Thanks to Jaymz and P. for sending this in from the New Zealand Herald:
How Tabasco sauce and e-mails saved Roswell
18.01.2001 By LOUISA CLEAVE
Never underestimate the power of teenagers — especially when they’re armed with Tabasco sauce. Tens of thousands of young fans of the alien drama Roswell are a major reason we’re about to see a second series on TV2.
Last year, they launched a campaign —
“Roswell is Hot” — which involved sending 6000 bottles of the fiery condiment to the American network executives who were thinking about cancelling the show after it failed to live up to their expectations.
For those not familiar with the show, Tabasco sauce is central to the plot. Max, Isabel and Michael, the central characters, are aliens, supposedly the descendants of extraterrestrials who crashlanded in the New Mexico town in 1947. Is this the place where those, y’know, blurry photos of alien autopsies come from?
And the Tabasco sauce helps the alien life-forms to digest human food. (It also helps most humans to digest food from that part of the world, but let’s not go there.)
Along with the sauce, the “Save Roswell” website forwarded 22,000 e-mails to Warner Bros network execs in what is thought to be one of the biggest and most effective campaigns to bring back a television show.
Roswell returned to US screens last October, giving Warner Bros some of its best ratings in its time slot since Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and earning the studio enough confidence to order another nine episodes to complete a 22-part second series.
To attract new viewers — while trying not to lose the fans who saved their bacon — Roswell’s producers decided to shift away from Dawson’s Creek-style teen romance, particularly between Max (Jason Behr) and Liz (Shiri Appleby), towards a junior X-Files production.
In last year’s cliffhanger we found out that Max was the leader of his people, who were enslaved on their planet by alien enemies.
He has been sent back in time with his young bride, Tess (Emilie de Ravin), his sister Isabel (Katherine Heigl), and friend Michael (Brendan Fehr) to fight the enemy and then return home and free their people.
Executive producer Jonathan Frakes says the show will darken up and become more sci-fi in an effort to differentiate itself from other navel-gazing teen-angst dramas.
“It’s no longer going to be a ‘talk around the locker’ high school show. The stakes are now life or death.”
There is greater emphasis on the otherworldly powers the characters possess. So far we’ve seen them listening to CDs by holding them up to their ears, and healing fatal wounds.
In this season’s first episode Michael blows up small rocks by looking at them. It kind of pales in comparison to his new hairdo — a shaggy Jamie Oliver-type coif to replace his upswept spikes.
Jason Behr, who plays Max, has reassured fans who are worried that Liz will reject him for good after learning that Tess is his “destiny” at the end of last year and walking away to let them fulfil it.
“He’s had these feelings for Liz all his life,” the actor says. “They’re what got him and everybody else into the situation to begin with,” he continues, explaining the first episode where he “healed” Liz after she was shot in a robbery. “So I don’t think he’ll give that up that easily, let it go without a fight. Nothing that great comes effortlessly. It’s always a struggle.” Roswell producers are also keen to hold on to the romantic connection between Liz and Max. “We’re not throwing the baby away with the bathwater.”
Love matters aside, fans may be equally shocked to learn that the earnest Max actually cracks a smile or two this year, an expression that viewers were given a taste of when the character became a bit tipsy.
“That was our way of trying to lighten him up,” says Behr, “and after that we tried to incorporate a little more humour into him. We’re going to focus on that this year.”
Heigl says Isabel “will come into her own as an alien.”
She adds that this does not involve turning into a little green woman.
Heigl, aged 23, is the most experienced of Roswell’s younger cast members, having acted alongside big-screen veterans Gerard Depardieu (in My Father, The Hero), Peter Fonda (in a TV adaptation of The Tempest) and action man Steven Seagal (as his niece in Under Seige 2).
By comparison, Colin Hanks, who plays Liz’s friend Alex, has a thin CV. He got his break in the rock-nostalgia flick That Thing You Do! but Roswell is his first television job.
But who needs a fat portfolio when your dad is one of the biggest actors in Hollywood? Oh, and was the guy who made That Thing You Do!?