TV Guide: Star Bores-Roswell

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Aliens, go home.

It pains me to say that about a series that I loved so much during its first season, but the sad truth is that the once-electric WB sci-fi favorite has lost its creative juices — and worse, its focus.

From the moment Max Evans (Jason Behr) healed Liz Parker (Shiri Appleby) as she lay on the floor of her parent’s café in Roswell, N.M., with a gunshot wound, the series had me hooked. Last year was pure magic as aliens Max, his sister Isabel (Katherine Heigl) and pal Michael (Brendan Fehr) tried to discover their native roots while evading the pursuit of Government cronies bent on their capture. The budding relationship of Max and Liz proved to be one of the most endearing romances in recent television history. Then, as year one drew to a close, the show’s writers made a cosmic mistake. In the season finale, we learned who the aliens are and why they are here. The mystery that drove the series was gone.

The writers never recovered from that misstep, and the quality of the scripts this season plummeted as the course of the show moved excessively toward the sci-fi angle and strayed too far from the relationships of the characters, which was the strength of the series. Our heroes were left to battle dull villains. First it was a weird race called the Skins, who were determined to destroy the alien quartet and their earthly pals. Then it was a gang of alien doppelgangers from New York City who wanted Max to cut a deal with his home planet’s enemies that would seemingly send them all home but which really turned out to be a trap. All of this made for a ponderous lethargy.

And it continues in tonight’s installment as Max learns that a night of passion with Tess (Emilie de Raven), his new alien squeeze, has resulted in her pregnancy and that the baby is due in just one month (hey, we’re in sweeps). To make matters worse, the Earth’s atmosphere proves inhospitable to the unborn child, who may not survive.

Nor may Roswell survive for another season, which is fairly astonishing considering the well-deserved buzz that surrounded it last year. Beyond the inferior scripts, the WB has also damaged the show with some peculiar scheduling decisions. For starters, it was shelved for six weeks in early March and replaced with repeat episodes of Gilmore Girls. Then, when it returned, on-air promos for the show seemed to disappear. Next, the network pulled an original episode that should have aired on April 16 and replaced it with the episode that would have aired a week later. Now it’s not uncommon for networks to shuffle the order of shows, but not with a series like Roswell and a storyline continuity that depends on episodes airing in a specific sequence. So, the episode that should have aired on April 16 is now slated for May 14 (the season finale is May 21). As a result, even Roswell veterans who’ve seen every single episode may have a tough time making sense of next week’s episode.

While the folks at the WB were spending the better part of the year wondering whether it would or wouldn’t hold on to Buffy (it didn’t), someone at the shop should have been paying some attention to what was happening to Roswell. It wasn’t too long ago that it was hot. Now it’s in jeopardy and it never should have happened. A year ago, I would have dreaded the prospect of this series being cancelled. But the rapid deterioration set in, and now it doesn’t matter. The aliens may as well climb back aboard the mothership, return home and fade into television history. — Steve Donahue