Quantum Fall: New 'Sliders' Has Some Fun But Can't Make Leap Between Worlds That Older Series Did So Well With Scott Bakula
March 22, 1995
Akron Beacon Journal, p C1
By R.D. Heldenfels

Sliders, a new series on Fox, is basically a dumber and more populated version of Quantum Leap. The older series had a scientist accidentally leaping into different periods from his lifetime -- and into the bodies of other people. Thus he might be a baby, a woman or Elvis Presley. Once he was in the body, he could not leap again until he had righted some wrong in the place he had landed.

In Sliders, which premieres tonight at 8 on WJW (Channel 8), four people find themselves "sliding" to other worlds, which parallel Earth's but whose histories vary. Thus, on one parallel world, a red traffic light means go; on another, life appears to have been wiped out by a global freeze; on a third, the Soviet Union has conquered the United States. Those worlds also may contain the sliders' parallel characters, whose lives have also turned out differently.

The group -- a young physicist (Jerry O'Connell), his best friend and would-be girlfriend (Sabrina Lloyd), a pompous professor (John Rhys-Davies) and a soul singer who accidentally is swept along (Cleavant Derricks) -- begins its sliding with a timer preset to return them to their original world. That's important because they cannot control what world they slide to, so may need a way out. But if they try to alter the timer -- as they do when they encounter a frozen world -- then it may not take them back to their starting place.

There is a measure of fun in all of this, but it's more on the level of an old-fashioned comic book. It may well be that Fox wanted another fantasy series -- its Friday tandem of VR.5 and The X-Files is doing very well -- but something more lighthearted than the Friday frights.

But Quantum Leap embraced humor and still had an emotional depth that Sliders so far lacks. And while the Slider characters can cross paths with their parallel selves, that does not demand the sort of virtuoso performance Scott Bakula often had to deliver on Quantum Leap, playing someone whose mind is trapped in an entirely different body.

Imagination also fails on Sliders in the biggest story of the premiere, a visit to a Soviet-dominated U.S. where plot resolution depends on some enormous coincidences, and the overall presentation of society is no more interesting than has been done in such Soviet-conquest scenarios as the Amerika miniseries and the big-screen movie Red Dawn.

Finally there's the soul-singer character, one Rembrandt "Crying Man" Brown, who too often seems to be on hand for exaggerated comic behavior. There's a too-thin line between Brown and old-movie stereotypes played by the likes of Mantan Moreland, and the premiere looks to have crossed the line.

1995 Knight-Ridder; abj32295

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