Roswell Marches to a Different Drama

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December 19 to 25

‘Roswell’ marches to a different drama
By James Endrst

LOS ANGELES – Can a small band of aliens, the sole survivors of that legendary crash in 1947 in Roswell, N.M., find happiness on Planet Eart? As teenagers, no less?

It’s not easy, but somehow the kids – or whatever they are – seem to be surviving on the WB’s uniquely rewarded Roswell.

The hourlong series – new this season, broadcast at 9 Wednesday nights on Channel 17 oppostite NBC’s The West Wing and ABC’s The Drew Carey Show – hasn’t exactly taken off in the ratings. But there’s little doubt it has the dramatic fuel to fly.

Few recent shows have managed to blend so many themes into such a broadly appealing hour. Mixing youthful alienation with science fiction, pop culture and a charming cast of actors, Roswell is part My So Called Life and part The X-Files, with a healthy dose of The Fugitive thrown in.

Jason Behr (Dawson’s Creek) and newcomer Shiri Appleby play Max Evans and Liz Parker, two high-schoolers from different worlds: She’s from Earth; he isn’t.

Neith is Max’s sister Isabel, played by Katherine Heigl. Nor is his friend Michael Guerin, portrayed by Brendan Fehr. As if fitting in weren’t hard enough already.

Having kept a low profile since finishing their incubation all by themselves, the three other-worldlings were instantly jeopardized when Max lovingly brouth Liz back from the dead in the series pilot – exposing his secret not only to Liz but to her more unpredictable friend, Maria, played by Majandra Delfino.

And the sheriff (William Sadler) is on their trail. This being Roswell, N.M., he knows more than a thing or two about aliens.

“High school – and adolescence is such an important part of people’s life and development that it leaves a very lasting mark on them emotionally,” says Behr, 25, on the Paramount Television Studios lot, where the show is filmed.

The oldest in a cast portraying teens, he finds it “very easy to draw back on my high school experience and my adolescence.”

Appleby, 20, also says playing a 16-year-old isn’t much of a stretch. “High school is, like, two years ago fro me,” she says.

In the minds of the cast members, Roswell is more of a coming-of-age story with sci-fi booster rockets to keep the show moving.

“I think that the alien metaphor is very unique in this show,” Behr says. “And it’s something that I think is universally appealing. I think many people associate with … feeling very alienated or feeling very different from anybody else and feeling worried and fearful that people will discover who they really are because they might not necessarily accept them.”

That sums up a lot of childhood stories, doesn’t it?

“I’m still growing up, and let me tell you, it’s still really, really difficult,” Appleby says.

There is, however, no shortage of X-Files-brand conspiracy, paranoia and fear of the unknown to be found.

Just ask Jonathan Frakes, best know as Cmdr. William Riker of Star Trek: The Next Generation and one of this series’ executive producers and directors.

“I think the X-Files analogy is a good one because we’re using the FBI characters in the same way [X-Files] executive producer – creator Chris Carter does.”

Of course, Frakes adds, “The obvious double entendre of teenage alienation is not lost on us.”

There are a lot of questions, to be answered on Roswell – which naturally or unnaturally, is part of its appeal.

How long, for instance, can the sheriff go on chasing the kids of Roswell when they are essentially standing in one place and he knows, but just can’t prove yet, that Max and company are from another planet?

“That’s our biggest challenge,” says Frakes, who runs the show with Jason Katims, formerly of My So-Called Life, and David Nutter from The X-Files. “We have to keep the number of people who know the secret down to four.”



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