Wednesday, March 22, 1995
Section: LIVING
Page: 6C

By HAL BOEDEKER, Orlando Sentinel

Elvis lives. John Kennedy is president. Vinyl records have pushed CDs off the market.

It's an upside-down world, all right, and whiz-kid scientist Quinn Mallory (Jerry O'Connell) has transported himself there via a homemade gizmo in his San Francisco basement. In this parallel universe, red stoplights mean go, and U.S. citizens are moving illegally into Mexico.

This will be the first of many alternate Earths that Quinn leaps into in Fox's hugely entertaining ``Sliders,'' debuting with a two-hour pilot tonight at 8 on WCCB (channel 18). Next week, the hourlong series moves to its regular 9 p.m. Wednesday time slot, after ``Beverly Hills, 90210.''

The premise will thrill anyone who enjoyed the old ``Time Tunnel'' series, ``Quantum Leap'' or ``Back to the Future.'' ``Sliders'' exploits ``what-might-have-been'' for some way-out adventures.

In tonight's nifty opener, Quinn meets a cleverer version of himself. This ``slider'' from a different dimension explains that jumping into alternative universes - through a psychedelic wormhole - is like playing a roulette wheel. Each slot is another dimension, and there could be hundreds of places to land.

Eager to demonstrate his discovery, Quinn takes a joy ride with adoring pal Wade Wells (Sabrina Lloyd) and overbearing professor Maximillian Arturo (John Rhys-Davies). Soul singer Rembrandt ``Crying Man'' Brown (Cleavant Derricks) has the misfortune to be sucked into the wormhole while driving to Candlestick Park to perform the national anthem.

The four travelers tumble into a nuclear winter. San Francisco is frozen over, and winds force a hasty jump to another world.

The travelers think they have come home. Far from it. They have fallen into a world where communism triumphed. The United States lost the Korean War, and the old domino theory became reality.

A Lenin statue stands where Lincoln was paid tribute. Making a phone call can be a crime. A telethon demands viewers support public television ``or else.'' A homeless man in Quinn's world has become a U.S. senator in the Communist system. And in tonight's loopiest scene, the Communist version of ``People's Court'' unfolds, presided over by Commissar Wapner.

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