Watch these three shows -- before they're gone! Ken Tucker says ''Push, Nevada,'' ''Firefly,'' and ''Robbery Homicide Division'' all deserve to evade cancellation

By Ken Tucker
October 15, 2002 at 04:00 AM EDT
Push Nevada: Scott Garfeld/ABC

Watch these three shows — before they’re gone!

Gee, doesn’t it seem like the new fall TV season just began? No matter. Shows are already getting canceled, most recently two ABC series, the ’80s-nostalgia bummer ”That Was Then” and the Ben Affleck-produced/oddball drama/game show ”Push, Nevada.” Cancellations, actual or impending, however, don’t always mean a show’s a dog. Thus, here is a choice trio of struggling shows you should check out ASAP, just in case their networks get itchy trigger fingers.

”Push, Nevada” (ABC, Thursdays, 9-10 p.m.) Well, as I said, ABC has pulled the plug on this one, but because the drama is also a contest and legally obliged to give away $1 million in prize money, ”Push” must air a few more times to divulge necessary clues and ultimately dole out the dough. The show won’t leave the air until Oct. 24, so I recommend you watch — for the cool-nerd performance of Derek Cecil as IRS agent Jim Prufrock (Cecil’s so good, he’s bound to turn up on another show or in a movie sometime soon), and the sly, slinky-even-in-a-cop-uniform Liz Vassey, formerly Miss Liberty from another show canceled before its time, ”The Tick.”

This show was doomed by its time slot (Thursdays at 9 — yeah, like ”Push” was gonna compete with ”Will & Grace” and ”CSI”) and a poor second episode that gave off a fatal ”Twin Peaks” vibe, although the rest of the series has established that ”Push” is its own quirky creation. So I guess I and some geek out there with great math skills are the only ones interested in who wins the million (hint: it won’t be me), but you should tune in for the acting.

Firefly (Fox, Fridays, 8-9 p.m.) Debuting to modest ratings that thereafter took a nosedive, this outer-space Western from the creator of ”Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” Joss Whedon, may not get a chance to show just how interesting it can get if you don’t start watching. Sure, the first couple of editions played like ”Star Trek” episodes with snappier dialogue, but Whedon is clearly setting the stage for lots of neck-snapping adventure, unpredictable character development, and some really mean futuristic villains. ”Firefly” was pulled from the schedule until the baseball playoffs are over, but it’s back this Friday: Give it a shot, willya?

Robbery Homicide Division (CBS, Fridays, 10-11 p.m.) Speaking of begging, pleeeeeeease watch this crackerjack Michael Mann-produced cop show: I’m down on my knees. Every week, Tom Sizemore barrels across Los Angeles like he owns the town, and he ought to — he and Mann have turned Tinseltown into a nightmare landscape of neon-lit murders, rough ‘n’ tumble ratiocination (look up your Edgar Allan Poe), and some of the best tough-guy dialogue this side of an Elmore Leonard novel (murderous perp, wounded by one of Sizemore’s crew: ”I don’t wanna die”; Sizemore, icily unmoved: ”Who does?”).

I know you’re either out on a Friday night or you love your ”Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” (though why you want to watch that show’s parade of criminal perverts is beyond me), but give ”RHD” a chance. Better yet — hey, CBS! Move ”Robbery Homicide Division” to Saturday at 10 (who needs ”The Agency”?) and there, on a night where the networks have given up programming adventurous material and permit schlock to exist until it turns into syndication fodder (hello — ”Providence”?), ”Robbery Homicide Division” could find a safe hide-out to commit its acts of adventurous TV entertainment.

Have you watched any of these shows? If so, what do you think of them?

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