New life for Sliders
March 1, 1996
Edmonton Sun
By Neal Watson

You are all in grave danger,'' the wise fortune-teller informs Sliders' fearsome foursome. "Beware, the forces of night are against you. Stay together. Look out for one another if you are to survive this ordeal.''

Yup, that's pretty much Sliders in a nutshell.

The Fox series, about a quartet of travellers who "slide'' through alternate universes, returns tonight from its most perilous journey - a stay in the network TV hibernation zone called hiatus. The show, which was not on Fox's fall schedule and was reported cancelled, may be another program that owes its second life to the Internet. Only eight episodes of Sliders were produced last season and the ratings weren't great. But fantasy/sci-fi/supernatural shows tend to inspire a lot of Internet chatter and with on-line protest ringing in its ears, Fox re-considered and commissioned the producers to come up with 13 new Sliders adventures.

"Immediately the Internet traffic was so big that I kind of had a sense that if we could find our footing and keep going long enough, it would get bigger and bigger,'' said Sliders executive producer Tracy Torme (yes, he's Mel's son) in a recent interview. "That's already starting to happen.''

Sliders' star Jerry O'Connell admits input from on-line fans has helped ground the show, so to speak. "It amazes me when I go on-line and I see that people pay attention to details that I didn't notice - and I was there on set. It's helped me with the fact that every detail counts. Science fiction fans are the most critical. If you can please them, you can please anybody.''

VR5, M.A.N.T.I.S. and, apparently, Strange Luck, which has finished its season or been placed on hiatus depending on who you believe, all failed as companion pieces for X-Files, and Sliders is the latest to get the time slot before Fox's best-loved show.

While time travel is a sure-fire way to interest some viewers, sometimes the show's special effects haven't been up to its parallel universe ideas - remember the giant shark sequence? Co-exec producer Jacob Epstein, who says he has always seen the show as the "ultimate backpacking trip through Europe," reveals the new episodes will not be about the travellers saving the world each week.

"It will be more intimate challenges and things on a smaller scale,'' he said. "We're bringing it down in scale, making it more personal.''

O'Connell insists those tough-to-please sci-fi fans will still get a nice special-effects rush. "We've been doing some pretty snazzy stuff with the wormhole,'' he promises. Sliders is back with an episode about witch-doctors and sorcerers tonight at 9 on Cable 28, 33.

The Edmonton Sun es30196

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