DETROIT FREE PRESS

STAR IS GLAD 'SLIDERS' WINKS AT SCI-FI GENRE

Wednesday, February 28, 1996
Section: FTR
Page: 4C

MIKE DUFFY

'Sliders'
8 p.m. Friday
WJBK-TV, Channel 2, Fox

Notes from the Captain Video file:

Life on "Sliders" isn't like being sentenced to the tedium treadmill.

Just the opposite, says Jerry O'Connell, handsome young star of the lively sci-fi series that returns for a new season Friday on Fox.

"Working in television can become very monotonous or very boring," says O'Connell, 22. "But with this show, it's impossible to get bored. You're in a different parallel reality every week."

Yeah, and in at least one of those wigged-out worlds, Elvis really is still alive.

That's half the fun of "Sliders," which follows the adventures of an eclectic quartet of time travelers headed by collegiate physics whiz Quinn Mallory (O'Connell). This is science-fiction television with a sly wink, a light touch.

That may have something to do with Tracey Torme, the former writer for "SCTV" and "Saturday Night Live," who cocreated and produces "Sliders." These time warp wigglers have a sense of humor.

But just because "Sliders" doesn't take itself too seriously doesn't mean it doesn't have any sci-fi credibility. Torme also worked on "Star Trek: The Next Generation."

And "Sliders," which has its own web site on the Internet (http://www.mca.com/tv/sliders), has developed a fervent following among cybernauts over the past year.

"I go on-line and I'm just amazed by what our fans are aware of," O'Connell says. "Sci-fi fans are the hardest fans to please. I hear people talking about about things I don't even remember. These are the sort of fans who are not only watching, they're watching every little detail."

Though "Sliders" has so far been just a modest little success for Fox, O'Connell is on the brink of sliding into the parallel reality of big-time Hollywood achievement.

He'll star this summer in "Joe's Apartment," a movie based on a short, loopy MTV cult film.

Later this spring, he'll begin filming "Jerry Maguire" with Tom Cruise, a comedy about a desperate sports agent (Cruise) in hot pursuit of a hotshot college quarterback (O'Connell).

O'Connell, who stands 6-foot-2 and weighs 190 pounds, has the hunky look of an all-star jock.

That's not exactly the profile he flashed a decade ago in "Stand by Me," the beloved Rob Reiner coming-of-age comedy. Yes, believe it or not, an 11-year-old Jerry O'Connell played the fat kid.

"It was a fluke," recalled O'Connell of his first encounter with show business. "There was a cattle call for 'Stand By Me.' And I was the right age, the right size and, I guess, the right width."

O'Connell grew up in New York City, where he began acting in school plays.

His parents kept his head screwed on straight, treating their son's acting career "as an extracurricular activity" and insisting he attend college.

In between acting jobs, O'Connell majored in film and television at New York University, where he graduated last spring.

Now he's happily chatting up the new, improved "Sliders."

"Last year, sometimes you didn't know whether it was sci- fi, sci-fi adventure or sci-fi comedy. It was pretty wishy- washy," O'Connell says. "This year, it's more true science- fiction.

"It's that voice that's really coming through in the writing. Sci-fi is such a fun genre to work in because you can hold a mirror up to society. You can comment on social issues. It's not just dopey TV."

Sounds like a surefire Fox promo: " 'Sliders': It's not just dopey TV."

CAREER REHAB: Don Johnson, who long ago and in a vroom-vroom '80s pastel galaxy portrayed Sonny Crockett on "Miami Vice," returns to the prime time wars in "Nash Bridges" Friday, March 29, on CBS. Johnson plays the title character, a hotshot San Francisco police investigator who has numerous opportunities to crack wise while cracking heads and corralling criminals."Nash Bridges" takes over the 10 p.m. Friday spot normally occupied by "Picket Fences," which will return to the CBS schedule at a later date.

SATELLITES: Marlene mojo: American Movie Classics is planning a 24-hour "Day of Dietrich" for April 2, unveiling the AMC documentary "Marlene Dietrich: Shadow and Light" while also screening such Dietrich classics as "Garden of Allah," "Flame of New Orleans" and "The Blue Angel."

. . . Local angle: The Amazing Jonathan, the former Detroit comic known as "the Freddy Krueger of comedy," stars in his own "Lounge Lizards" chucklehead special at 9 p.m. Thursday on the Comedy Central.

. . . Sibling overload: Joey Lawrence and his little brothers Matthew and Andrew resurface in "Brotherly Love" at 8:30 p.m. Mondays on NBC starting next week.

EXTRA BLAH BLAH: Weird flirtation of the week: Liz Taylor making goo-goo eyes at Jim Dial (Charles Kimbrough) on Monday's perfume-promoting Lizfest episode of "Murphy Brown."

. . . Hunka, hunka burnin' recycled sleuth: Ken Wahl reprises the role of Vinnie Terranova in a new "Wiseguy" movie headed to ABC later this season.

. . . Neat repeat treat: The legendary "Soup Nazi" episode of "Seinfeld" is being given an encore Thursday night on NBC. Take this tomato bisque and shove it. Be there or be square.

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