I knew it couldn’t last. After much speculation, “Push, Nevada”, the Interactive series created by amongst others, Ben Affleck, has been cancelled.
My fear is that many, if not most of you, haven’t even heard of this series. And if I didn’t write about it now, it probably would have come and gone virtually unnoticed.
So begging your indulgence for a few paragraphs, allow me to wax a little about this series and explain why it was possibly ahead of its time.
“Push, Nevada” is – or was – an interactive mystery that involved two components, Push, Nevada: The Drama and Push, Nevada: The Game. By playing the game, gathering all the info, and checking the clues, one lucky player could have won over $1 million in laundered money (the prize). For the less adventurous, an online community, along with message boards, fictional newspaper, and other hidden gems was there to entertain. And for the even less active (read: couch potatoes), there was the show itself.
Clearly, something was missing from this three-pronged formula. Working backwards from the subset of treasure hunting explorers, it all came down to ratings, which in the end came up craps (the plot involves money stolen from a casino in case you’re wondering).
Or perhaps it was the network execs who pushed Push up against a lesser-known struggling show called C.S.I.
This blunder is yet more evidence that when it comes to applying new approaches in order to truly appeal to a younger demographic, the entertainment and media old guard –and in this case, ABC specifically – are hopelessly out of touch. Not far away, were the traditional media buyers who grumbled and groaned at the thought of doing any real work in terms of figuring out what they would do now that show has been pulled.
I played along for the first couple of weeks. Granted the storyline was a tad on the weak side, but the adventure more than compensated for it. I eagerly accepted the challenge of searching the episode for clues and to be honest, leaned on the community for help in solving most (OK…all) of them.
In the first episode, Jim Prufrock, an IRS agent, accidentally receives a fax from a Silas Bodnick, a no good, crooked casino operator. Being the eagled-eyed government official that he is, Prufrock immediately spots a sizable accounting error and a likely embezzlement scheme to go along with it. Getting no joy from Bodnick, Jim journeys to Push in order to solve the puzzle.
Now what I didn’t tell you was that Bodnick’s number, located at the top of the fax, was a real number that any viewer could dial to find out more information or clues. Of course, you would need Bodnick’s password, which you could have figured out four ways:
- From trial and error
- From intuition – Bodnick is a lazy S.O.B. and therefore 1234 is a likely combination
- From observation – Bodnick checks his voice mail towards the end of the program and punches his code ever so quickly (helps when you have TiVo)
- From the online message boards (guess which one I used!).
I spent a good 30 plus minutes hunting around the make-believe world for new insights and learnings into this tale. This included a fake pop-up that clearly stated, this is not an ad, and pointed me in the direction of the so-called underground community site.
It also included skyscraper ads from Sprint.
The ads in question are a hybrid between fact and fiction – there is of course, no Sprint of Push (because there is no Push); there is no May White, a 67-year-old Business Owner who testifies about the wonders of text messaging; but there is such a thing as brand recall and cross media synergy. Clearly, there are advantages of visibility as both a network sponsor, combined with the exclusivity on the PushTimes Website.
The power of the networked community never ceases to amaze me. These Pushies were active, engaged, involved and hunting down that hidden treasure at warp speed. In fact, even before the first episode ended, many believed they had already figured out where the money was – by neatly flipping the population and altitude numbers on the “Welcome to Push, Nevada” sign to reveal a location in South America.
Perhaps they were right. We’ll never know now.
The real question I think is whether the network was right in canceling the show … or even if they should have put it on in the first place. As always, there are two groups that have set up camp in this town. I think I’ve already made the case for the interactive group, which essentially holds that the era of passivity is slowly drawing to an end.
But it’s the second camp that holds an intriguing point of view. According to this group, there’s a fine line between interactive and overactive – or put differently: interactivity isn’t always the answer. For those naysayers that call watching television a passive experience, this camp would counter that watching a movie or show (big or small screen) is the ultimate active experience. Storytelling as an art form requires total submission to be effective. There is nothing more powerful than total submission (even in the form of leaning back on the couch), and in this case, expecting someone to concentrate on finding clues ultimately detracts from the overall experience.
Of course that theory applies to storytelling as an art – in other words, good stories told well. Whether this applies to advertising is highly debatable.
And so instead of moving the show to a less competitive time-slot in order to give it a second chance, it is gone, but not forgotten. As for Affleck, my guess is he won’t be calling on ABC any time soon. And as for me, I’ll be somewhere in South America if anyone needs me. Where exactly? You’ll have to get a re-run of Push, Nevada to find out.