulsating with menace -- until the color fades.


MetalMatters: July 2020 - Back on Track

In a busy and exciting month for metal, Boris arrive in rejuvenated fashion, Imperial Triumphant continue to impress with their forward-thinking black metal, and death metal masters Defeated Sanity and Lantern return with a vengeance.


Isabel Wilkerson's 'Caste' Reveals the Other Kind of American Exceptionalism

By comparing the American race-based class system to that of India and Nazi Germany, Isabel Wilkerson makes us see a familiar evil in a different light with her latest work, Caste.


Anna Kerrigan Prioritizes Substance Over Style in 'Cowboys'

Anna Kerrigan talks with PopMatters about her latest film, Cowboys, which deviates from the common "issues style" approach to LGBTQ characters.


John Fusco and the X-Road Riders Get Funky with "It Takes a Man" (premiere + interview)

Screenwriter and musician John Fusco pens a soulful anti-street fighting man song, "It Takes a Man". "As a trained fighter, one of the greatest lessons I have ever learned is to walk away from a fight without letting ego get the best of you."


'Run-Out Groove' Shows the Dark Side of Capitol Records

Music promoter Dave Morrell's memoir, Run Out Groove, recalls the underbelly of the mainstream music industry.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.