WB Matches teens, aliens in Roswell

Here’s an older article I found in the Miami Herald:

WB matches teens, aliens in Roswell

July 24, 1999
by Terry Jackson, T.V. Critic

PASADENA, Calif. — Three seasons ago, it was Buffy, the Vampire Slayer. Two seasons ago, it was Dawson’s Creek. Last season, it was Felicity.

Can The WB make it a four-peat this fall and score another hit show that uniquely captures teen amour, angst and action? Bet on it.

Specifically, bet on Roswell, a charmingly odd hourlong drama that ties two very popular TV genres: alien conspiracies and teen romance. It’s just strange enough to work.

One of six new series previewed this week for the nation’s TV critics, Roswell has the sort of feel and buzz going for it that marked Buffy, Dawson’s and Felicity as quality hits. High on its chances for success, The WB has already guaranteed Roswell a full 22-episode season, starting in September, airing at 9 Wednesday nights (after Dawson’s Creek) on WBZL-Channel 39.

Based on a series of Roswell High books by Melinda Metz, it’s the story of five teenagers living in Roswell, N.M., the well-known conspiracy nexus made famous 51 years ago for, take your pick, either an alien crash landing or a weather-balloon mishap.

For the purposes of this show, it was definitely not a weather balloon, and one consequence is that there are three teenagers in town who are not of this world.

Alien in love

The teens’ secret is jeopardized when one of them uses his special powers to heal a girl who is accidentally shot. His reason for risking it all: He’s madly in love with the girl, even though they are from different planets.

Roswell executive producer David Nutter — a 1984 University of Miami film school graduate — says that teens and aliens are a natural mix.

“I used to say teenagers were the aliens among us,” he says. “And I think all teenagers kind of feel that way in many respects sometimes. Our challenge is to kind of embrace that . . . and have a lot of fun with it.”

Nutter knows a little something about space-alien stories: He was an early collaborator with Chris Carter on The X-Files. He shares producer duties here with Jonathan Frakes (Cmdr. Will Riker on Star Trek: The Next Generation), who also makes a cameo appearance in Roswell’s pilot episode.

Also on the production team is Jason Katims, who was a writer on the sharply crafted but short-lived ABC series My So-Called Life.

Creating star image

The stars all fit the young, no-acne mold that produced most of The WB’s other headliners.

Newcomer Shiri Appleby plays Liz Parker, the girl who’s brought back from the brink of death by alien/classmate Max Evans, played by Jason Behr. Though she’s been acting since she was 4, Appleby’s credits to date have been somewhat obscure, highlighted by appearances in commercials for Taco Bell, M&Ms and Cheerios.

Behr is a veteran of guest-star roles in three WB shows — Buffy, Dawson’s and 7th Heaven.

Former Miami Beach resident Majandra Delfino, whose most recent TV experience was as the eldest daughter on the quickly canceled The Tony Danza Show, plays Maria De Luca, Liz’s flighty best friend who’s in on the conspiracy.

Max’s fellow teen aliens are played by Katherine Heigl, whose credits include My Father, the Hero, and Brendan Fehr (Disturbing Behavior).

If you don’t recognize these stars, you will soon. The WB is a master at making sure the faces of its young stars are fixtures at the magazine rack. Even though the show hasn’t aired yet, the entire cast has shot a cover for an upcoming issue of YM, and Seventeen and TV Guide are scoping out Appleby and Behr.

Before landing at The WB, Roswell was pitched to Fox.

“I think that there might have been concern at Fox that the show skewed too young for their audience,” says Katims, who also was told that Fox couldn’t find a suitable time slot.

Fox President Doug Herzog denies that his network actually said no to Roswell. He says that Fox was considering it for a mid-season slot, but couldn’t compete with the guaranteed 22-episode offer from The WB.
Whatever the case, Fox’s loss may be The WB’s next hit.