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As 'Push' gets shoved, TV loses another fictional town

November 04, 2002|Andy Edelstein | Newsday

The recent demise of ABC's freshman series "Push, Nevada" warranted the shedding of a tear.

Not because it was an innovative and quirky program. But because it was one of the few series to uphold a venerable prime-time tradition: being set in a fictional locale.

Think of Mayberry ("Andy Griffith") and Mayfield ("Leave It to Beaver"). Hilldale ("Donna Reed") and Hooterville ("Green Acres," "Petticoat Junction"). Or even Lanford ("Roseanne") and Cicely ("Northern Exposure").

They were burgs that existed in your imagination, not on the road map. But in prime-time 2002, they're nearly extinct (exceptions: "Ed's" Stuckeyville, "Everwood" and "Buffy the Vampire Slayer's" Sunnydale). Nowadays, most shows are set in real locales, even if they're shot on back lots in Southern California or Vancouver.

The dearth of fictional locales is "unfortunate," says Larry Jones, executive vice president and general manager of TV Land and Nick at Nite, cable homes of vintage tube fare. "It does feel like it's a loss of innocence. We are not being encouraged to fantasize. Creators are no longer willing to grant us the leap of faith that Mayberry exists."

As for why reality rules, Jones postulates: "Today we need information more quickly. Emphasizing real locations is a kind of shorthand for creators and writers to set a tone at the outset. If a show is set in Boston, for instance, you can make certain assumptions about the characters or sensibilities."

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Andy Edelstein writes about television for Newsday, a Tribune company.

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