Sliders – Season 1 & 2

Sliders CastFor those of you who don’t know Sliders was a sci-fi TV show on FOX where Quinn (played by Jerry O’Connell) discovers a way to travel to alternate earths. He calls this form traveling a “slide”, hence the name of the show. Quinn takes his friend Wade (Sabrina Lloyd), his college professor Arturo (John Rhys-Davies), and by accident singer Rembrandt Brown (Cleavant Derricks) on their first slide landing them Russian controlled America.

Slides like this continue and the group goes from excited curiosity to longing for their original home world. The viewer also finds the novelty of different worlds starts to wear off after a handful of episodes. It is still interesting that they can travel to these new worlds, but ultimately story lines get repeated and in many cases are annoyingly predictable.

Someone (usually Quinn) ends up getting involved in the alternate world’s events putting all the slider’s in danger. At the end of each episode they discuss how they shouldn’t get involved only to land in a new world on the next slide where they just can’t resist. After sliding the 30+ times you would think they would mind their own business after near death, imprisonment, and bodily harm, but no they just keep meddling.

If that wasn’t bad enough Professor Arturo, Wade, or Quinn insist on using their home world’s rules, rights, and freedoms as standards for every new world they slide to. The result is Arturo insulting authorities, Wade breaking laws, and Quinn slugging gang leaders over girls he’ll never see again after as little as a fifteen minutes. Rembrandt seems to be the only character with any common sense as he continually asks why the sliders can’t just mind their own business.

In after-school-special like quality the sliders will often try to convince other world’s people of how wrong they are living their lives. Most notably The Good the Bad and the Wealthy where Quinn makes a ridiculously short speech deploring the use of guns to solve conflicts. Immediately following, and incredibly unbelievably, the people surrounding him nod and realize the error of their ways. This type of pretentious nonsense is repeated in several other episodes, yet when the writers have an opportunity to make real and insightful cultural, political, or social comments like in As Time Goes By where Mexico is trying to keep American immigrants out of their land they brush over the topic, using it as a gimmick and nothing more.Kromaggs

Clearly desperate for some sort of ongoing story line that would extend beyond one world the writers came up with Invasion where the sliders run into the Kromaggs; creatures that evolved on an alternate earth instead of humans. The Kromaggs have discovered sliding and have been invading alternate earths in an effort to destroy all humans. Not only are the special effects and makeup terrible, but the story is unoriginal and predictable. Also the Kromaggs wear uniforms that look like a cheap ripoff from Star Trek.

The final episode of season two, As Time Goes By, completely ignores the Kromagg threat only to introduce a new threat: altering the fabric of time. As Arturo explains: Quinn, by altering the future, has caused a rift in time. This after the entire group has altered the future in nearly every world they land on. Just now it is a problem? This is insulting to the viewer, and a poor reason for stopping Quinn (or anyone else) from interfering with past acquaintances. They slide away after they see the sky literally split apart and Rembrandt asks Quinn, mockingly, if he would like to try altering the future again. Quinn grimaces, mirroring the audience, as we realize the fun being sucked out in the last show of the last decent season.

Traveler vs. 24

TravelerTraveler on ABC has a lot in common with FOX’s 24.  Both shows are about terrorists, national security, and tracking down the bad guys.  They both play off viewer’s fear of past and future terrorist attack and feature well connected bad guys, dedicated federal agents working to try and make America safe.  On Traveler, however, the viewer is sympathetic to the suspects.  We watch as the alleged terrorists, Jay Burchell and Tyler Fog, escape the FBI and Homeland Security show after show.  At the same time, in 24, you follow Jack Bauer who tortures and kills his way through suspect after suspect in the name of national security.

In 24 they setup situations where many people could die if Jack doesn’t use any means necessary to get the secret location of the bomb.  Viewers naturally side with Jack Bauer because who wants to see Big City USA get blown up because Jack followed the law?  Jack is always right, he always knows what he is doing, he always knows who the bad people are and nothing is going to stop him from protecting America, including the law.

In Traveler the FBI and Home Land security are just as convinced about Jay and Tyler’s guilt.  These are two scumbags who blew up a crowded museum killing scores of people to forward their radical political agenda, and potentially plan to kill again.  The twist here is the audience knows Jay and Tyler are innocent; they’ve been framed.  You naturally root for them to escape arrest because it would surely mean they would end up in jail or worse-never able to prove their innocence.  Jay and Tyler work to solve the crime on their own while the FBI and HS focus on their capture.  If they get arrested the bombers get away.Jack Bauer

Two TV shows about terrorism with viewers split between rooting for the authorities no matter what the cost on 24, and rooting for the wrongly accused terrorists on Traveler.  Are there any 24 fans watching Traveler?  If so, how can they watch as Jack Bauer pummels a suspect into unconsciousness and not wonder “Maybe Jack’s not right about this one.”  I mean the FBI agent in charge in Traveler seems just as sure of Jay and Tyler’s guilt, and we know he’s wrong.  Could Jack be wrong?  If so, does the murder and torture he commits still seem acceptable?

I think you have to decide that for yourself, but in the meantime maybe there can be a cross-show promotion: Jay and Tyler hunted down by Jack Bauer and “interrogated” until they gave up their next bomb target.  Jack frustrated with their insistence of innocence resorts to more serious methods and Jay eventually gives up the Sears Tower as a target just to make Jack stop but only after Tyler has already slipped into a coma.  Think of the ratings!