Skin & Bones
E.T. High: Roswell
Written by James Koonce,
October 7th, 1999
High school is hard. Just ask Max Evans (Jason Behr) - like every other kid, he's got midterms to worry about, popularity issues, and a new girl he's in pretty deep like with. Of course, unlike most high school students, Max is also from outer space. On Roswell, the new drama series from the WB, high school and science fiction collide. Humans rub shoulders with little green men, aliens become partners with alienation, and the whole thing is set against the dusty backdrop of the first purported extraterrestrial crash landing fifty-two years ago in the middle of the New Mexico desert.
Since the crash when they were mere children (their kind age more slowly than human folk, accounting for their high school appearances), Max and his two fellow UFO-riding compadres have clung together, their only remaining allies following the alien diaspora. And they've actually managed to assimilate pretty well; they've slipped under the radar of the locals in Roswell, living a low-key existence, desperate to find out what happened half a century ago while keeping their presence as mum as possible. But now it's Crash Anniversary time, and freaks are coming out of the woodwork. Armchair conspiracy buffs and full-on weirdos the world over are making the pilgrimage to the interplanetary point of contact, and needless to say, it's a little tougher for the non-natives to hide. Even tougher when Max blows their cover. While at a diner, teenaged waitress and fellow West Roswell High student Liz Parker (Shiri Appleby) takes a stray bullet fired during an argument between two visiting patrons. Death is certain for lovely Liz, but breaking every code he and his brethren have sworn to live by, Max uses his alien powers to save her, drawing the bullet from her abdomen and out of harm's way. But he leaves behind a telltale mark - a silver handprint. And now everyone in Roswell knows what they've suspected all along . We are not alone.
Of course that's just what Max's friends never wanted to have happen. But it doesn't stop there - Max further attracts the attention of the local sheriff (William Sadler), whose son coincidentally happens to be Liz's ersatz boyfriend, who's seen the silver handprint, and seen Max with Liz. Not knowing all the facts, but still thirsty for an alien auto-da-fe, the sheriff puts the squeeze on Max - how much does he know about what's going on? For the others, it's time to fly. But Max recognizes the value of standing their ground - if they leave, they prove everyone right, and their lives will never be the same. But if they stay and weather the storm, they have a chance of survival.
Liz, naturally, wants some answers. She knows she was shot, yet somehow she didn't die. And she knows Max was responsible. Backed into a corner, he levels with her: let's just say he's not from around these parts. Fortunately, Liz isn't an ordinary high school girl, she's… different. (As Lou Grant would say, she's got spunk.) Max finds he can trust her. Together they organize a plan to divert the attentions of the increasingly paranoid Sheriff, culminating in a climax at the trippy Crash Festival. But they know it's only a matter of time before he'll be back.
Based on a series of young adult novels, Roswell was created by Jason Katims (who also created the short-lived Gen-X series Relativity) and David Nutter (late of FOX's The X-Files). Both know their respective territories pretty well, and it turns out that teen angst and creepy not-of-this-world science fiction aren't the strange bedfellows one might think. The pilot crackles with intelligence; the teen characters are realistic in a way the kids on Dawson's Creek will never be, yet at the same time they can rise to the challenges before them with adult-like seriousness. Appleby in particular stands out among the cast. It's clear that Liz is intrigued by this new wrinkle in her relationship with Max, but she's not buying everything wholesale. She's curious and wants to know the truth, but she's still a young girl. And Max, at once grateful to have someone to open up to and fearful that he's endangering his precarious way of life, finds in her a kind of delicate soulmate. Their time onscreen is what makes the show come alive. Being chased by sheriffs and suspected of alien origins is certainly what makes the show go forward, but the core remains the bond growing between these two.
How long the stories can remain interesting will be the real question; even The X-Files takes a break from Mulder's sober quest for close encounters once in awhile. But fortunately for this show, it has a deep reservoir of high school life to draw from in order to keep it going: proms, finals, SAT's. Can't you just see it? MTV's Spring Break Roswell: Alien Getaway.
Now that's creepy.
by Michael Doran
webdate: 10/8/99 10:21:14 AM
Out of the literal horde of new falls shows looking to grab a piece of the highly-coveted teenage demographic (a horde that includes Popular, Angel, Wasteland, Manchester Prep, Jack and Jill and Time of Your Life – a good portion of which will probably be cancelled in the time it takes you to read the list aloud), the new WB drama Roswell? stands out for having the most intriguing, if not blatantly derivative high concept. The show, about teenage survivors of the infamous 1947 UFO crash in the small town of Roswell, New Mexico, has been often referred to in the press as “Dawson’s Creek meets The X-Files”. But that description really doesn’t fit.
Despite the requisite Dawson’s-esque pop music soundtrack and hip pop culture teenspeak references and a rather somber and edgy X-Files-like atmosphere, the show, based on author Melinda Meltz’s book series Roswell High, more closely resembles My So-Called Life meets Beauty and the Beast with a little My Favorite Martian thrown into the mix.
Shiri Appleby stars as Liz Parker, a cute but by TV standards plain Jane-ish teen. She’s probably meant to remind viewers of Katie Holmes but comes off more like the rather uncharasmatic gene-spliced offspring of Shannon Doherty and Rachel of the Real World 3: San Francisco. Liz’s life seems perfectly average which is, of course, a fate worse then death in teenage girl TV fantasyland. She works as a waitress in a local Roswell theme diner the Crashdown Café and has the standard issue ditzy best friend Marie (the so-far annoying Majandra Delfino?), protective and asexual best male friend Alex (Colin Hanks, Tom’s son), and loyal, but unexciting puppy-dog of a boyfriend named Kyle.
The only real excitement in Liz’s life it the possibility that hunky but mysterious local teen dream Max Evans (Jason Behr) is stealing stares at her while he and his friends oddly consume mass quantities of Tabasco sauce over at the Crashdown’s table #5. That is until redneck #1 pulls a .9 on redneck #2 in the heat of an argument and accidentally pops a cap in Liz’s gut. Rushing to her rescue, Max mysteriously heals Liz’s gunshot wound with is bare hands, not only leaving a glow-in the dark hand print on her belly, but forming a very Catherine/Vincent -esque emphatic bond with her in the process. Fast forward a few “what really happened here” moments later, and Max lets Liz in on his secret. He, his free-spirited sister Isabel and their brooding friend Michael (who’s got the worst haircut in the galaxy this side of Kevin Bacon in Footloose) are aliens, who (so far inexplicably) despite being only 16 years old, are the lone survivors of the ’47 spaceship crash.
The three teens don’t know where they came from, only that they have special alien powers which include the ability to rearrange molecular structure, listen to CD’s without the aid of a CD player, heat tacos with their hands and, oh yeah, raise the dead in a pinch. And since their powers and day-glow handprints are the only thing that separates them from humans – that and their previously mentioned affinity for Tabasco – the trio has decided to risk discovery and stay in the only home they’ve every known, i.e., the UFO capital of the world.
Although they’re obsessed with keeping a low-profile, someone should tell them the way they lurk around each other inseparably and ride around town in a Army jeep ain’t exactly text book low-profile. When the local alien-hunting sheriff (Bill Sadler) begins to suspect their identity after the mysterious circumstances involving Liz’s apparent non-shooting, Max and his alien posse are ready to blow town. But let’s face it sci-fi fans, Roswell has a 22-episode commitment from the WB, so all the stops are pulled out to set this puppy up for the ongoing adventures to come.
Max, compelled to stay in town because of his new bond with Liz, convinces Michael and Isabel to stay with him. They all put they’re faith in Liz’s rather hair-brained scheme to throw the sheriff off their trail – a scheme that involves her rather coldhearted manipulation of her boyfriend Kyle, who oh-so-conveniently happens to be the sheriff’s son.
Amazingly, the plan succeeds and the sheriff is now forced to retreat for the moment, the series status quo, or several status quos, are in place. Max, along with his alien pals, must stay one step ahead of this Gladys Kravitz-with-a-badge who remains suspicious of their identities. They also must track down a 4th alien survivor they never even knew existed until now and who also might be a murderer. Liz and Max must deal with their budding teen romance, despite deciding to keep their relationship on a platonic level for now…And they all gotta deal with enough teen angst so as not to lose any of their Dawson’s Creek lead-in share.
If that sounds like a lot for one hour-long weekly show, it is. While one could make the argument that Roswell is ambitious, overextended is probably a better description. The show just has too many elements and too many influences to make good sense out any one of them.
In spite of the rather obvious teen alienation metaphor inherent, the show’s creators have instead made Liz the show’s center, in the mold of My So Called Life’s Angela Chase. Borrowing a narrative device from that short-lived cult favorite, Liz often adds voiceover narration to the storyline, waxing poetic about her new found bond with Max. You know it’s a sad day for the male gender when teenage girls start looking for their fantasy men off of this Earth.
The “aliens staying one step ahead of the authorities” angle has never really been a sustainable concept over the course of a weekly series, and it remains to be seen which plotline, the sci-fi adventure or the soap-ish high school drama, will eventually win out.
Roswell has lots of time to figure it out, and its early problems could be attributed to the awkwardness you sometimes find in series premieres. The show might eventually find its way. If nothing else, it could prove interesting to see how far sci-fans fans are willing to see the genre stretched. One wonders if viewers who wouldn’t be caught dead admitting they watch the weekly trials and tribulations of Dawson, Pacey, Joey and the gang will turn their attention willingly to more of the same so long as the teens are extra-terrestrials.
"Roswell Producers Discover: Aliens are Teenagers!"
by Ariel Penn
webdate: 10/8/99 10:21:14 AM
Finally, we have a refreshing new series that provides a punchline to the famous lament of parents worldwide: "My teenager is an alien!" The producers of Roswell respond with a resounding, "No, your alien is a teenager!"
The premise of Roswell is so hip that it's amazing no one thought of it sooner, especially with all the hoopla over alien conspiracy theories. The show's creators have picked up the real life story of Roswell, New Mexico, where an unidentified flying object crashed outside of town during the 1950's. For years, locals have insisted that the crash involved an alien ship and alien corpses. The writers ask, "What if three children in stasis were aboard the ill-fated craft? What if they came to life in human guise, wandered seemingly abandoned at the side of the road and were found and raised in human families?"
The series premiere picks up with the aliens as teenagers who suddenly find their secret exposed. Max (Jason Behr), a quietly sincere and emotionally lonely alien hunk, decides to save the girl of his dreams, Liz (Shiri Appleby), after she's accidentally shot by some bad guys in the Crash Café where she waits tables. Max heals her bullet wound and leaves her with a harmless, shiny alien handprint solarized over her wound. Unfortunately, the Sheriff's son accidentally sees the handprint on Liz's stomach and an exciting game of cat and mouse ensues between the teens and Sheriff Valenti, played with good guy passion by William Sadler.
Max endures the wrath of his alien comrades, Michael (Brendan Fehr) and Isabel (Katherine Heigl), who are afraid they'll be exploited and held captive by the government if their secret is detected. Isabel, with a wave of her hand, reminds Max that their special powers should be confined to reheating the cheese on their tacos. Cool!
Shiri Appleby as Liz treats us to some subtle, but convincing, acting when the camera catches her reactions as she discovers Max's true status. Appleby is too good. She should patent her "cynical teen turned incredulous believer" attitude.
Some fine ensemble acting occurs while our three alien teens watch a reenactment of the crash of their ship during an annual alien hokum celebration, the Crash Festival. The sadness and aloneness they convey with their quiet stares reveals this to be a show that's more than a high concept.
Roswell's premise is an appealing foundation for an exploration of traditional teen themes of first love, self-esteem, secrecy, and, of course, alienation. Most teenagers feel like aliens, so a series about aliens who are teenagers is right on the mark. Liz comments at one point, "It's so ironic when something like this (first love) finally happened to me, it was with an alien."
Team Roswell should also be congratulated for their fine production values: the beautiful camera work, set design and make up and costuming (the Crash Festival costumes and make up rocked!) Roswell is a stylish show with substance.
Out of this world
By Amy Amatangelo Dishthis.com
"Dawson’s Creek but with aliens."
That’s how my friend described Roswell when she first saw the promotions for it.
The WB has become a one-network production company for churning out the latest teenage stars and hit television shows. And even though the WB is the fifth-placed network, everyone is copying them. NBC has Freaks & Geeks (although the less-than-perfect-looking "Freaks & Geeks" stars probably wouldn’t even be allowed in the WB parking lot). ABC premieres Kevin Williamson’s Wasteland this week, and Fox, the very network on which the WB has modeled its success, has the terribly unentertaining and terribly self-aware Get Real.
And this comes after seasons of the WB trying to clone itself successfully with Felicity and Charmed and unsuccessfully with Hyperion Bay. The WB is copying itself again this season with Popular. (By the way, I like "Popular"; if it can get rid of the multitude of pop-culture references that are already passe by the end of the hour, I think it could be a pretty good show.)
With all the mimicking that’s going on, it would be easy to pass off "Roswell" as simply "'Dawson’s Creek' but with aliens." But that would be a mistake. "Roswell" (premiering Wed., Oct. 6, on the WB at 9 p.m. ET) joins Angel and "Freaks and Geeks" as one of the best new shows of the season.
Roswell tells us that not only is the truth is out there, but this time we’re on the aliens’ side.
Jason Behr stars as Max Evans, one of three teenage aliens who emerged from a pod in 1989 at the age of six. And let me tell you something, if aliens look like Jason Behr, what in the heck have we been so afraid of? Behr, who has done his tour of duty on other WB shows (Buffy the Vampire Slayer and "Dawson’s Creek"), is absolutely adorable and his protruding ears give him just enough alien mystique to make him a credible visitor from another planet.
Borrowing the best pieces of some of television’s most popular shows, "Roswell" is part "Buffy" (the analogy here is that adolescents really are alienated in high school), part "X-Files" (except in "Roswell," Mulder and Scully would be the bad guys) and, yes, part "Dawson’s Creek" (even the aliens have perfect skin and dress in the latest fashions).
Unable to tell even their adoptive parents the truth, Max and his sister Isabel (Katherine Heigl) have lived in anonymity until the day Liz Parker’s imminent death forces Max to risk his life, the life of his sister and the life of his alien friend Michael (the brooding Brendan Fehr). Max has loved Liz Parker (convincingly played by Shiri Appleby) since they were children and Max’s heroic act begins a star-crossed love story to rival both Romeo and Juliet and Buffy and Angel.
The first two episodes nicely set up several key story arcs including the trio’s search for what may be a remaining relative, their need to hide their true identity from the rest of the town, Michael’s horrible home life, and Max and Liz’s romance.
His healing touch gave them a connection that transcends this world. You feel the palpable tension, you want Liz and Max together, but you’ll be willing to wait for their romance to develop.
All members of the supporting cast are strong including Liz’s best friend Maria (Majandra Delfino), who has a whole Molly Ringwald thing going on, and Colin Hanks as Alex, Liz and Maria’s best friend. Alex is continually kept out of the loop (he’s definitely like an early stage Xander Harris).
And yes, Colin Hanks is indeed the son of Tom Hanks. But he absolutely doesn’t want to talk about it. I totally get that he wants to make it on his own, but come on, his father is Tom Hanks, people are going to be curious. Plus, he’s a dead ringer for his famous dad.
You’ll immediately be pulled into this compelling drama. The only thing I’d change is Liz’s voice-over narration to her diary. Like Felicity’s letters to Sally, this technique is getting old and annoying. Other than that, "Roswell" is truly out of this world. I can’t wait to know what you think.
And don’t forget the rest of the big premieres happening this week: Wasteland premieres Thursday night at 9 p.m. ET on ABC and Chris Carter’s "Harsh Realm" (starring the Scott Bairstow, Julia’s abusive boyfriend on "Party of Five") premieres Friday night at 9 p.m. ET.
Make sure to check my column on Monday, when I’ll talk about what’s happening on "Party of Five" (still sniffling from Charlie’s toast), "Buffy" (loved that Xander brought our Buffy back), "Angel" (did you recognize who was playing the waitress?), "Friends," "ER," "The Practice" and more!
Roswell: It Came From Dawson’s Creek
WB, Wednesdays, 9 to 10 p.m. ET
By Len P. Feldman
TV aliens often possess revolting eating habits. In V (1984-85), the visitors ate mice. The populace of Alien Nation (1989-91) boozed it up on sour milk. Similarly, the three alien teenagers in Roswell, the new WB series, pour Tabasco sauce on everything from french fries to Diet Coke to aid in their digestion of human food. It’s a cute gimmick. But even without the sauce, Roswell is one hot show.
Combining teenage drama à la Dawson’s Creek with X-Files' sci-fi intrigue, Roswell does the same for aliens as Buffy the Vampire Slayer did for vampires, ghouls and witches: make them relatable to high-schoolers and twentysomethings.
The formula: Take some cute human and nonhuman teens and provide tangled, otherworldly storylines in which they can interact. This, of course, includes the requisite interspecies love relationship, which Roswell wastes no time in launching.
In the series opener, Roswell, NM, resident Liz Parker (Shiri Appleby, the latest girl-next-door hottie—move over, Katie Holmes) is fatally hit during a shooting in her dad's alien-theme restaurant. She's revived by Max Evans (Jason Behr, who was Chris Wolfe on Dawson’s Creek), a descendant of the crew of the UFO that crashed at Area 51 in Roswell in 1947. (Apparently it did happen.) He’s a sensitive, soulful E.T. who just can’t let Liz die. Besides, he’s had a crush on her since grade school.
By saving Liz's life, Max does three things: He telepathically connects with her; risks exposing his alien identity and that of his sister Isabel (Katherine Heigl) and their friend Michael (Brendan Fehr), and leaves a silver hand print on Liz's belly. One wonders what other interesting marks will appear as Liz and Max's relationship grows.
Complicating matters is Sheriff Valenti (William Sadler), who's seen that hand print before, in a file photo from a 1950s murder case. Valenti's a rough-and-tumble version of The X-Files' inquisitive Fox Mulder, out to discover "the truth." His son Kyle (Nick Wechsler) happens to be Liz's human boyfriend—so in addition to everything else, there’s a love triangle going on between the girl, the boy and the alien.
Not only do the drama and sci-fi aspects mesh in Roswell, the dialogue is clever, the acting excellent, and the special effects used judiciously to propel the plot: Gradually discovering what powers these extraterrestrial teens have—so far, they can reheat tacos with a wave of their hand and listen to CDs without a player—adds to the fun.
Aside from some slightly sloppy plotting—the aliens leave their telltale Tabasco bottles about much too carelessly—the series has already proved it can be touching, intriguing and exciting. If it can remain so, Roswell will run for a very long time.
The Hook: Aliens have landed...and they're so cute! As if high school weren't tough enough, these three students struggle with more than just algebra- they're trying to keep their otherworldly identities a secret from other kids.
Cool Chicks: Liz (Shiri Appleby), whose budding romance with an alien cutie threatens to expose the galactic group; her wacky friend Maria; and overprotective alien sib Isabel.
Hottie Alert: No bug eyes and green heads here! Mysterious Max (Jason Behr) and brooding Michael will make you shriek, "Take me to your leader."
Scene That'll Have You Buzzing: Max heals Liz's gunshot wound with a mere press of his palm, leaving behind silver fingerprints. Talk about a guy with a magic touch.
D's We Dig: Aliens listen to a CD by spinning it on their finger next to their ear; a "blood-of-alien-smoothie" on the menu at the cafe where Liz waitresses.
Why You'll Be Addicted: If you've rooted for Mulder and Scully's relationship to be more than supernatural; you'll be dying to see if these star-crossed lovers can have an out-of-this-world romance.
ROSWELL: "The Pilot
Written by Jason Katims
Directed by David Nutter
Reviewed by Paula Graves
"Love and the Human Alien"
Isn't that an oxymoron?
As any teen-oriented television show knows, alienation is the theme of the new millennium. Loners, outcasts, misfits---from BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER to the tragedies of Paducah, Pearl, Jonesboro, Springfield and Columbine, the whole question of "otherness" permeates our culture and pop culture. ROSWELL, Warner Brother's new teen sci fi drama, tackles the subject with passion and heart, asking the age-old question: what does it mean to be human?
ROSWELL explores the meaning of community, culture and friendship in ways both trite and tragic, focusing on a pair of star-crossed soulmates, Liz and Max, whose lives intersect one explosive afternoon in a diner where Liz works. A fight between two men erupts into violence, a struggle for a gun and an errant bullet that hits Liz in the abdomen. As her lifeblood spills from her, a schoolmate, Max Evans, races to her side and heals her with his touch. Though he and Liz hide what he's done from the others, Liz knows the truth--Max is not an ordinary teenage boy.
Using popular Roswell folklore about an alleged spaceship crash in 1947 as a springboard, ROSWELL reworks the legend to account for three teenage aliens living amid their human peers in the desert town. And somehow, it works. Maybe it's the quirky, "real" characters who people the drama, or maybe it's the universal themes of love, loss, fear and longing that dwell at the heart of the story, but "Roswell" tells a compelling tale about friendship, loyalty and the endless search for a place to belong--- for the humans as well as the aliens in this tale.
For a pilot, the players are remarkably well-drawn. Liz and Max, the lead characters, are quirky and interesting as individuals, and sizzling with chemistry as a pair. The secondary characters, from free-spirited Maria to edgy, paranoid Michael to hyper-cool Isabel, make a strong impression as well.
David Nutter, the experienced TV director who helms this pilot episode, does a terrific job of pacing the tale and providing stunning visuals. Writer Jason Katims delivers a somewhat uneven script, but the direction and the strong work by the actors, plus the compelling nature of the overall story, help lift the episode past a few rough patches of over-cute dialogue. On the plus side, Katims manages the "backstory exposition clump" inherent in all TV pilots in a smooth, believable manner, using the moment to reveal Liz Parker's character in the process. And several scenes rise well above the ordinary to express surprisingly raw, real emotion.
ROSWELL is smart, engaging and surprisingly universal in its themes and appeal. The episode left me wanting more-- perhaps the highest praise I can bestow on a pilot episode.
= end =
Skin & Bones
ROSWELL: Breaking Up Is Hard to Do
By Jenny Higgons
The Oct. 3 premiere of Roswell, WB's teen-alien series, clearly illustrated what its producers recently revealed: that the show is taking a new direction — away from the sweet human/alien romances and toward the fight against the home-planet aliens out to destroy them. And I don't like it.
On the premiere episode, Maria (Majandra Delfino) ordered a pining Max (Jason Behr) to get over Liz (Shiri Appleby), especially since his girlfriend had been holed up in Florida for the past three months. Max later assured Liz that he had no feelings for Tess (Emilie de Ravin), but she stated she wanted a fresh start and insisted that their relationship couldn't return to its former harmonious state. Then Michael (Brendan Fehr) brutally informed Maria that there was no room for her in his new soldiering mission, and Isabel (Katherine Heigl) told Alex (Colin Hanks), "I can't think about being with a guy — any guy — right now."
The remainder of the episode concentrated on more serious material, like Michael getting arrested, Max infiltrating a lab to eradicate an isotope from a skeleton, a pushy congresswoman nosing around and Nasedo dying violently.
The combination of the teen-alien romances and the aliens' trying to discover their roots are what drew me to this show in the first place. I'm well aware that storylines must move forward to retain their creativity, but why can't the romances stay intact while Max, Michael and Isabel fight the good fight?
ROSWELL: Season Premiere
By Amy Amatangelo
After thousands of bottles of Tabasco sauce, Roswell, the little alien show that could, returned to the WB Monday night at 9 p.m.
You’ll notice several changes. Remember all that hair Felicity cut off last season? You’ll find it firmly attached to Majandra Delfino’s head. Delfino’s hair looks great. Brendan Fehr, however, is sporting a very bad haircut. Considering how adorable he is, this is quite a shame.
Aside from these aesthetic alterations, the most notable change is the shift away from the romance that dominated the end of last season and a focus on the alien warfare Max, Isabel, Michael, and Tess must wage. The gang also has a whole new slew of enemies this season now that Sheriff Valenti and his son are suddenly on their side (saving a life will do that for you.)
After watching two episodes, I haven’t quite decided how I feel about this season of “Roswell.” If last season shifted too much to the romantic side, this season seems too focused on the alien side. You’ll definitely be disappointed if you’re holding out for romantic moment between Max and Liz. You’ll be even more disappointed if you were hoping we had seen the last of Tess (Emilie de Ravin becomes a regular this season).
“Roswell” has not yet found the happy medium between the two important sides of the show. The most uninteresting cast addition is Gretchen Egolf’s Congresswoman Whittaker. A show this clever shouldn’t have a character as stereotypical as Whittaker. I still believe “Roswell” is a show worth saving, but it has a while to go before it finds a satisfying middle ground.
TV Show Season Premiere Review
ROSWELL – “Busted”
Granted yet another last minute reprieve (this time by UPN), ROSWELL uses the change in networks as a mechanism by which to revamp its mythology
Dateline: Tuesday, October 9, 2001
By: ERIC MORO, Executive Editor
Yet another genre property with a powerful fan following gets the “new beginning” treatment. First, STAR TREK got a shot in the arm with its “back to basics” approach to the prequel series ENTERPRISE. Next, BUFFY promised to raise its titular heroine back from the dead by planting her on a new network. Finally, those alien high schoolers from ROSWELL, NM have not only graduated, but they’ve also followed in the footsteps of their vampire slaying sister making the move to UPN and occupying the timeslot directly after hers.
However, there’s more to ROSWELL than just a new time, a new network, and – for star Katherine Heigl – a new hairstyle. After two seasons of not quite knowing what it should be (Is it DAWSON’S CREEK? Is it sci-fi?) and narrowly surviving cancellation on several occasions, the series which focuses on three alien teenagers stranded on Earth seems to have found its groove. At least, that’s what I can tell after watching the third season’s opener.
Utilizing a series of flashbacks that shift between present day and three months earlier, “Busted” kicks off with Liz and Max “robbing” a convenience store in Salina, Utah. It turns out, though, that they are actually trying to find the entrance to a storage facility for a spaceship – the spaceship that stranded Max, Michael and Isabel on Earth so many years ago. Alas, the two teenagers are caught and arrested, and their parents are called in.
Flashback to the end of last season…
Tess, who is carrying Max’s unborn child, strands the series’ three alien stars on Earth, leaving for her home world in the last working spaceship on the planet. As a result, the trio has accepted the fact that they must now live out the rest of their lives on Earth and have begun to take the appropriate steps toward making that a tolerable prospect. Michael, who has never given high school a second thought, pours all of his efforts into graduating. Isabel gets involved in a secret romance with new character Jessie Ramirez, a 26 year-old law associate of her father’s. And Max has reconciled with Liz, taking the slow route toward rebuilding their shattered relationship – until he receives a plea for help from his newly born child in the form of a painful vision.
Obsessed with getting back to his son, Max sets out on a quest to find his broken ship in the hopes of at least being able to communicate with the boy. First, however, he must find the ship’s power source – a peculiar looking diamond the size of a fist. With some brilliant detective work on the part of Liz, the two trace the diamond to a traveling exhibit in a nearby town. A distraction, a switch-a-roo, and an adrenaline rush later, the two have the diamond in their possession. Now to the ship!
Luckily, Roswell’s UFO Research Center (which actually exists – I’ve been there!) keeps accurate records as to the whereabouts of top-secret government storage facilities large enough to house spaceships. After investigating each one, Max and Liz discover the Utah based facility, which has a secret entrance within an ordinary convenience store. Hence, the staged robbery attempt.
Without giving away the outcome of the court proceeding (which you can probably figure out on your own) and the ramifications it has on Max and Liz’s relationship, I can tell you that the tone has been set for what looks to be a more mature season.
Getting the major players (with the exception of Michael) out of high school and into the “real” world is key to the success of the series. So is the increased involvement of the cast’s parents. Gone are the days when Max, Liz, Michael, Isabel and Maria can go off on an adventure for days on end without their parents getting suspicious as to their whereabouts – there’s only so many times that you can use the old “camping” alibi. This season, either the parents will be let in on their adopted children’s/friend’s secret or the group will come up with other more creative ways to dupe them – already, Max has moved out of his parents home so as not to have to lie to them anymore.
Also setting this season apart from the previous two is the aliens’ acceptance of Earth as their new home. The first two seasons were spent searching for the truth behind their origins and a means with which to return to their home planet. Now that they have the answers they were looking for and no means with which to travel into the farthest reaches of space, they have no choice but to accept their Earth-bound fate – all of them except Max, that is. While starting the episode off with this mindset, the urgent plea for help from his son has re-invigorated his mission to find a way back home. Now, he just has to convince the others.
After a somewhat rocky start on the WB, the third season of ROSWELL seems to have kicked off on the right foot. A number of intriguing quandaries, both real world and sci-fi, have been posed (Will Max get back to his son? What is to come of Isabel’s taboo relationship with Jessie, especially considering that every love interest she has had has met with an untimely death? Will Michael ever graduate from Roswell High?) and the series has a great lead-in with BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER at 8:00 p.m. So while ENTERPRISE and BUFFY would probably have been successful without the “new beginnings” hype, perhaps ROSWELL will benefit the most from the changes its made to both its marketing campaign and story arc.
Now in its third season, Roswell - the cult favorite about alien kids coming of age in Roswell, N.M. - has experienced tough going of late. At the end of its sophomore season, its original home network, the WB, dumped it. And although UPN picked it up, the series has been far from a ratings success this year. In fact, although it has increased ratings for UPN in its Tuesday night timeslot, it routinely loses the Nielsen wars to ABC's NYPD Blue, CBS's The Guardian, Fox's 24, NBC's Frasier and the WB's Smallville. Understandable, perhaps, but still, not a good sign. And the news continues to get worse: UPN recently announced that it has reduced its season order of episodes from 22 to 19.
What's unfortunate about all of that bad news is this: Roswell is, in fact, a well-done drama that adroitly mixes paranormal flourishes with comedic and touching moments. Tonight's Christmas-themed episode is a good case in point. While "Christmas Nazi" Isabel (Katherine Heigl) is intent on making her first Christmas with husband Jesse (Adam Rodriguez) a success, brother Max (Jason Behr) meets an autistic boy who he thinks may be a link to his own lost son. The episode opens with Max commiserating with friend Michael (Brendan Fehr), who can't understand why his girlfriend Maria (Majandra Delfino) has broken up with him. The two stop by a burger joint known as the Crashdown, where they meet up with Isabel, Jesse, Maria and Max's girlfriend Liz (Shiri Appleby). While Isabel holds forth about her plans for creating a "perfect" Christmas, Max can't help but notice that a little boy is staring at him.
Soon enough, the boy "Samuel" approaches him and says one word: "Daddy." Although his mother quickly corrals him, explaining that he's autistic, Max is stunned, and comes away believing that his own son is attempting to use the child to communicate with him.
Meanwhile, Isabel's efforts to make the holidays memorable include overseeing the town's annual Santa Village, where Maria and Liz volunteer as helper elves to Michael's Santa. The result is some amusing repartee between Michael and Maria, especially in one scene where he tells her to get him something to drink. Fed up with his bossiness, she invites him into her "little elf house" to give him a piece of her mind, only to have the moment interrupted by a child's prying eyes. It's a laugh-out-loud moment, to be sure. Jesse, however, isn't laughing: Isabel's efforts to create the perfect Christmas mean that his cherished stocking, which he made in kindergarten, has been banished to the back of the tree; and his hopes of chilling to football must take a backseat to her whims. In essence, their first Christmas isn't theirs, it's hers, with Jesse along for the ride.
These disparate plotlines ultimately intertwine and do so in delightful fashion. Only a hard-hearted Grinch would fail to be charmed. Myself, I say UPN would do well to not only hold onto Roswell, but find it a new home on its schedule, say, Wednesdays at 9 pm/ET, where it would make the perfect companion to Enterprise.
Back to Main|