Wednesday, October 19, 2005

CULT TV Blogging: Push, Nevada, Episode # 7: "Jim's Domain" - SPOILERS

It all comes down to this, the final episode of the short-lived half-a-season wonder of Push, Nevada, entitled "Jim's Domain."

When last we left IRS Agent Jim Prufrock (Derek Cecil), he had been shot in the back twice during a confrontation in the desert with undercover ATF agent Dawn Mitchell and the strongman of Push, Dwight Sloman. Sloman ordered Dawn to shoot Jim in the head, and we got a quick fade-out. This episode, penned by Joan Rater and Tony Phalen (and directed by Nick Gomez) picks up immediately where "S.O.S" left off and there is another shoot-out. Dawn goes down. Bam! Sloman goes down. Bam! Jim is already down. But surprise - every character is wearing a bulletproof vest - and they all get back up and try to shoot one another again. Just when it looks like Sloman is about to murder Jim once and for all, an IRS helicopter conveniently pulls onto the scene and arrests Sloman, saving Dawn and Jim.

And from there, a flurry of answers about the central mysteries of this oddball town in Nevada come racing at the viewer. Here's the deal, the best that I understand it: Push, Nevada was a town revitalized by the Mob in 1984. The Mob created the Versailles Casino and began laundering money through it, and indeed the town. Here's how - the dirty money would come into the casino, and the townspeople would all win it (which is why the casino paid out at such a high rate, 62%). The flush townies would then go and spend all their hard-earned cash at places in town like the Coffee Shop, or Sloman's Slow-Dance Cocktail Bar. Well, those places were all owned and operated by the Mob, so the town's people would be transferring, in a sense, their winnings back to the Mob families, but as clean money! Those conspiracy guys I thought worked for the government? Actually, if we're to believe the IRS, muscle on loan from the Mob to keep the town paying up.

After a romantic last meeting (and slow dance...) with Mary, who got a life-saving reprieve with the arrest of Sloman, Jim Prufrock returns to Carson City to find that he has been promoted, and that his wife, Darlene has moved back into his house and become the perfect wife. He even makes love to her at 9:15pm...

And therein lies the rub. The mystery of Push, Nevada is not solved, and Jim slowly starts to realize this as the episode ends, in part thanks to Grace, who is still puzzled about some things and how they went down. Why do all the denizens of Push act in lock-step fashion (making love at 9:15?) We don't know, though the inference here is that Prufrock has somehow been co-opted. Jim also realizes that he still doesn't know the answer to one very important question: who sent him the fax with the Casino accounting error in the first place?

As Push, Nevada ends, other questions nag at the viewer. What was in the all-important Bible, and why was it more important than the stolen cash? Who are the conspiracy guys after all, and how far up does the corruption go into the IRS? What's going on in the Boarding House's "Off Limits" area? How did the Landlady get Jim's father's handkerchief? Finally, does this episode signify the last temptation of Jim Prufrock, who seems to have landed now in the perfect life? Is that how corruption really works? Give a person everything he could want - a loving and sexy wife, new furniture, a promotion, more money...and he won't ask questions? Did Jameson Jones finally figure out how to stop Jim Prufrock, by creating for him the kind of perfectly ordered and reasonable life he had always dreamed about and ultimately lost when his father committed suicide?

Well, the series is over, and we'll never know the answers to these questions, but the journey was still worthwhile. In the years during and after the reality TV glut of 2000, television producers realized that they had to offer new types of formulae to keep the viewer tuned in. I call this post-genre TV. The latest examples are Lost (a survival, sci-fi, fantasy, soap opera), Boston Legal (a fusion of courtroom drama and wacky comeday), and even Invasion (soap opera, family drama and alien invasion story rolled into one...), but Push, Nevada charted that trajectory three years ago. It was a combination of X-Files Conspiracy, Twin Peaks bizarre character-types, and film noir conventions. Audiences never found the seriest, never stuck with it, but ultimately I think something unique and worthwhile was missed.

Hard to judge a series by seven episodes, but my wife and I were glued to this show and watched an episode every night for a week. When it ended, we felt that sense of loss we always do when a favorite show is cancelled, especially one with so much promise and potential.

And thus ends my first TV series in my CULT TV Blogging Feature. Coming up soon, I'll be starting Kolchak: The Night Stalker (the original), American Gothic, and - if I can get all the episodes - the 1987 Fox TV series, Werewolf. So stay tuned!

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