Rally cry: ‘Roswell’ time-shifts to new slot

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Rally cry: ‘Roswell’ time-shifts to new slot
By Robert Bianco, USA TODAY, April 17, 2000

Hot-sauce sellers must love Roswell.

A fondness for the spicy red stuff is one of the quirks of Roswell’s
alienated teenage aliens, who like to guzzle the stuff straight. Fans
noticed and have been sending thousands of bottles to network executives and TV critics as part of their campaign to save the ratings-deprived series from cancellation.

It was a clever stunt – but enough, already. There’s only so much hot sauce any non-space visitor needs.

Anyway, the sauce has done its job. WB has moved the show to a new time slot, Mondays at 9 p.m. ET/PT, and has started a promotional push to relaunch Roswell as it starts a six-episode march to the end of the season.

If you haven’t watched the show since its fall premiere, here’s a quick
catch-up. The three high school aliens – Max (Jason Behr), Isabel (Katherine Heigl) and Michael (Brendan Fehr) – have formed a Buffy-esque Scooby Gang with their three human buddies, Liz (Shiri Appleby), Maria (Majandra Delfino) and Alex (Colin Hanks).

Max is dating Liz, Maria is dating Michael, and Alex is about to date
Isabel. Those relationships, though, have been thrown into turmoil by the arrival of a new girl, Tess (Emilie De Ravin), who may be a death-dealing shape-shifter.

Although the producers no doubt appreciate the burst of attention, tonight’s episode (as well as the one coming next week, which also was made available for preview) may not be the best way to win much-needed friends. Behr and Appleby are still lovely together as the star-crossed lovers, but the romantic complications among their friends are too teen-show ordinary, and the shape-shifter plot, with its whiff of government cover-up, will be tough for newcomers to penetrate.

Based on the Roswell High books, the series comes from Jason Katims of My So-Called Life and David Nutter of The X-Files, who have created TV’s first teen-angst conspiracy show. The cast is attractive. But the actors tend to deliver every line with the same high level of solemnity, and the dialogue they’re given is often comically overheated. (“Why are you so scared to be an alien?” “Why are you so scared to be human?” “That’s enough, both of you!”) These kids couldn’t order a hamburger without making it sound as if they were facing their last meal on death row.

If it’s any consolation to the show’s devoted fans, Roswell’s ratings
problems are as much the fault of the network as the series. This season, a certain sameness in WB’s offerings has caught up with the network, making it difficult to launch shows. Just because you like one show doesn’t mean you want to see limitless copies of it on the air.

Still, don’t count WB out. It retains a decent base on which to build next
year, provided by such hits as Charmed, 7th Heaven and the Tuesday combo of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel, which may be the most fun two-hour block on any network. (Its toughest competition for the title? NBC’s team of The West Wing and Law & Order.)

If Roswell can expand beyond its core of devoted fans, it has a shot at
joining that group. And if it does, more than those sauce sellers will be


not an active member anymore.