With 'Sliders,' Fox Ventures Again Into Fantasyland
March 22, 1995
Philadelphia Inquirer, p F01
By Jonathan Storm

The heroes of Sliders use a time-tunnel thing to zoom into other dimensions, and it's just as cool as Sidney Bloom's virtual-reality warp in VR.5.

It's also about the only positive comparison point between the two new dramas on Fox, which has gone off the deep end over sci-fi/fantasy/ adventure, trying to turn itself into the X-Files Network.

After a few explanatory bumps, Sliders is a thoroughly unconfusing ride on the action side, and its two young characters are extremely cute. Score a pair of positive points for audience appeal with the same people who like Beverly Hills, 90210.

Beverly Hills will precede Sliders Wednesday nights, though not on this particular Wednesday night, when Sliders gets a two-hour launch at 8 p.m. on Channel 29, and 90210 gets the night off.

But next Wednesday, Sliders will start airing at 9, and 90210 will come back.

If you like that sort of clear and quasi-redundant explanation, you, too, may like Sliders, as opposed to the stunning but deliciously ambiguous visual and psychological dance card of VR.5.

Jerry O'Connell and Sabrina Lloyd are the two Sliders cutie-pies. O'Connell, who co-starred in Stand by Me as a little boy and has grown into a standard-version dreamboat, plays Quinn Mallory, a really brainy physics student who comes up with the slide-a-ride gizmo in his basement.

Lloyd is unusual for TV, a gutsy pixie with a touch of tomboy, reminiscent of The Terminator's Linda Hamilton - without the muscles, more adorable, less lusty. Lloyd plays Wade Welles, computer expert.

They are joined by John Rhys-Davies, the bluff Welshman best-known for his work with Harrison Ford in the Indiana Jones movies, and he plays a no- nonsense physics professor who suffers the slight problem of a lot of people's believing that some of his theories are a little bit of nonsense.

Mallory's wormhole freeway to unknown dimensions proves that the physics prof wasn't talking through his hat, natch.

Finally, we have the troublesome figure of Rembrandt "Crying Man" Brown, once the lauded lead of those soulful '70s singing sensations the Spinning Topps. Brown gets (literally) sucked into the picture when Mallory turns up the juice too high on his inter-dimensional slider.

Cleavant Derricks plays Brown with a little bit too much of the "feets, don't fail me now" quality that made Mantan Moreland an immensely funny comic presence in the Charlie Chan movies of a simpler, and less enlightened, time. When you laugh at the Crying Man, which you very well may do, you feel just a little bit dirty.

And here's how the slide-o-rama works, as gleaned from various explicatory speeches in tonight's episode:

There may be hundreds, even thousands - oh, OK, zillions - of Earths, all coexisting on the same multidimensional space-time continuum.

So on all these parallel places, it's March 22, 1995, but history is different.

We get a little taste of what it's all about on Mallory's first slide. He lands in a world in which red means go and green means stop, Elvis still headlines in Vegas, vinyl records have defeated CDs in the battle for the nation's ears, the gate on Mallory's picket fence doesn't squeak, and his mom is pregnant with the child of Jake, the gardener.

You return to the "real" world because, before you left, you set the timer on the slide-o-matic central control device, which looks like a TV remote on steroids.

If you happen to land in a really yucky world, where, say it's nuclear winter and a giant polar tornado is about to gobble you up, you can override the timer, but then you don't know where you'll wind up next, and you'll be stuck there until the central control device recharges.

You could plop down in a world where the commies have taken over, The People's Court is just a little different from the one here, and your physics professor's double is a cutthroat commander of the proletariat who must be outsmarted.

As you can see, there are many possibilities for strange adventures in other places, from which our gang will be extracted in the nick of time, and that makes Sliders sort of a Quantum Leap, 90210.

But without the really heavy interpersonal dynamics.

- - -

Created by Robert K. Weiss and Tracy Torme. Executive-produced by Weiss, Leslie Belzberg and John Landis; co-executive-produced by Torme and Jacob Epstein for St. Clare Entertainment. Two-hour pilot airs at 8 tonight on Fox (Channel 29); series assumes its regular 9 p.m. time slot next Wednesday.

The Cast:
Quinn Mallory - Jerry O'Connell
Wade Welles - Sabrina Lloyd
Maximillian Arturo - John Rhys-Davies
Rembrandt Brown - Cleavant Derricks

1995 Knight-Ridder; pi332295

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