Easy Slider

“What’s a Humvee?” — Diana.

Review by Matt Hutaff


C
Average

Easy SliderCan I tell you a secret?

I kind of like “Easy Slider.”

Sure, it’s a dumb hour of television and one of the weaker Sliders episodes produced. It won’t win a Hugo award, redefine the genre, or make Robert Floyd a household name. But “Easy Slider” is an enjoyable, stupid romp, and I feel the rush to judgment by fans oversimplified and unwarranted.

“Easy Slider” is guilty of one thing – being brain-farted into existence by executive consultant David Peckinpah. “I see Kari in tight leathers with motorcycles,” he pitched. “Now go with it.”

So they did. God bless ‘em, Bill Dial and his motley crew took that edict and transformed it into an escapade where Mallory joins a biker gang and gets laid, an episode stripped of subtlety, subtext, and idiosyncrasy.

Easy SliderThey built a society where outlaws settle their differences with bike jousts. They wrote a scene where a Smoker – someone continuing to use banned internal combustion engines – has a leisurely public conversation about their renegade status while standing next to a contraband motorcycle. This created a world where the Air Quality Management District – a regional Southern California office – burns American citizens to death and strings them up as a warning to gasoline thieves.

Not enough for you? We’re also treated to numerous scenes of nameless bikers driving around the Universal backlot and some oddly disquieting polygamous sex scenes. It’s like, for one week, Sliders production went off their meds and crammed every weird trope or bad idea a writer could have into 44 minutes of screen time. Just to see what would happen.

Easy SliderThis is the end result. It is pure madness. And it is way more entertaining than it has any right to be. It’s certainly a better way to spend your afternoon than watching Time Again and World.

Look, I’m at a point as a fan where I’m no longer expecting Shakespeare. I have been to the mountain, I have pulled the rose-colored glasses off, and I can see things for what they really are. This is the fifth season of Sliders; I just want to be entertained. “Easy Slider” delivers.

Many “classic” episodes are remembered fondly despite being as bad – or worse – than what’s delivered today. But because they were produced in the first two seasons, involve the original cast, or have one truly memorable scene amidst a script filled with inconsistencies, they get a pass. That doesn’t change the fact that Time Again and World was a piece of shit, even if it looked terrific and had some cool music. It is an unwatchable mess, and I hate it.

There are so many episodes that tried to do something gimmicky or high-concept, only to fall flat. We watched a living flame slide with our people, saw a crazy British colonel shapeshift with the help of brain fluid, and scratched our head over magnetic tornadoes. In the canon of this series, there’s a world out there where a man can turn into a dragon and another where one thousand humanoid robots killed every human being on the planet.

Easy Slider“Easy Slider” drops all that nonsense and embraces a reality where people who want to stretch their legs and hit the road cannot. So they fight for that right. (And party!) The Sliders get caught up in the middle of it for a couple days, and when their time’s up, they leave. There’s nothing earth-shattering at stake, just a few rounds of beer at the local watering hole and a quick fling with a local. It, like the amazing middle story of As Time Goes By, is what you’d expect happens between episodes.

The success of this episode rests heavily on Floyd’s and Lisa Akey’s shoulders. As Sam, the leader of the Smokers, Akey brings a believable dose of grungy sexuality to the part. You can see why Mallory’s so attracted to her; Sam exudes a charisma and confidence we haven’t seen in a female on this show in a long time. Given the amount of screen time Sam has, a lesser actor would have been in much bigger trouble.

Easy SliderI also buy Mallory’s horndog approach to sliding. The guy meets a girl who’s as big a flirt as him and works his angles; what’s wrong with that? Rembrandt did the same thing on countless worlds; even Maggie tried to seduce whats-his-name in “Slither.” It’s a bit much for Mallory to quit sliding to stay here, but considering he really has nothing personally invested in continuing to slide (Quinn’s gone as far as he’s concerned), he might as well stick with a world he can identify with.

Yes, there is a ton of forced plotting to make this story work. Yes, there are gaps in logic. But so help me, there’s an aloofness at play here that I can’t dismiss. Maybe it’s Peckinpah’s direction, the little visual cues (“1 Day Since Last Accident”), or the familiar bit roles. Maybe it’s Mallory’s mortified reaction to Sam’s gaggle of husbands that does it for me. I can’t quite pin it down. I just know I like it.

Easy SliderYou might think this is another gag review on par with The Breeder or Mother and Child. It isn’t. I really do like this episode, certainly more than others. Unlike the self-important character examination in Strangers and Comrades or by-the-numbers adventuring in The Java Jive, “Easy Slider” got me worked up. It made me feel something, even if that feeling is in the pit of my stomach.

Someone tuning in to the pilot on March 22, 1995 might get the bends if they were to immediately skip ahead to “Easy Slider.” I totally understand that, and I understand why fans were outraged the resources of a production like Sliders were pissed away on such a superfluous outing. But take a look back at the past five years. With bullets like El Sid, Dragonslide, and The Chasm chambered, haven’t we been doing that all along?

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2 responses to “Review: Easy Slider”

  1. Travis Else says:

    I think it’s interesting you brought up SLITHER, because I think there IS a parallel there. Mallory here is just as annoying and idiotic as Maggie was in that episode. And Maggie is saying how Mallory has “a lot of growing up to do” here. So you could say that this is to show how much Maggie has grown, which I like. But I’m sorry, overall I think this my least favorite episode of the season…if not of the last couple seasons.

    There are some positives: I thought the world was cool, there were some ideas here. The motorcycle jousting was well done for a low budget show. But, unfortunately, Mallory was just too stupid for me here. Maybe if this was an early season 5 episode I could have been okay with this as a learning experience for Mallory, but we are over half way through the season. He should be smarter than to hop into bed with a strange girl in a universe he doesn’t understand. In HEAVY METAL, Maggie has a romantic relationship, but it is much more mature than this. Everything that came out of Mallory’s mouth in this episode, other than the “I feel like I’ve known you for hours” line, was cringe-inducing. But that’s just my opinion.

    To be clear, I’m not expecting Shakespeare either, but I do want the characters to not be idiots. They are the reason I love this show. Mallory is the most inconsistent character, sometimes I like him, sometimes I can’t stand him. In this episode….yeah, can’t stand him! It makes all the difference in the world.

  2. Joe Hawkins says:

    Good review Matt. I missed this episode during the initial run and just watched it a couple of months ago. It was so trashed by the fan community back in 1999 and even today but to borrow your phrase: “here’s a secret: I like Easy Slider”.
    Sam is hot and Lisa Akey does a great job with the role. I actually enjoyed the scene when Mallory learns that the love of his life has four husbands! I love it. I also noted how Diana was more broken up about his leaving the group as we begin to see a comman thread between the Season 5 Sliders: Diana and Mallory stay bonded and are obviously closer having known each other prior to Sliding, while Remmy and Maggie hang together.
    It was good to see another Slider get laid besides Rembrandt…
    This was not the worst episode of Season 5, not by a long shot (The Great Work, Java Jive, and Map of the Mind are much much worst) and it is a fun 45 minutes of television. Is it stupid, sure it’s stupid and dumb but still more watchable than some of the crap Josef Anderson and Nan Hagan spat out in Season 3.

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