For a couple of years, "Sliders" made some fantastic voyages.
This group of travelers hopping from one parallel Earth to another encountered a everything from world communism to dinosaurs to vampires to frozen wastelands to dead planets to Elvis in his 60s.As for "Sliders" itself, the show morphed more than once as Fox tried to turn it into a hit. The tone changed, the emphasis changed, the cast changed.
All of that is happening once again, along with perhaps the biggest change of all - "Sliders" has moved from Fox to cable's Sci-Fi Channel, with brand-new episodes beginning Monday at 7 p.m.
"Sliders," began with an intriguing premise - young genius Quinn (Jerry O'Connell) developed technology that allowed him to "slide" between various parallel Earths, to different universes in which Earth history is skewed.
It was a fun, adventurous little show. That is, until the executives at Fox decided to try to make it more compatible with "The X-Files" and "Millennium" and turned "Sliders" into a creature-of-the-week horror series.
O'Connell, for one, is glad to put that behind the show. And he professes to be happy "Sliders" is no longer on Fox because on a broadcast network "you really can't get as freaky as one would like on a sci-fi show.
"But when you're on the Sci-Fi Channel, you can pretty much get down and dirty. It's really a much more cerebral, sci-fi oriented show and it's a lot more fun to work on."
O'Connell - who is also now a producer on the series - isn't talking about adult-oriented content.
"It's not sexier. It's more sci-fi, more intelligent and more downright freaky," he said.
And it's certainly a departure. Previously, "Sliders" was about trying to get back to our universe - Earth Prime. (Quinn's technology was damaged in the pilot episode and the sliders had been searching for home ever since.)
In Monday's episode, Quinn and Co. make it home only to discover that the evil Kromaggs (a warlike race from a different dimension) have taken over. Not only that, but Quinn learns that he isn't actually from Earth Prime, that his real parents have developed a weapon that will defeat the Kromaggs, and that he has a brother on yet another parallel Earth.
"What a coincidence - in real life (Jerry O'Connell) has a brother!" quipped executive producer David Peckinpah.
And Jerry's brother, Charlie, joins the "Sliders" cast next week as Quinn's brother, Colin. If that's nepotism, nobody is apologizing for it.
"In all honesty, my brother graduated from New York University's Tisch School of the Arts and he's a phenomenal actor," Jerry said. "He's physically got a great presence and when I was thrown the producing bone, which was very nice . . . I jumped at the chance" to bring Charlie aboard.
Charlie's character, Colin, grew up on an Earth populated by people who shun technology. He's amazed and confused by modern conveniences - things like telephones, let alone sliding - adding a humorous element to the show.
And both Kari Wuhrer and Cleavant Derricks - the other two cast members - say they love having another O'Connell around.
"He's got this instinct for comedy, which is rounding out the show a little. And he's the less-jaded version of Jerry," Wuher said with a laugh.
As for Jerry, he said, "There's nothing better than working with your sibling. I've never had so much fun. It's like we're playing downstairs, and we can make as much noise as we want without our parents going, `Would you shut up down there?' "
But Jerry is not only a producer on "Sliders" this season - he's also directing several episodes. "That's a little tricky because we'll be on set, and I'll say, `Charlie, Charlie, Charlie - do it like this.' And he'll say, `Wait a minute. Don't tell me what to do.'
"And I'll go, `Wait a minute. I'm directing you. You're supposed to do what I tell you.' We've had a couple wrassling matches on set."
OF HER OWN VOLITION: The addition of Charlie O'Connell coincides with the departure of Sabrina Lloyd (Wade).
"Contrary to popular belief, Sabrina Lloyd made the decision not to come back to the show and (her character) is now in a Kromagg breeding camp where they're doing cross-species replications," Peckinpah said. "There's a chance that she will return to the show. Hopefully, we'll be able to do an episode that she would be interested in coming back for."
DOING MORE WITH LESS: "Sliders' " switch from from Fox to Sci-Fi wasn't entirely unexpected - Universal Television (now Studios USA) produces the series and owns the cable network.
One inescapable result of such a move, however, is that the show is produced more cheaply.
"We've reduced the budget by probably 40 percent of what we were last year," said Peckinpah. "We're doing the show on time and on budget, which is the way television should be done. And if people can't do it that way, they shouldn't be doing it. Because there is so much waste in this business that it's criminal."
Wuhrer even makes a case that fewer computer-generated special effects make for a better show.
"Instead of seeing a bunch of computer effects that sometimes take you out of the story . . . we're dealing mostly now with human situations and characters," she said. "It's like how sci-fi used to be before we had all kinds of crazy computer stuff."