Sci-fi 'Sliders' makes its way back into the Fox universe
June 13, 1996
USA Today; pp 03D
By Jefferson Graham

Sliders has been sliding on and off Fox's prime-time schedule for some time.

The show about four people who move into alternate universes each week premiered midseason last year but wasn't renewed for the fall '95 lineup.

A few weeks later, Fox quietly ordered new episodes. It sneaked back into the lineup this spring without much hoopla, staying on the air for a few weeks, then dropping off and popping back on.

During this time, the network devoted much of its on-air promotions to another fantasy series, the big-budget Space: Above and Beyond.

But while Space fizzled, Sliders rallied, says Fox executive vice president Bob Greenblatt.

"Sliders is a show that came on strong, then dipped a bit, and then it really broke out," he says. "By the end of the May sweeps, it was No. 1 in our core demographic (adults 18-49) for the (Friday-at- 8 ET/PT) time slot."

So Fox renewed the series for next season; over the next five weeks, two new episodes and three reruns will air.

Fox did insist that an additional executive producer be brought in to beef up the writing. David Peckinpah, formerly of Silk Stalkings, has joined Tracy Torme (who created the series with Robert Weiss) and Alan Barnette.

And next season, production moves from Vancouver, British Columbia, to Universal Studios in Hollywood.

"The show won't be so rainy and snowy anymore,'' Greenblatt says. ``Instead, it will be sunny and bright. If any show was ever meant for a movie studio backlot (since the characters slide into alternate universes), it's Sliders.''The status of Slider John Rhys-Davies is up in the air; the actor has said that he might not want to return next season. If Rhys-Davies decides to move, Torme says he will find a way to return the character home as well as introduce a new member of the team, which includes Cleavant Derricks, Sabrina Lloyd and Jerry O'Connell.

In late July, Sliders will end its season with a cliffhanger that deposits its heroes into the middle of an alien invasion of an alternate earth. Torme hopes the aliens can return next season and become for Sliders what the Klingons are for the Star Trek series -- great villains.

"This season we were more character-driven and did more personal stories,'' Torme says. ``Next season we want to be more expansive and mind-bending and have story arcs that run over several weeks.' '

Like The X-Files, Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman and other shows in the fantasy genre, Sliders has developed a loyal following in cyberspace, and off-shoot products such as comic books and novels have just been released.

"The best thing that's happened is that the people who like the show aren't casual viewers,'' Torme says. "To have people watch you so closely is great."

Torme's dad, musical legend Mel Torme, did a guest spot on the show recently, a consequence of an Internet encounter. Mel was in a chat session on America Online when someone asked if he would consider appearing in an episode of Sliders.

Father told son about it later, and ``we waited all year to find the right vehicle,'' says Tracy. ``I figured, why not take full advantage of the concept and have Mel play himself in another world with a twist. ''

Son had Dad playing a Bible-quoting country singer who crooned the inspirational ditty Praying to Jesus, which Tracy penned.

"Dad hates country music and he's non-religious,'' Torme says. ``I made him everything he hates, and that was a lot of fun.''

And in case you're wondering, Tracy also sings. "But only in the shower."

1996, USA TODAY, a division of Gannett Co., Inc. ut61396

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