The sci-fi genre gets a much-needed shot in the arm from this poignant allegory about the burdens and mysteries of the teen years. Although “Roswell,” the entertaining brainchild of Jason Katims (“My So-Called Life”), bears the trademark qualities of a typical teen show, including a radio-ready soundtrack and a poster-worthy cast, series is anything but ordinary, a cosmic blend of high school angst and otherworldly intrigue.
Tyro Shiri Appleby stars as Liz Parker, a native of the infamous Roswell, N.M., who indulges the alien-seeking tourists that come to her father’s Crashdown Cafe. There she sarcastically serves up sandwiches like the “Sigourney Weaver” and the “Will Smith” with her best friend Maria (Majandra Delfino).
After a violent argument and random shooting at the cafe, Liz is seriously wounded; it doesn’t look like she’ll make it. But before anyone can call an ambulance, classmate Max Evans (Jason Behr) mysteriously heals her with a touch of his hands. Startled and a bit confused, Liz brushes off the incident as a fainting spell, but the events arouse the suspicion of Sheriff Valenti (William Sadler). Liz, aware that something very strange happened, confronts Max and learns that he isn’t the ordinary shy guy that she’s known since childhood. It turns out it wasn’t a weather balloon that crashed in the New Mexico desert back in 1947, and that Max, his sister Isabel (Katherine Heigl) and his best friend Michael (Brendan Fehr) are Tabasco-drinking aliens. Trouble is, Max and company are just as clueless as to what really happened that fateful night in ’47, and as they try and search for answers, they risk exposing themselves as well as the truth.
Although casting the dark haired Behr and the blond Heigl as brother and sister is pushing the laws of genetics a bit, the two actors present a believable united front. As Max, Behr is appropriately soulful and pensive, but at times borders on the morose. Show could benefit from the inclusion of Katims’ hints of humor, including an amusing cameo by exec producer Jonathan Frakes.
Appleby is a welcome fresh face as the small-town girl excited and frightened by this all this weirdness. Sadler, one of the few major adult characters in the show, is appropriately menacing, but with a hint of sympathy.
Director David Nutter (“The X-Files” “Disturbing Behavior”) packs a lot of information into the first two episodes, but Katims forgoes any complex alien mythology in favor of a taut story. At this point in the series, all of the key characters are on the same blank page, and the fun and challenge of the show will be the journey in which viewers learn some answers.
Steve Mark and Victor DuBois are judicious in their editing without sacrificing plot continuity. Technical credits are slick.