Please Press One

"Real human interaction has been on the out for years. Those damn chat rooms, I think." — Arlo

Review by Ibrahim Ng


D
Bad

In many ways, “Please Press One” is a total deconstruction of the Sliders concept. It regurgitates the Sliders trope where the cast topples an oppressive regime — only this time it’s an empty rehash where every ounce of social commentary, excitement, characterization, humor, or charm have been subtracted, leaving behind an empty echo of something better.

Which is a shame, since the premise is sound. Maggie gets stuck in the customer service experience from hell on a world where one monolithic company controls almost every level of human interaction. Data Universal dominates the world’s food, shelter, and clothing, making such items available only through mandatory credit plans. Maggie’s locked up in a cell and faced with a cheerfully unhelpful (and bipolar) customer service representative… all for attempting to use cash.

Maggie’s confrontation with relentless bureaucracy is terrific, but the episode quickly abandons any further world building in favor of filming cheap action sequences and portraying Data Universal as just another generic evil corporation that does evil things because it can. Instead of seeing Maggie exploring how a faceless retail culture has overwhelmed this world, she runs down corridors and blows up doors while the other Sliders try to rescue her. Isolated to these dull hallways, the action’s small-scale at best; Maggie looks particularly ridiculous running from the deadly menace of a remote controlled toy car that shoots lasers. The classic Sliders formula is here but no content has been added. The episode has no interest in defining Data Universal beyond the vaguest terms and these sequences have all the excitement of a jogging video played at half-speed.

The best episodes of Sliders feature guest characters who add depth and insight to parallel worlds. Here we’re treated to roles that actually drain plausibility from the surroundings with every scene they’re in. 5579-A (Maury Ginsburg) is an intriguing artificial intelligence: the face of Maggie’s customer service experience, who demands precise information and identification, but with pleasantries and voiced concern to soften the intrusiveness of Data Universal. But little about 5579-A withstands scrutiny: in some scenes, he’s played as a computer program executing his function and becoming sinister when Maggie’s lack of credit history is discovered. Then it turns out he has a personality and feels friendship towards Maggie — in which case, it’s not clear whether his more antagonistic behavior is part of that personality or programming he can’t override. The script raises these questions but never addresses them. 5579-A behaves as each scene requires him to: alternatively friendly or malicious, until it’s impossible to ignore that 5579-A is simply the function of a formulaic plot.

And then there’s Arlo (J.D. Cullum), the homeless man Rembrandt, Diana and Mallory stumble across. Fortunately, this chance encounter used to have a high position in Data Universal, has codes to get into any Data Universal facility, and has all the access needed to defeat and control the corporation. It’s a good thing Arlo prefers wandering the streets in rags and looking to become a plot device instead of using any of the resources at his disposal!

With so little story, the regular characters find themselves tugged back and forth to stretch things out. Maggie, held captive by 5579-A, is at first openly resistant. She rants about how she’s constantly being captured and threatened by parallel cultures and she’s fed up with it. Then she submits to the customer service process anyway. There’s no greater purpose to her defiance, it just fills a scene with dialogue. Then there’s Rembrandt. After Mallory has successfully hijacked and hot-wired a van to use for rescuing Maggie, Rembrandt proceeds to show his appreciation by chastising Mallory for having a criminal past. Coming from a guy who routinely raids his doubles’ bank accounts, that means a lot.

This scene is as close to characterization as “Please Press One” gets, and all it can offer is an interpersonal exchange that doesn’t affect the story and isn’t remotely relevant to the themes and issues raised by the plot. Eventually, the episode lumbers to a ludicrous ending where Maggie is rescued and declares that the Sliders have accomplished a great deal. At the very least, some general contractors will have some work patching and painting the low-budget halls of Data Universal.

By the end, “Please Press One” has completely reduced the Sliders formula to the most basic elements. It has taken every almost every element of the traditional Sliders plot — dystopian regimes, the Sliders randomly encountering well-connected people, victory over establishment agencies
— and it has presented them without substance, without ideas, without insight, without any purpose or deeper meaning beyond fulfilling the basic requirements of the plot.

“Please Press One” lays Sliders bare, and for that, it can have one-star.

 

 

 

Previously: Next:

9 responses to “Review: Please Press One”

  1. Ian says:

    Hey, but at least it gave us the shot of Mallory jumping on the Van for the Credits!

  2. pete5125 says:

    The behind the scenes segment is pretty funny where he has one thing in the script and then he gets to the set to see it in action and then just scratches his head, and writes about it as being no big deal especially the little trash can computer chasing Maggie, you had to wonder why she couldn’t just kick it over….oh well…this episode was bad but still isn’t in the worst of Sliders lot.

    It somehow managed not to be boring, but it was “Full House” level cheesy at the same time, it did have a funny scene of Maggie’s double, and if you don’t think that we are on the way to something similar happening then I guess you’ve never used Amazon, plus with every retailer making you have a card just to shop I’m sure it is heading in that direction…the computer friend “GUY” was a little over the top, but so was the random homeless guy who just happened to be their with everything they needed, oh well I guess after “Chasm” and “Data World” oh and I forgot last weeks “The Great Work” they figure that anything else will be better…I don’t know now that I think about it this episode sucks just as much as those others did….and I mean they have to know this is it these are the last episodes…
    Would it be so hard..to spend the 18 well now we have 12 left and answer some of the 20 or so lose pot threads from over the last 4 and 1/2 seasons…you could of done a Logan St.Clare episode the actress couldn’t of been in that high of demand at the time, an episode explaining why in the heck Mallory and Diana continue putting their life in danger as far as they know the Dr. Geiger problem is solved and our Quinn is gone, and even if their is the slightest chance to separate our Quinn from Mallory their original Earth and the Earth from the world Dianna screwed up are the only 2 to have the proper equipment, and her earth would be the best one since she has clearance and could get things done, plus they have that freeze gun to freeze the timer just in case she gets their and decides that randomly sliding from one world to the next is a great way to find a way to separate the Quinns…plus that world seems to have futuristic tech…maybe they could help Rembrandt find a solution to kill the Kromaggs

  3. Chris Zunis says:

    Actually we find out a good reason for why Mallory and Diana can’t just go home. I won’t spoil it.

    edit: Actually never mind I think there is a hole to what I am thinking of. But I can’t discuss it until we get to the episode.

    • pete5125 says:

      Well I believe that their is a reason but it doesn’t happen till near the end of the series, up until makes very little sense for them to continue to risk their lives sliding with no pay off in sight, especially knowing that Diana’s world has better tools and understanding of the world of sliding plus has that zapper that can stop time

      • Joe Hawkins says:

        You have a good point about why not return to Diana And Mallory’s world. They could have set the coordinates and returned after one or two slides and maybe with a few days or weeks before the timer ran down, they would have had time to undo what Geiger had done.
        I have been racking my brain over this since the end of “The Unstuck Man”.

        • pete5125 says:

          Plus they had the freeze gun machine, so they could actually of slid a few worlds, found out that sliding randomly didn’t work, back-track to Dianna and Mallory’s world, then froze the timer giving them all the time they needed to solve the problem, every episode their after, could be Dianna thinking she solved the problem the Sliders could slide to new world and return putting timer back on freeze on Dianna’s home world, this would solve the standing set problem…and make for a better show, knowing that they need to get back to her homeworld for supplies etc.

  4. hypnotoad72 says:

    I loved the episode – until the final act. Everything is wrapped up way too conveniently, and would there really be no security? (yes, the program self-regulates… yet the 5579-A computer-generated dude somehow manages to be able to rebel along with the real humans. Yeah, right…)

    And why the system would allow Maggie to buy those special items and all at once… (maybe its database wasn’t heuristic, with various component qualifiers to denote potential uses… something anyone could program – now or then…)

    Otherwise, it’s ahead of its time as it even delves into a “cashless society”, something that is starting to be talked about only now. Not to mention a monopoly, but this is a monopoly taken to an extreme level – something I wouldn’t be surprised if it happened in real life in the future as well…

  5. NDJ says:

    That freeze thing does not freeze the timer.

Join the conversation