Review By Paul Mount, 3.5 out of 5

“Why are you so scared to be human?”

ROSWELL, based on a series of teen drama books by Melinda Metz, ran for three seasons. All of them passed me by. Oh, I was aware of the show, of course. I tuned in once or twice but I wasn’t grabbed. This was BUFFY-lite, a shallow, lifeless show full of smooth hunks and wise-beyond-their-years young girls, BEVERLY HILLS 90210 with a bit of alien conspiracy mumbo-jumbo thrown in to appeal to stray geeks. Some of this is true, of course but ROSWELL is actually quite a bit better than it’s previously been given credit form, by me at least.

Quick history lesson. In 1947 something crashlanded near Roswell, New Mexico. The official line is that it was a weather-balloon or some experimental aircraft. Those with (over)active imaginations reckon it was something a bit more sinister. According to ROSWELL it was. Years after the crash three kids, freed from incubation pods, woke up and found their way to the nearby town. Adopted by local families they were quickly assimilated into the local society. But now these kids are surly teens and they’re keen to find out a little bit more about their forgotten origins. But their secret – the fact that they’re aliens and have mysterious powers -remains their secret until a shooting at Roswell’s Crashdown Caf?orces Max (Behr) to use his healing powers to save the life of mortally-wounded waitress Liz Parker (Appleby). Liz finds out the truth and before long so do her chums Maria (Delfino) and Alex Whitman (Hanks, so good in ORANGE COUNTY). But others have their suspicions too, not least Liz’s dumped boyfriend Kyle (Wechsler) and his dad the Sheriff (Sadler).And that new school counsellor (Benz)…what’s her agenda? And can their really be a fourth alien out there somewhere?

ROSWELL season one is actually rather good stuff. The BUFFY comparisons are inevitable and of course ROSWELL is left wanting. The level of scripting and acting can’t touch that of BUFFY but that’s not to say there’s not lots to enjoy here. The three leads are excellent, their performances cold and aloof, genuinely other-worldly and their struggles to blend in and appear human are really quite affecting. Liz’s love interest Max Evans (Behr) is maybe a bit too intense – his habit of turning up below Liz’s balcony, Romeo-style, becomes a bit tedious, Michael (Fehr) has big hair and some serious attitude and the stunning Isabel (Heigl) alone justifies buying the boxset. Shiri Appleby’s wide-eyed innocent Liz carries most of the storylines, ably supported by her comedy sidekick Maria (Delfino).

ROSWELL is clearly aimed at All-American Teens but there’s more to it than than. Like most modern SF shows it has story arcs and subplots but most of the episodes work as stand-alones – although the gets more intriguing and interesting as the four alien Tess (Emilie de Ravin) turns up towards the end of the run. It’s never clearly defined what the aliens’ powers are – they seem a bit superficial and underwhelming, to be honest but then ROSWELL is a show about, let’s face it, the traumas of teens-as-outsiders, and special effects and high SF concepts aren’t part of the gameplan.

Ultimately, the majority of these 22 episodes are engrossing and watchable. The New Mexico scenery (assuming it was actually filmed there) gives the show the scope it needs and there’s a useful otherworldly quality about both the location and many of the performances. ROSWELL didn’t change the world but it’ll entertain you and divert you for a while.

THE DISCS: Six-disc set with impressive visuals and a very nice 5.1 soundtrack. Extras are sparse but worthwhile; a handful of commentaries, a short feature focussing on the show’s origins as a series of books, and a meatier, revealing behind-the-scenes featurette. A nice package available online at around ?0. So why, Fox, do BUFFY and ANGEL six-disc sets costs around ?0? Answer me that one…


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