What Went Wrong with Roswell?



Below I have reposted an article that was written by an ameture tv critic, giving his ideas for what went wrong in the final season of Roswell that caused it to be cancelled.

A few fans have found this article online and written to me, very upset by it, so I wanted to post my rebuttal.

***Warning, the article is very harsh, pretty much blaming the cast for the demise of the show.***
But the article is also short on facts. So don't take it too seriously. It is based on the wild speculation on the author.








An Analysis Column, by Techtite

The current entertainment product discussed is:
Roswell
(TV series, WB and UPN networks, 1999-2002)

After an understandable hiatus --after the tragic events in Sept. 2001-- I took some time deciding on what would be the first entertainment product roasted in 2002. Well, what about a TV series that many respectable TV critics admired, had great producers behind it, and had a strong gathering of fans to keep it afloat, AND was renewed at least twice by nothing less than a sheer network miracle...yet had a cast so arrogantly flippant, they treated every renewal notice with total disdain. Yes, this is a true story, when thinking of the WB/UPN sci-fi drama, Roswell. What Went Wrong?

First, as always, let's discuss the positives:

What Went Right?

In three words: its first season. Praised by many critical sources at the time, including Techtite.com, this series concept was unique, inspired, and best of all, very promising. A young high school girl, Liz Parker, is shot by a stray bullet at her family's restaurant, yet is healed by a secretive student that goes to her school. This student turns out to be an alien/human hybrid...who, as it so happens, has fallen in love with Liz. A nice "interstellar love story" ensues...one that appealed, at first, to both high-school drama and sci-fi fan bases.

This was of no surprise given the credit roll. Jonathan Frakes, best known as "Commander Riker" on Star Trek TNG, is one of the executive producers. David Nutter, who has worked on episodes of The X-Files, is producer. Meanwhile, Jason Katims, whose prior works include My So Called Life, was producer as well, making a production crew that was not about to let their latest series turn into some mere aliens in Roswell cliché. This was to be about three teens that were half-alien, half-human, with no idea of who they were or where they originally came from. They must deal, in their own special way, with discovering their origins, honing their latent special powers, as well as dealing with adolescence itself.

The best fun in those first episodes was the occasional view of how these teens used their alien powers. Isabel, for example, could enter the dreams of other students, just by touching their yearbook photo. She could also melt taco cheese with only a wave of her hand, listen to a music CD just by holding it to her ear, and turn a bottle of ketchup into her favorite other condiment, and back again. Max has healing powers; Michael has defense powers. All three, for that matter, have very "alien" appetites, leading to their overuse of Tabasco sauce on all their food. This could have led to an amusing, modern spin of the classic Bewitched/"I Dream of Jeannie" magical tale...though sadly wasn't taken as far as it could have been. However, the first season's use of the teen's powers was definitely among the What-Went-Right category...

The thing that really helped this show, though --with a threat of cancellation as early as its first season-- was its fans. So intrigued were they of the developing Max and Liz interstellar love story that they sent countless bottles of Tabasco sauce to the production offices, in an attempt to get the series renewed. No such save-our-show campaign, to my knowledge, has ever been attempted. After all, it's one thing to put pen to paper and lick a stamp; it's another thing entirely to purchase thousands of bottles of Tabasco sauce and have them shipped to a Hollywood office in droves. There's any number of TV series which would bend over backwards to have the type of loyal fans this series had. After all, what actor doesn't want to keep working in a series fans love?

Good question...

What Went Wrong?

For one thing, experience. None of the cast had ever worked in a long-term TV series as a lead star. Some had done guest starring work (Jason Behr was in one episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer), though nothing long term. What's worse, many of the cast apparently only took this job as a one-time gig --you dig, man?-- and were slowly growing animosity, as the series lasted longer than expected. Consider a final-season online chat with Majandra Delfino, where a fan asked her how she felt about being renewed for a third season after being oh-so-close to cancellation; "I tried not to think about it" was her answer. It seems like many of the stars thought this would be a one --or at best, two-- season deal, and had no idea it could last as long as its producers (or its fans) wanted it to. Gee. "Bummer."

To be fair, it is no picnic whenever someone is told what to do. Even a child being ordered to eat cake may not enjoy it. Such was apparently the case when these kid actors were told --horrors!-- their show was renewed, twice, and they had to come back...again. Any other series' cast would yell "Yippee!"; these kids, well, no. They seem smart, yet totally oblivious to how lucky they were. Their reaction was more like, "I'm bored being a TV star; I'd like to start a career in singing!...or a movie career! After all, just look at how easy TV stardom was!" Any more-seasoned actor (or singer) would smack these kids upside the head for such naïveté. This series was a big break that at least half of them did not deserve. However, yes, in two-dimensional thinking, they were being ordered to do what they'd lost interest in altogether.

Not that the series' writers were making it a picnic to stay. Ingenious storylines involving their origins were replaced with inane in-show commercial spots. No sooner did Snapple become a major (and, more or less, the only) sponsor, then cliché Snapple references took place of the unique Tabasco sauce references (it sounds silly, though it's true). Suddenly, the aliens who needed Tabasco sauce to make Earth food strong enough for their super-strong taste buds, all of the sudden loved the fruity-goodness of Snapple. What does Michael steal from his new job's cafeteria? Snapple. What does everyone drink? Snapple.

You have to cut the writers some slack though; they had their own difficulties dealing with the casts' growing needs...like on-the-set romances and breakups. While behind the scenes buzz was very hushed, it was severely hinted in season one that Shiri Appleby and Jason Behr were dating in real life. By as early as season two, no scene with them together could hide the truth; Behr and Appleby did not get along at all. Behr, during an AOL chat in February 2001, put it as nicely as he could about their characters: "I am not actually sure how that is going to go, the relationship between -- the two of them have been through so much. I'm not sure what they are going to do." Was this because in real life, the stars had gone their separate ways? Some would say so; others wish to not speak of it. In short, the core uniqueness of the series --the interstellar romance-- was in jeopardy, as early as the second season!

What happened in two seasons? Few would say. All that can be said for certain is that by the end of season two, Katherine Heigl was dating Behr, not Appleby. Regardless of their sibling status on screen, "Max" and "Isabel" were very much the couple off-screen. She even had a Claddaugh ring on her finger, pointed inwards, to signify "she's taken" (the biggest sign of commitment aside from an engagement ring). Did this annoy Appleby? Maybe not, though whatever did annoy her about Behr, she lacked the expertise to hide professionally; her "I hate you" eyes were quite obvious. While these later turned to, "Okay, I guess we can be friends" eyes, it wasn't enough; the spark between the characters was sorely lacking. The whole uniqueness of this show, mind you, was this high school romance subplot...and now, it was failing.

Shiri's other female co-stars fared no better. Majandra "Maria" Delfino had dated Brendan Fehr (her "boyfriend" on the series), broke up with him, then just as suddenly, was ready to leave skid marks when the show was cancelled. Was this because of a messy breakup, or because she hated the series, period? Either way, her voice against her own show was quite brazenly negative, as she now pursues a singing career. "I don't even care if no one comes to the shows," said Majandra in an interview. "I just don't want anyone to come and yell, 'Maria!' If they do, they'll be quietly escorted out by security." In other words she hates everyone who knows her because of this show...which, aside from friends and family, is nearly everyone who knows her at all.

As for the men of the show, little can be said; if they were more laid back --in both their publicity for the show, as well as their performances-- they'd be asleep. Two of these lead stars got in big trouble when they didn't show up for a major press junket for the series' third season. Which two? I forget...does it matter? All three made their ambivalence for the series obvious in every episode, in scenes that seemed read via cue cards. The problem wasn't with the writing; the problem was with the acting. This was particularly grating with lead actor Jason Behr, whose suddenly monotone, expressionless reading of his lines made it hard to know whether his character was being cynical, angry, jovial, or perhaps, ironically taken over by aliens.

So, as of early 2002, the series had been placed on "hiatus" and replaced with two sitcoms. The sitcoms earned only half the ratings of Roswell, yet UPN was not to be fooled by the brats-of-Roswell a second time; the command was delivered to destroy the sets, long before the official word of cancellation was ever given. The series' last episode was May 14th, and all the cast seems to want to do is shout and cheer about it. You got your wish, kids; the series is kaput. Congratulations.

---Techtite






Rebuttal by RoswellOracle

Sure, everyone is entitled to their opinion, but let's at least bring the facts into the story, shall we?

The main point of the article is that the cast ruined the show and not the writing. Get real. The writing in season 3 was absolute crap. A cast of oscar-winning actors couldn't have made it good.

Yes, Brendan and Majandra both wanted off the show by the end of season 2. Majandra felt it was taking away from her singing career, and Brendan thought he was missing out on a movie career. Guess they were both wrong, since neither had really done much since Roswell.

The Snapple thing is completely untrue. Katims said in an interview that Snapple was not a sponsor, he just liked it and wrote it into the show.

The lack of experience thing is kind of true, however Jason had been in several episodes of Dawson's Creek, and stared in a short-lived show called Push, and Majandra was a main cast member of the Tony Danza show. But even if the cast lacked experience, what does that have to do with the show being good or bad? Plenty of shows succeed with green cast members.

There were rumors that Jason and Shiri were dating, but I've never seen anything that even suggested that was true. And why would they hide the relationship? If it were real the fans would have been thrilled. And there are all kinds of pictures of Jason and Shiri on the set between takes where they are just hanging out and 'playing' together, so I seriously doubt they hated each other.

I certainly never looked at Shiri's performance on the show and thought, "Man she really hates Jason and can't even hide it." I am not sure where the author of the article is seeing that in Roswell. Did any of you EVER think that while watching the show?

Yes, Jason and Katie were dating, but there is no proof that had anything to do with the direction of the show. I don't think Katims would change his 'vision' because of the wants of the cast. In an interview with him early in season 1, Katims said that Majandra told him that she didn't like Brendan and not to put Maria together with Micheal in the show. Katims certainly didn't listen to her request.

It is true that Jason and Brendan were both absent from the season 3 kickoff party, and at the time it was quite a scandal. UPN threatened to sue Brendan if he didn't shape up, but Jason wasn't at the party because he already had other plans, and was excused. Jason never said he wanted off the show that I saw.

So sure, Majandra and Brendan were ready to leave, but really could the two of them ruin the show? I don't think either of them was that instrumental, even if they were petty enough to sabotage their performances, which there is no proof of.

And it had nothing to do with the acting why I hated season 3. There wasn't a decent storyline to be found in that season. Maybe that is why some of the performances seem so wooden, if they were. The cast knew the writing was as stupid as we do, and couldn't believe that had to present that crap.

If you read my rant on why I hated season 3, it doesn't even mention the acting or attitude of the cast. I certainly never heard any of the fans mention poor acting as a reason they stopped watching either. We were tuning out because of the stupid stories.

Half the fans I knew never even watched season 3 because of the way season 2 ended, so the ratings took a hit right up front. As the season progressed, the stories were so bad that a lot of fans left every week. I used to read on the internet all the time that fans were refusing to watch any more and were either leaving the fandom completely or turning to fanfiction. Some fans even started campaigns to have Roswell cancelled. I was right there with them. The show just kept getting more and more idiotic. That was all because of the writing, not the acting.

I always thought the guy who wrote this article was just trying to upset the Roswell fans by throwing around all of his unfounded accusations. Maybe he was a writer for the show and was trying to shift the blame off his own shoulders. lol

So there you have it, a few facts to let in the light of day, and hopefully make you feel a bit better after reading this abusive hatchet-job.






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