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Now in its third season, Roswell – the cult favorite about alien kids coming of age in Roswell, N.M. – has experienced tough going of late. At the end of its sophomore season, its original home network, the WB, dumped it. And although UPN picked it up, the series has been far from a ratings success this year. In fact, although it has increased ratings for UPN in its Tuesday night timeslot, it routinely loses the Nielsen wars to ABC’s NYPD Blue, CBS’s The Guardian, Fox’s 24, NBC’s Frasier and the WB’s Smallville. Understandable, perhaps, but still, not a good sign. And the news continues to get worse: UPN recently announced that it has reduced its season order of episodes from 22 to 19.

What’s unfortunate about all of that bad news is this: Roswell is, in fact, a well-done drama that adroitly mixes paranormal flourishes with comedic and touching moments. Tonight’s Christmas-themed episode is a good case in point. While “Christmas Nazi” Isabel (Katherine Heigl) is intent on making her first Christmas with husband Jesse (Adam Rodriguez) a success, brother Max (Jason Behr) meets an autistic boy who he thinks may be a link to his own lost son.

The episode opens with Max commiserating with friend Michael (Brendan Fehr), who can’t understand why his girlfriend Maria (Majandra Delfino) has broken up with him. The two stop by a burger joint known as the Crashdown, where they meet up with Isabel, Jesse, Maria and Max’s girlfriend Liz (Shiri Appleby). While Isabel holds forth about her plans for creating a “perfect” Christmas, Max can’t help but notice that a little boy is staring at him.
Soon enough, the boy “Samuel” approaches him and says one word: “Daddy.” Although his mother quickly corrals him, explaining that he’s autistic, Max is stunned, and comes away believing that his own son is attempting to use the child to communicate with him.

Meanwhile, Isabel’s efforts to make the holidays memorable include overseeing the town’s annual Santa Village, where Maria and Liz volunteer as helper elves to Michael’s Santa. The result is some amusing repartee between Michael and Maria, especially in one scene where he tells her to get him something to drink. Fed up with his bossiness, she invites him into her “little elf house” to give him a piece of her mind, only to have the moment interrupted by a child’s prying eyes. It’s a laugh-out-loud moment, to be sure. Jesse, however, isn’t laughing: Isabel’s efforts to create the perfect Christmas mean that his cherished stocking, which he made in kindergarten, has been banished to the back of the tree; and his hopes of chilling to football must take a backseat to her whims. In essence, their first Christmas isn’t theirs, it’s hers, with Jesse along for the ride.

These disparate plotlines ultimately intertwine and do so in delightful fashion. Only a hard-hearted Grinch would fail to be charmed. Myself, I say UPN would do well to not only hold onto Roswell, but find it a new home on its schedule, say, Wednesdays at 9 pm/ET, where it would make the perfect companion to Enterprise.

Jeff Gemmill