April 15, 2012

How do you know the weird low-budget sci-fi show you’re watching was made in Canada in the ’90s? Here, let an expert help you figure it out. And by expert, I mean me. You know it’s true.

  • 1. Everyone’s hair is strangely shaped and oddly sculpted, yet still looks a little wet, because the show was probably shot in Vancouver, where it rains 379 days a year, and there’s sleet on the other three.
  • 2. Everyone’s jeans are baggy and seem to be belted around their bellies, and they’re wearing several suspicious layers of flannel while not appearing to be actual lumberjacks.
  • 3. You recognize that actor from a commercial for coffee, or maybe margarine, or diapers.
  • 4. You recognize that actress from a late-night Call Me, I Want To Chat With You commercial.
  • 5. The special effects look like someone whipped them up on an Amiga in the back of a station wagon parked beside the set.
  • 6. You saw that same set on a totally different show last week, and come to think of it, isn’t that your cousin Kevin’s apartment building in the background on that strange alien parallel world? Kevin calls those late-night Call Me numbers, by the way.
  • 7. The “high-tech weapons” look like Motorola flip phones with calculators glued to them.
  • 8. The opening titles look suspiciously like the ones your local weatherman uses when he tells you it’s going to rain like crazy before the sleet. And then snow.
  • 9. Special Guest Star: Al Waxman.
  • 10. One of the actors is also listed in the credits as key grip and “wig assistant to Mr. Waxman.”

This all occurred to me during a recent sleepless night when I fired up Netflix on the Wii and found old episodes of Sliders, which I remembered as a cool show, and soon learned my memory isn’t as great as it thought I was.

And then I remembered all those sleepless ’90s nights, when the news would end, and Canadian TV would offer us great stuff like Earth:Final Conflict and that show with Hercules in a starship, all shot in Canada on the cheap, like X-Files, only with effects that make The Starlost look high-tech.

I watched every episodes of Earth: Final Conflict, and I still couldn’t tell you what the hell was going on.

But Sliders? Sure, it was cheesy-looking and cheap. But the conceit of it all — exploring alternate histories with a boy genius, a computer geek girl, a pompous professor and, for some reason, a faded Motown star — made it work for the first couple of years, before it remembered it was Canadian and suddenly got complicated and ridiculous.

I was going to watch the whole first season, but then I saw Earth 2 is also available, and since I saw only the pilot of that and nothing else, I want to see how it all ends.

UPDATE: These guys talk about the iffy 80s and nutty 90s every week on this new cool podcast I like.


One comment

  1. Um, I’ve got some bad news for you about Earth 2.

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