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Stuff for the Teen Age

Sci-Fi Summer Television We Love to Watch: The Teen Aliens of Roswell


"September 23rd. Journal entry one. I'm Liz Parker, and five days ago, I died. After that, things got really weird..." 

Here's a typical boy-meets-girl story. The girl is Liz Parker, a high school waitress from Roswell, New Mexico. The boy is the mysterious Max Evans, a high school loner who redefines "tall, dark, and handsome." Liz works at her parents' diner, the Crashdown Café, which plays up the town's touristy alien kitsch mentality. One afternoon while Max is eating and Liz is working, two guys get into an argument. One pulls out a gun. There's a struggle. The gun goes off... and Liz is shot. Without thinking, Max rushes to her side. He looks her in the eyes, then places his hand over her stomach. After a few seconds, the bullet wound is gone. Max tells her that she's all right, and asks her to please not say anything. He drives off a few minutes later with Liz looking on, stunned...

...and that's just the first five minutes.

Roswell tells the story of Max (Jason Behr from The Grudge and The Tattooist), his sister Isabel (Katherine Heigl from Grey's Anatomy, Killers, and Knocked Up), and their friend Michael (Brendon Fehr from CSI Miami and Booth's younger brother on Bones). These three teens are aliens... but in the literal sense. Hatched from pods in the mid-1980s, they believe they were in the original supposed crash that took place in 1947. Abandoned and alone, they know nothing of their origin or their people. As Isabel exlplains to one of the other characters, "I don't know. When we came out of these pods, we looked just like normal kids. We've never been anything else but what you see. No green skin, no antennas. We have emotions, we feel pain, and we probably have more questions about ourselves than you do. I mean, haven't you ever felt different from everybody else? Like if you tried to reveal your true self to someone, they just would never understand." They take the idea of being alienated to an entirely new level.

The show lasted for three seasons, the first two of which were on the now defunct WB Network. When Buffy the Vampire Slayer moved to UPN, Roswell went with it for its third and final year. One of my favorite third season episodes was "Ch-Ch-Changes" (named for the David Bowie song). During this episode, Liz begins to experience strange hallucinations and causes bizarre things to happen. It's eventually discovered that Max healing her somehow changed her. As they race to find a cure, fearing for Liz's safety, the shaky precipice that Max and Liz's relationship is always teetering off of threatens to crumble away completely. Liz survives, but her relationship with Max may not.

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