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Summer Rewind: Roswell

June 28, 2008

I read somewhere in an interview with Joss Whedon that the basic idea behind Buffy was the idea that high school is hell- literally. Another show that aired on the WB at about the same time – Roswell – is based on the premise that everyone feels a bit like they’re from another planet in high school, except some people really are. While Roswell never experienced the critical success or longevity that Buffy did, it did gain a bit of a cult following. I lost track of the show somewhere between the second and third season, so I’m finally getting around to rewatching it and trying to figure out what happened.

The show is centered around 3 aliens- Max (Jason Behr), Isabel (a pre-Grey’s Anatomy Katherine Heigl) and Michael (Brendan Fehr), who were aliens from the ship that crashed in Roswell in 1947, though they were incubating in pods for forty years until they emerged in human form. Max and Isabel were adopted by a loving family and have grown up as brother and sister, while Michael got stuck in a not-so-great foster situation. They all know that they’re different- they have certain alien powers-like the ability to “manipulate simple molecular structures”, but they don’t know who they are or where they come from. The pilot episode introduces us to Liz Parker (Shiri Appleby) and Maria DeLuca (Majandra Delfino), two normal high school girls and waitresses at the Crash Down Café, which Liz’s parents own. Liz just happens to be the life-long crush of Max, and when she is shot during an altercation at the restaurant, he uses his alien powers to save her life- effectively blowing his cover. A couple is sure they’ve seen Liz get shot, and raise their concerns to the sheriff (William Sadler), who becomes suspicious after finding a bullet hole in Liz’s dress, but no bullet and no injury. After Max fesses up to Liz about where he’s from and swears her to secrecy, emphasizing how important it is that she not tell anyone about their secret because it may put their lives in danger- she immediately tells her best friend Maria. Eventually, guy friend Alex (Colin Hanks) finds out about the aliens too- and the rest of the first season is spent running from the FBI- who have begun investigating the three after the sheriff asks them to analyze Liz’s dress for traces of blood.

The first season stands out as the best to me, aside from Majandra Delfino’s haircut, which probably qualifies as some type of crime. Sheriff Valenti starts off as the bad guy- asking questions, vowing to find out the truth about Max no matter what it takes. Over the course of the season, as the FBI pushes him aside, he starts to realize which side of the battle he’d rather be on. I think ultimately, he just wanted to believe. His father was pushed out of the Sheriff’s office for crazy talk about aliens, and in a way he’s searching for vindication. One of the more interesting characters is the Sheriff’s son, Kyle (Nick Wechsel). He starts the show off as Liz’s boyfriend, but is pushed aside once Liz goes all googly eyed for Max. Nobody will tell him what’s going on- his friends, his father, his girlfriend. He’s the one character who’s essentially left in the dark (for awhile).

The second season starts to delve deeper into science fiction. A fourth alien has appeared in Roswell, Tess (Emilie de Raven), who claims to be Max’s wife in a former life. It sort of throws a kink in Max and Liz’s relationship, and Tess ultimately ends up being the main villain of season 2. I think Roswell suffered from the constant threat of being canceled, as evidenced by the meandering plot in season 2. It’s as if the writers had a bunch of ideas for future plot lines- and in a panic that they wouldn’t be able to use them all, tried to work them all in. Perhaps the most contrived moment is when future Max comes back in time to tell Liz that she has to get present Max to fall out of love with her – or the Earth will be destroyed. After seeing Liz “in bed” with the Kyle, her one-time boyfriend, Max grows closer to Tess, ultimately sleeping with her, seemingly fulfilling the destiny Tess has always spoken of. Lest we forget this was a teen drama on the WB, Tess realizes that she’s pregnant the very next morning, in a great lesson for young viewers – if you have sex, you will immediately get pregnant, and it may even ruin your life so much that you have to leave the planet because your alien offspring can’t survive in the atmosphere.

During the second season, Colin Hanks wanted to shoot Orange County, but apparently didn’t have time to do both the movie and the show, and opted for the former. Rather than come up for some plausible reason why Alex leaves the show, the writers decide to kill him off in a tragic car accident. While it didn’t quite reek of the Sarah’s-head-in-a-box plot development on Prison Break, it was probably the moment the show jumped the shark for me. Aside from watching all his friends cry for an entire episode (which was incredibly depressing), the ultimate explanation about what really happened – and I won’t give it away – doesn’t really do it for me.

The third season of Roswell actually aired on SciFi, after being dumped by the WB. It was evident to me that the writers said “F*@$ it!” at this point, because the plot takes some interesting (read: stupid) turns. Isabel’s marriage to the unsuspecting Jesse was the biggest WTF. The only real reason I kept watching was that I was invested by this point, I had all the episodes available, and I was on vacation, so I didn’t really care about staying up until 4 am. If you’re absolutely bored out of your mind, and in the mood for some teen angst, I’d recommend it. Oh and it has my favorite Dido song as the theme, so there’s that.

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7 Comments leave one →
  1. karla permalink
    July 2, 2008 7:27 pm

    First, i have to say roswell is my favorite show to this day. And actually Roswell was aired on Upn after it was taken off the wb along with buffy. Then scifi picked it up from its cancelation in 2002 and finished with a marathon in december of2007. Fans of the show are trying to get scifi to pick it up again. If you are or ever were a fan send an email to the scifi chanel to show ur support and say you want them to air it again.

  2. bonnie permalink
    November 23, 2008 5:50 pm

    i love the books- but i never saw the show

  3. bonnie permalink
    November 23, 2008 5:52 pm

    i would love for the show to be on air agean!!!!!! it would be a dream come true!!!!!!!!!!

  4. Kathleen Simmons permalink
    October 5, 2009 9:38 am

    I would very much enjoy watching a “Return to Roswell” or “The New Beginning”. I have all three seasons of Roswell, and I have watched them many times. It is easy watching, suspense-filled, and cheers me up when I’m down. Where is everyone’s sense of adventure and curiosity about the unknown? I can’t believe people would prefer “Buffy” over Roswell.

    However, if the original actors are replaced, I don’t know if it would be nearly as interesting, as the actors in Roswell pulled it off excellently.

    I vote to bring back the show.

  5. December 24, 2009 3:15 am

    Just want to say your article is striking. The clearness in your post is simply spectacular and i can take for granted you are an expert on this field. Well with your permission allow me to grab your rss feed to keep up to date with future post. Thanks a million and please keep up the respectable work

  6. Jati no Rei permalink
    February 16, 2011 12:04 pm

    Yeah, while I never watched Roswell back in the day, and even swore off TV entirely for years, once Joss Whedon’s Firefly got me back into TV, I tracked down a lot of shows I’d missed, including this one, and I must say I really enjoy it. All in all, I’d say it’s better than Smallville or the HS years of Buffy (as a total show, Buffy is probably better), and y’all are right that it would be nice to see a return for this show, as long as most of the same actors can return, and the ones who can’t aren’t recast. I’d especially like to see Majandra Delfino, Shiri Appleby and Nick Wechsel again, even if it isn’t in a Roswell Spin-off.

  7. April 30, 2011 11:26 pm

    Aw, this was a really nice post. In idea I would like to put in writing like this moreover – taking time and actual effort to make a very good article… but what can I say… I procrastinate alot and certainly not appear to get something done.

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