'Push' can't stop showing its muscles

By Joanne Weintraub
of the Journal Sentinel staff
April 02, 1998

So you thought you'd seen the last of the season premieres?

Silly rabbit! The networks still have a few tricks up their sleeves.

Next Monday brings a pair of battling newcomers in the same time slot, one with fabulous muscle tone and the other with a peppy personality.

The one with the abs, pecs and delts is "Push" (7 p.m. Mondays, Channel 12), a super-slick nighttime soap opera that combines hot sex and competitive sports. This is such a good idea -- having all those fine, sweaty, half-naked bodies do something more constructive than accidentally knocking the clock radio off the night table, I mean -- that you have to wonder why no one's tried it lately.

The babes and boy-toys of "Push" sweat, thrash and occasionally crack a book at California Southern University, which may be fictional but does have a butt-kicking athletics program. Conveniently, Cal Southern's athletes excel at gymnastics, swimming and running, which not only means that they're potential Olympians but guarantees that they regularly get half-naked.

The gymnasts seem to get the most action, both on and off the equipment.

Gorgeous Coach Victor (Adam Trese) used to have a thing going with gorgeous Assistant Coach Nikki (Jamie Pressly), but he's now struggling to keep his hands off an even more gorgeous freshman star named Cara (Laurie Fortier), who's such a slinky-hipped, pouty-lipped, bouncing little bundle of hormones that she can't keep her hands off anyone.

The track stars are Milo (Jacobi Wynn), a gritty, gifted, up-from-South-Central straight shooter, and Dempsey (Jason Behr), a tarnished golden boy who has an unfortunate alliance with a geeky pharmacology major named Gwen (Audrey Wasilewski) who believes in better running through chemistry.

Then there's girl swimmer Erin (Maureen Flannigan), who'd love to do the free-style on dry land with boy swimmer Scott (Eddie Mills), who is, wouldn't you know it, gay.

In between taping their ankles, icing their elbows and working out to oh-so-contempo music, these juicy jocks are revealed to be addicted to sex, dependent on drugs, homophobic, HIV-positive, pathologically competitive, insanely jealous and/or pathetically lonely. But they all have such good hair, great glutes and glowing skin that you've just gotta love 'em -- all except Gwen, that is, whom you can tell is evil not simply because she persuades Dempsey to use performance-enhancing drugs but because she's pasty, pudgy and wears terrible glasses.

Unfortunately, "Push" drops the ball in its casting, not by using unknowns, who actually freshen the look of the show, but by failing to notice that -- duh -- black people are rather prominently represented in college sports. So instead of using their setting as an opportunity to shake things up a little, the producers give us the usual white bread with one raisin in the loaf, in the buff bronze person of track god Milo.

The babes and boy-toys of "Push" sweat, thrash and occasionally crack a book at California Southern University.

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