All Your TV: The Reinvention Of Roswell

Thanks to Sheila and Jill for sending this in. I appreciate it. Follow the link to read the entire article


The Reinvention Of Roswell

Written By Rick Ellis, November 15th, 2000

While I appreciate the intensity of a fan’s devotion to their favorite TV show, I have to admit that most of the time, I think the various fan-based “Save Our Show” campaigns are a waste of time.

Did anyone REALLY want another episode of The Sentinel or Walker, Texas Ranger? And even when a show does get a second lease on life, more often than not the result is a weak and frightened version of an already weak offering.

But there are exceptions to that rule. All In The Family and Cheers were essentially canceled after their first season, before being brought back from the dead for a long run. And on the drama side, CBS resurrected JAG after NBC dropped it, and it’s turned into a linchpin of that network’s lineup.

Based on what we’ve seen so far this season, you can add The WB’s Roswell to the success column. After a meandering first season, the show was unexpectedly brought back for a second season, and the show has never been more compelling.

The premise of the show is straightforward science fiction. A beautiful young waitress (Liz) is accidentally shot and is brought back to a life by a teenage boy (Max) who’s been secretly in love with her for years. As it turns out, he is one of three aliens who awoke ten years in incubation pods outside Roswell, New Mexico.

As the season progressed, the story unfolded in greater detail. The trio aren’t alone. In fact, they begin meeting other aliens, some friends and some dangerous. All the while attempting to hide their identity from outsiders, including a curious local sheriff and an ambitious FBI agent.

And then there’s the romance.

What would a teenage WB show be without the romance? And during last season, the trio began romancing humans, bringing along the inevitable teenage angst and sexual tension. But that’s where Roswell began to lose itself.

By mid-season, the focus on dating and romance had threatened to overwhelm the sci-fi aspects of the story. And already anemic ratings suffered. So it was clear to everyone involved that if the show did return, there had to be changes.

And beginning from the first episode of the second season, it was clear that the show’s writers had found their footing. The sci-fi was firmly back in the mix, and while the romance wasn’t completely gone, it wasn’t overwhelming the story. The result was something more, well, human.

We’ve been introduced to a dangerous new group of aliens–the skins–who are at odds with Max and the others. That uncertainty helps heighten the tension and keep the trio from turning into some invincible superpeople. And they’ve been joined in their battles by Tess, a young alien who believes that on their home world, she and Max were destined to be together.

While I’m obviously just skimming the surface of the plot, it’s set up some truly compelling television. Two weeks ago, the show changed radically when Liz was visited by a Max from the future, who told her that she had to break up with the present-day Max. Their romance would send Tess into the arms of the enemy, and that defection would ultimately lead to their defeat when the Earth is invaded.

That change, and her decision to alienate the love of her life has brought the show to a new level, and created a much larger palate of choices for the writers. Roswell has evolved from Dawson’s Creek with aliens to a show worthy of being saved.

Sometimes, the fans are right after all.