‘Roswell’ That Ends Well – Newsday

Thanks to Imajika for sending this in.

The teen aliens who had a world of chances are taking off tonight
By Kate O’Hare

May 14, 2002

In the brutal world of prime-time television, first chances are won at the cost of many therapy sessions, while second chances are about as common as fur coats at a PETA convention.

In any realistic scenario, “Roswell” never should have gotten on the air, and never should have been renewed, let alone snagged from the jaws of death by a different network. As described by its stars and producers, it’s “the little show that could.”

But all dreams, especially the Hollywood kind, eventually must end, and “Roswell,” having run out of chances – if not devoted fans – bids farewell tonight at 9 (WWOR/9), at least until it pops up in reruns on Sci-Fi Channel this fall, but that’s another story.

Based on a series of young-adult novels by Melinda Metz, who later joined the show as a staff writer, “Roswell” was shepherded to the screen by Jonathan Frakes (“Star Trek: The Next Generation”), an occasional guest star, his producing partner Lisa Olin and “My So-Called Life” producer Jason Katims.

The show began life as “Roswell High,” a pilot for Fox, which passed. With the title trimmed to “Roswell,” it found a home on The WB, which liked the idea of orphaned aliens passing as ordinary high-schoolers in the New Mexico town made famous by reports of a UFO crash in 1947.

Also attractive was the show’s romantic element, in which lead teen alien Max, played by the broody, dark-eyed Jason Behr, risked exposure to save the life of fellow student Liz, played by the perky, dark-eyed Shiri Appleby, because he was totally in love with her.

This led to Liz and her best pal, Maria (Majandra Delfino), finding out about the aliens, which in turn led to lots of romantic complications, including Maria falling for Michael (Brendan Fehr), an alien, and previously clueless Alex (Colin Hanks), his human pal, who finally got a clue and a serious crush on Max’s sister, Isabel (Katherine Heigl).

Then there was scheming alien temptress Tess (Emilie de Ravin) and Isabel’s eventual husband, lawyer Jesse (Adam Rodriguez).

The potboiling blend of science-fiction, romance, teen angst and action-adventure hooked fans of all ages. They were loyal and true, and even staged massive campaigns to keep the show alive, but they never showed up in large enough numbers to make The WB happy. The show hopped time slots and suffered long hiatuses during its two seasons there, and at the end of its second season, the end seemed seriously nigh.

But, just as the bell began to toll, in swept UPN, which had just shelled out major bucks to liberate “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” from The WB, and had high hopes that “Angel,” “Buffy’s” spinoff, would follow. This hope dashed, UPN put out a hand to “Roswell,” in hopes of re-creating the young-adult-oriented Tuesday night that “Buffy” and “Angel” long had provided for the WB.

Little did anyone know that the slot chosen for Roswell – Tuesday at 9 p.m. – would become the biggest traffic jam in recent TV history, with the WB’s “Smallville,” ABC’s “NYPD Blue,” CBS’ “The Guardian,” Fox’s “24” and NBC’s “Frasier” and “Scrubs” elbowing for viewership. Even with “Buffy” as a lead-in, “Roswell” got nailed.

“Honestly,” Katims says, “the biggest disappointment to me is that we didn’t do better in this Tuesday time slot on UPN, because I felt it was a chance for us to really resurrect the show. We really just got crushed.”

When the formal cancellation announcement came in April, no one really was surprised. Katims and fellow producer Ronald D. Moore, who recently was hired to write Sci-Fi Channel’s “Battlestar Galactica” miniseries, collaborated on a finale, “Graduation,” that they hope will leave the faithful with a warm feeling inside, especially those pulling for Max and Liz, the ultimate star-crossed lovers.

“There’s definitely closure for Max and Liz,” Katims says. “At the end of the episode, our characters essentially are – I’m not sure, I’m just thinking as I say this whether I should say this – at the end, there’s a sense of them going off together as a group, leaving Roswell, but being together.

“I like the image of that ending, because it gives you the sense that these characters are still out there somewhere.”