(Re-)Make This TV Show: Sliders (Re-)Make This TV Show: Sliders
Derek B. Gayle makes the case for why he'd like to see a TV remake of the 90s sci-fi show Sliders. (Re-)Make This TV Show: Sliders

Most of the time, remakes of any kind are met with either “ugh” or “eh.” There are certainly some exciting projects that work, but they tend to fail more often than not. Nobody asked for a remake of The Munsters, but apparently we’re getting it anyway. So why not try out a show that would actually benefit from the remake treatment? For Make This TV Show this time around, let’s consider remaking a mostly forgotten staple of 90s sci-fi, Sliders.

Not to be confused with those tiny burgers, Sliders ran for five seasons, originally on FOX before moving to what was then Sci-Fi Channel. The main concept of the show is parallel universes—our main character, a nerdy physics genius, invents a device to “slide” through a wormhole into a different dimension. Of course, a series of mishaps causes him, his best friend, his college professor, and an unfortunate passerby to get lost in the multiverse after they lose the coordinates to their own Earth.  The rest of the show follows the group’s exploits, as they randomly slide world-to-world hoping they’ll find a way home, all the while growing as a close-knit family of misfits. Its revolving cast featured renowned actor John Rhys-Davies and would-be star Jerry O’Connell (coincidentally slated to star in the aforementioned The Munsters remake) among others.

The concept is ingenious and full of possibilities from the get-go; the different universes could provide stories ranging from political satire (a world where the Soviet Union rules America) to social commentary (a world where men are second-class citizens to women) to hard science fiction (a world where time flows in the opposite direction.) There’s even an opportunity for in-depth character studies as our sliders meet their parallel doubles—after all, how would you react if you actually saw “what could have been” in your own life? What if your alternate self became a terrible person just because of a few different choices? Or if the values and societal structures you lived by are totally dismantled on a weekly basis?

However, the show was riddled with production problems, disagreements that caused many ugly cast and crew departures, not to mention the notorious executive meddling that took place (I suggest you check out Dimension of Continuity and Earth Prime for the stories—they’re nuts.) Aside from a handful of gems, the last two and a half seasons are more or less reviled in the small but active fanbase. The behind-the-scenes issues ultimately resulted in the show quickly devolving from smart and quirky satirical sci-fi into generic action-fantasy, complete with personality-less “hot chicks of the week,” cheap robots and lasers, and lots of unnecessary guns. There were shades of brilliance here and there, but the uneven and ill-timed execution meant the level of depth I listed before was rare.

Why would its failings make it perfect for a remake? Well, many remakes mistakenly try to “improve” on the very elements of a show that don’t need improving. Sliders would work perfectly because a whole lot of it can be improved; its great concept only failed because of poor execution, leaving tons of untapped potential to explore the characters, history, and social commentary the original failed to touch on. Additionally, many good things the original show did try to do were ahead of its time. Keeping tight continuity, having recurring actors, and serializing some bigger stories were things the network rejected in the early seasons, but are widely-accepted nowadays.

While Sliders hasn’t exactly remained in the mainstream consciousness, it hasn’t been totally forgotten; it was featured alongside Firefly and Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles in FOX’s 25th Anniversary sci-fi montage, after all. And let’s not forget that it got record ratings for Sci-Fi at the time during season 4. There’s enough vague nostalgia to get audiences interested, but sticking to the source material wouldn’t be a big issue. Half the fans don’t remember details, and the other half don’t particularly like much of what was in the source material, so there’s lots of room to branch out and bend the rules. The original series could be a test run, allowing writers to play with the stories that worked while staying far away from the stuff that we now know sank the show.

The science could also be tweaked a bit based on new theories about the multiverse that have been developed in the last decade. The basic character concepts could be reimagined and still work, too. One fan, for example, suggested Supernatural‘s Jim Beaver as Professor Arturo—a totally different creative flavor than the original stuffy Englishman, but one that could retain Arturo’s important character beats (and imagine hearing Beaver say “Blistering Idjits!”)  As long as we retain the iconic elements like the vortex and the timer, plus the growing family dynamic, the show can still be Sliders. Even the season 3-era vortex still looks really cool even fifteen years later, so recreating the effects would be relatively cheap.

Bryan Fuller, who’s managing The Munsters remake, would actually be a good fit as showrunner; he has a good eye for both dramatic science fiction (Heroes) and quirky satire (Pushing Daisies). Or perhaps Andrew Crosby or Jaime Paglia, who mixed theoretical science with strong characters and lighthearted adventure in Eureka. Either way, Sliders should be a smart and fun show, but with the potential to go to both dark and comical places, not unlike its comparative show Quantum Leap. It would probably only thrive on cable, though it could be a sleeper hit akin to Grimm on a network like NBC if it plays its cards right. It could easily be successful with the kind of audience that enjoys quirky shows like The Big Bang Theory or Chuck, and could sustain an audience across various genres, not to mention the potential for a very long life without running out of ideas —something many networks are looking for.

What would you want to see in a Sliders remake? Or are there other shows that would benefit from the remake treatment?

Derek B. Gayle

Derek B. Gayle is a Virginia native with a BS in English, Journalism and Film from Randolph-Macon College. In addition to being an avid Power Rangers and genre TV fanatic, he also currently co-produces, writes and performs in local theatre, and critically reviews old kids' cartoons. You can check out his portfolio here.