08/29/2002 11:00PM

'Push, Nevada': You won't find it on the map


So, I'm driving around Vegas the other day and I glance at a billboard that reads "Versailles Casino" in the upper left corner. I think to myself, "They wouldn't build a casino in the heart of the bluegrass, would they?"

Later in the day, in another part of town, I see another "Versailles Casino" billboard. It also says, "It pays to visit Push, Nevada."

I've heard of many small Nevada towns, but never Push. The sign also gives a website address of www.visitpush.com.

I was right where you are now. What the heck is Push, Nevada, and where the heck is the Versailles Casino?

Rest easy. Versailles, Ky., isn't getting a casino, and Push isn't a small rural town in Nevada.

"Push, Nevada" is part of the new fall lineup on ABC. It's a television show based in a fictional remote desert town of, yes, Push, Nev., and, yes, Versailles is the only casino in town.

Push is portrayed as a town where married residents make love at exactly 9:15 p.m. and the singles look for love at Sloman's, the slow-dance - and only - bar in town. Push is where the Versailles Casino "pays out the biggest slot jackpots in the state," and it all revolves around a murder mystery.

The series, written by actor Ben Affleck and produced by Sean Bailey, has a game-show element and will be interactive. Viewers can enter clues to help solve the mystery and be eligible to win $1 million in prizes.

It's like a gaming "Survivor" series in your living room. And, the series is good for the real Nevada gambling community, too.

Las Vegas and Nevada tourism officials think "Push, Nevada" will somehow push people here. Tourism officials are trying to tie into the nationwide publicity the show is getting through the network's promos and trailers, and on television shows. They are hoping "Push, Nevada" will attract the same attention to this area as does the highly rated CBS series "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation," which is based on cases in Las Vegas.

There have been other successful television shows set in Nevada. Who could ever forget "Vega$," the popular ABC television series of the 1970's, with Dan Tanna and the red T-bird.

Although "Push, Nevada" is being advertised in newspapers and on radio stations throughout the nation, the billboards are exclusive to Las Vegas. The billboards, one of which sits next to McCarran International Airport, are scattered throughout the valley and have certainly piqued the curiosity of those traveling around Las Vegas. With no reference to the program's air date and time - or even its television network - the billboards leave one simply to conclude there is a town called Push in Nevada. To find out when the show's premiere airs (Sept. 17), you have to go to the ABC website.

The "Push, Nevada" website plays it deadpan. It lists Push businesses, civic groups, and entertainment venues, and even goes so far as to include a phone number for the Push Chamber of Commerce.

Although Affleck frequents many Las Vegas casino nightspots, the show is filmed entirely in California. Citing hundreds of shows that have used Las Vegas as a backdrop, the Nevada Film Commission has pitched the city as a site for the program.

When Push comes to shove, "Push, Nevada" can only be a good thing for the real thing.

Ralph Siraco is turf editor for the Las Vegas Sun and host of the Race Day Las Vegas radio show.