TV Guide-How “Roswell” Was Saved

Thanks to Chaz for letting me know about this being in the latest TV Guide on newsstands now.

Agenda for Next Season:
Less Teen Angst, More Science Fiction

By J. Max Robins

Last fall, executives at WB touted Roswell as their most promising new series. The drama about a trio of high school students, who are actually aliens living in Roswell, NM, infamous for a rumored UFO crash landing, seemed like a teen X-Files. But, despite tons of promotion, positive reviews and a choice time slot after Dawson’s Creek, the show delivered lackluster ratings. By midseason, Roswell seemed destined for cancellation. In protest, avid viewers barraged the network with more than 3,000 bottles of Tabasco sauce, the aliens’ beverage of choice, in a campaign to keep Roswell alive.

Roswell was renewed — but it wasn’t the hot sauce that saved the day. WB executives believed they could lift the series beyond cult status if they changed the show’s direction. The execs also admitted that they had a surfeit of angst-ridden hard bodies on their schedule. “The show had these terrific characters, but they were spending too much time navel-gazing against school lockers,” says WB’s executive vice president of programming Jordan Levin. “For a lot of the adult audience they see kids and lockers and they say, ‘This show isn’t for us.’ Roswell was originally developed for Fox and I think the direction [the show’s creator] Jason Katims got was to do more of a relationship show. But we really wanted science fiction — someting that really explored the mystery of Roswell.”

Katims admits that Roswell was difficult to position from the start. ” I think we may have gotten lost in a sea of [WB] shows that looked like all they were about was young people and their relationships,” Katims says. “We began last season with these three aliens who were just beginning to discover where they came from, which made it quite natural to move more toward science fiction. At the end of the season we found out that Max (Jason Behr) is [an alien] leader, his sister Isabel (Katherine Heigl) is a princess and that their friend Michael (Brendan Fehr) is a soldier. We’re creating a mythology that allows us to tell stories of family and power.” The increased emphasis on suspense and extraterrestrial mystery will also give the show’s adult characters a more prominent role, Katims adds.

Of course, WB’s Levin hopes that these measures will win Roswell new viewers. “Our research has already shown that we have begun to pull in that male sci-fi audience and more adults overall,” Levin says. “We can broaden Roswell’s appeal without losing its core viewers.”