TV Series Review: Roswell

Roswell was a teen drama that ran on the WB from 1999-2002.  It followed the lives of three teenage human-alien hybrids living in Roswell, New Mexico, and their human friends who get sucked into keeping the secret from everyone else (including a special unit of the FBI) after Max saves Liz from a gunshot wound in the cafe.

Max Evans (Jason Behr) and his sister Isabelle Evans (Katherine Heigl, looking so beautiful and luminous that it almost hurts) were found wandering in the desert when they were five years old after hatching from some pods they’d been incubating in since the 1947 crash.  They were adopted by a nice couple and grew up in Roswell while their pod-mate Michael Guerin (Brendan Fehr, the boy-crush fantasy of my early teenage life) ended up in foster care with a really awful foster dad who dies early in the series.

The three of them try to be normal, but they have special powers–all of them can manipulate the molecular structure of objects–and when Max sees the very human Liz get shot by a stray bullet in her parents’ cafe, he springs into action, saving her life by using his magical healing powers.  This sparks a series of events that arouse the suspicion of local sheriff Jim Valenti (William Sadler), whose own past is haunted by his father’s obsession with finding aliens.  Once Liz knows about their secret, it isn’t long before her best friend Maria DeLuca (Majandra Delfino) knows as well, and eventually their friend Alex Whitman (Colin Hanks) does, too.  The group works hard to keep the aliens a secret and eventually Sheriff Valenti joins the team, as does his son, Kyle (Nick Weschler).

The three seasons have a host of issues and dramas that emerge, with varying degrees of success.  There’s the introduction of the fourth alien, Tess (Emilie DeRavin, before she mastered her American accent), who’s the alien bride of Max in a former life.  The hybrids have a lot of questions about their home planet: how they came to be on Earth, who they were in their past lives, how to get home.  For a while, the teens fight the FBI and another race of alien beings referred to as “the Skins.”  There was a brief and ridiculous story involving clones of the four aliens who were raised in New York (they have the TERRIBLE accents to prove it), but they came out wrong and weren’t the successors to the throne back on Antar.

In addition to the alien problems that the cast faces, they also deal with the more teen-friendly issues of first love, first heartbreak, and betrayals.  Max and Liz fall in love and struggle with what that means, both as a sort of inter-species relationship as well as what it means for Tess, whom Max is drawn to.  Maria and Michael have a much more complicated (and thus much more interesting) up-and-down, on-and-off-and-on-again relationship as well.  It is Isabelle who seems to struggle the most with love, however, never seeming to keep it in her grasp for long. The death of a close friend throws the entire group into uncertainty and causes a great deal of strain.

At its best, Roswell was an uneven show.  The writing, acting, and plots were mostly mediocre.  Occasionally, some aspect would surprise its viewers, but even its most ardent fans should admit that it was never going to make television history.  But what it did well, it did very well.  It was a sexy show, and it was perfect for its target demographic: teenagers.  There were a few standout episodes that broke the mold of the show by either playing with the format or by playing with the entire premise of the show (by far the best episodes were the ones where it was clear no one was taking themselves seriously).  Episodes that come to mind include “Summer of ’47,” “Viva Las Vegas,” “A Tale of Two Parties,” and “I Married an Alien.”

Although there is a fair amount of criticism to be leveled at the show, it did do one thing well: it created a sexy, sometimes-smart sometimes-stupid show for teenagers.  The characters were layered enough to be interesting, and the females on the show were strong in their own right, and while the boys were somewhat dopey, they were pretty cute, and sometimes, that’s enough when you’re looking for an hour of escape.

The show was canceled after three seasons, but it holds a large amount of nostalgia for people who were coming of age at the turn of the century.  Although it sometimes seemed to lose its footing, it always came back and the show ended in a very satisfactory, if not a little unrealistic, way for fans.

Although obviously not everyone’s cup of tea, the show should appeal to casual television viewers who enjoy shows about teens, although die-hard sci-fi fans might scoff and the science-fiction-lite that the show tends to dish up.

Expect a Where Are They Now? Post for the cast of Roswell soon.

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