Roswell: Season One
October 11, 2002
Max Evans and his alien pals must evade discovery from government agents and nosy teenagers.
After the disappointing experience that was Disturbing Behaviour, veteran X-Files director David Nutter was looking for new projects and happened to meet up with Jason Katims, who was adapting the Roswell High books. Thus one of the most popular teen shows of the last decade was born. An odd mix of teen angst and sci-fi conspiracy theories, Roswell was essentially Dawson’s Creek meets The X-Files (Fehr bears a striking resemblence to one David Duchovny) with a bit of Romeo and Juliet thrown in for good measure.
As with Buffy The Vampire Slayer and later Smallville (also developed by Nutter), the success of Roswell was essentially about taking everyday teenage problems and giving them a slight twist. Everybody feels alienated at school at some point, but what if you literally were an alien? It’s this simple premise that keeps the show interesting by concentrating on the human drama rather than outlandish adventures (the kid’s powers are used sparingly) . Sadly this theme was lost by the messy third season, and with nowhere left to go, the show was cancelled.
But on reflection it’s easy to see why the show first caught on back in 2000. It has all the elements a good teen drama should have: comedy, dating, trust issues and dangerous late night escapades. For the uninitiated, the story begins with a fight in a restaurant in Roswell that leaves waitress Liz Parker dying from a gunshot wound. Max and his friend Michael happen to be there and Max uses his powers to save her life, triggering a whole lot of interest from Liz and her friend Maria. The local sheriff, whose father was a UFO fantatic, smells something fishy and also takes it upon himself to find out more about Max. During the course of the show Liz, Maria and nerdy nice-guy Alex are let in on the truth, that Max, his sister Isobel and Michael are aliens descendant from the 1947 UFO crash who are trying to discover more about their past.
Characters are nicely drawn, with the adults contributing just as strongly as the kids. William Sadler, as the sheriff, is particularly ambiguous and never once plays the evil baddie card. In fact, the more he discovers, the more he sympathizes with the outsiders. Likewise his son Kyle, Liz’s jock boyfriend, isn’t a typical high school bully and Wechsler gives him just enough charm that you almost feel sorry for him when Liz dumps him for Max. Delfino is great as the eccentric best friend and Heigl gives the show its sex appeal as frosty Isobel, who Alex (Hanks) promptly falls in love with. And it’s these characters that make the show constantly engaging.
‘Area 51’ takes a half-hour look behind the scenes with interviews with the cast and crew. Hanks really is his father’s son and is someone we should look out for in future, whilst Sadler is the complete opposite of his intimidating on-screen persona. “Nick Wechsler is an idiot,” he deadpans. It’s also comforting to know that the fans of the show were largely responsible for the studio commissioning a second (and third) series.
‘Roswell High’ is a short but interesting segment focusing on the origins of the books that led to the series, with the writers pointing out things that were changed (for the better) for TV. There’s also an audition tape for Emilie De Raven and a bland music video starring Shiri Appleby, but the most fun is to be found on the scattered commentaries. The girls snigger about teasing Hanks on his first day and the writers/directors point out the difficulties of making a show look good on a modest budget. Sadly none of the alluded (and plentiful) outtakes are anywhere to be found, but overall if you’re a fan of the show you’ll be more than satisfied with this boxset.