WB’s Roswell Only Sounds Stupid

Here’s another older review that Melinda sent in. She’s procrastinating on writing her next book, and digging up Roswell news instead. But she assures me it’s not the next Roswell High book that she’s not writing! Thanks Melinda!

From Deseret News Archives

Tuesday, October 5, 1999

WB’s new ‘Roswell’ only sounds stupid
It’s actually a very promising new show about teens

By Scott D. Pierce
Deseret News television editor

“Roswell” is another one of those really stupid-sounding ideas for a TV show that, oddly enough, works. And works extremely well.
The premise is, well, sort of awful sounding. Three teenagers living in Roswell, N.M., turn out to be survivors of an alien spacecraft that crashed there some years earlier. They don’t know who they are or where they came from, and they’ve got to keep their identities as extra-terrestrials secret or risk being locked up as part of some sort of government experiment.
Sounds pretty stupid — just like the idea of having a teenage girl battle the forces of evil in “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.” And, like “Buffy,” this new show features some of television’s most realistic teenagers, albeit in a considerably less than realistic setting.
Wednesday’s pilot episode (8 p.m., Ch. 30) starts out with a bang. Literally. Liz (Shiri Appleby), a high school student and part-time waitress, is accidentally shot during a holdup. She’s in bad shape until Max (Jason Behr), a boy in her class, comes over and uses his alien powers to miraculously heal her. Of course, he’s putting himself and his fellow aliens — his sister, Isabel (Katherine Heigl), and best friend, Michael (Brendan Fehr) — at considerable risk of discovery.
Max does so because he’s attracted to Liz, and the feeling is mutual — even though she’s got a boyfriend, who happens to be the son of the town sheriff. And the sheriff (William Sadler) happens to be extremely suspicious about alien activity.
The aliens have some strange powers that even they don’t understand. In addition to the healing thing, they can listen to CDs — without a CD player — and they have some sort of super mental powers. They also have “weird dietary things” like drinking Tabasco sauce straight from the bottle.
“They don’t fully know, like all teenagers, what they’re capable of and what they’re not capable of,” said creator/executive producer/writer Jason Katims. “I think that part of the fun of this will be the audience discovering their powers with them. And, as we go into these first few episodes, there are sort of more specifics that we’ll understand about each of their powers and what they can do and what they can’t do.”
And the mystery about who exactly these three kids are is tantalizing.
“To me, one of the exciting things about the premise of the show is that the three alien characters don’t know about their history, which makes it — from a writing point of view — exciting because as they discover their backstory the audience is discovering it. . . . So it’s something that we’re going to discover with them and it will be a long ride,” Katims said. “And, hopefully, a really fulfilling journey.”
There are some obvious comparisons to “The X-Files,” but “Roswell” is a very different show.
“Fox Mulder is searching, in a sense, for the truth concerning aliens and his sister and all the rest,” said Fehr, who said he’s a fan of that show. “And here you’ve got me, Katherine and Max on a search of our own, but it’s in a sense a little bit more personal. It’s not our sisters, it’s, in fact, us.”
But what really makes “Roswell” work is that, despite the fact that we’re dealing with aliens here, it’s basically a show about teenagers. And a story about star-crossed lovers.
“The bottom line is that this is a love story and, to me, everybody wants to fall in love — teenagers and adults,” said executive producer David Nutter, whose credits include “The X-Files.” “That’s something that we all have in common and something that, I think, really brings this show to the emotional forefront for an audience. . . . It’s not just about teenagers contemplating their navels. It’s about life-and-death decisions. And those layers of a show that, I think, can make something very compelling and mythical and mystical and all of those kinds of things.
“And, most important, I think it’s very, very funny as well. . . . It’s a very timeless story about unrequited love and so forth and that’s something that, emotionally, will bring the audience into making them want to watch the show and get involved in these characters.”
And Katims’ experience is not in science fiction. He was a writer and producer on the acclaimed teen drama “My So-called Life” and he created, wrote and executive produced the acclaimed twentysomething drama “Relativity.” He developed the new show based on the “Roswell High” series of books by Melina Metz.
“The thing that was most appealing to me was that it was a love story with a real obstacle to it, and I think a lot of writers are continually drawn to write a Romeo and Juliet-type love story — a story with a real obstacle,” Katims said. “And I think if you want to do a contemporary story about young people, it’s hard to find a real obstacle. It’s hard to find something that you really think, ‘Why can’t they get together? What’s the big deal?’
“And I think that the fact that they are different life forms really gives you an obstacle.”
And the show is, in many ways, a metaphor for a universal experience.
“As teenagers, we’re all aliens,” Katims said. “And I think that’s not just true about teenagers. In certain ways, we all feel like aliens in the world.”

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