Alibi V.28 No.4 • Jan 24-30, 2019 

Idiot Box

Crash Into Me

“Roswell, New Mexico” on The CW

The 1999 to 2002 WB/UPN sci-fi soap “Roswell” returns in rebooted form as “Roswell, New Mexico” thanks to the folks at The CW. Like The WB before it (“Dawson’s Creek,” “7th Heaven,” “Felicity,” “Charmed”), The CW has a real taste for teen melodrama (“90210,” “Gossip Girl,” “Riverdale,” “Charmed”). And “Roswell, New Mexico” fits the bill quite nicely with the added genre touch of supernatural/sci-fi that The CW also loves (“Supernatural”/“The 100”). On the whole, the show reads more like a demographic checklist than an organically formed work of art, but that’s probably enough to please the network’s viewers and ensure a solid two to three seasons of work for New Mexican actors and film technicians.

New Mexico gets more than titular credit on the re-imagined series. Unlike the original, the new version is shot right here in New Mexico—resulting in far fewer Joshua trees in the background. Although both shows borrow their inspiration from Melinda Metz’ young adult book series Roswell High, “Roswell, New Mexico” ages up the cast, subbing out teenage romance for twentysomething sex. Instead of taking place in high school, the show revisits its characters a decade after graduation.

Our main character, Liz Ortecho (Jeanine Mason, winner of the fifth season of “So You Think You Can Dance”) is a jaded biomedical researcher (no foolin’) who reluctantly returns to her hometown of Roswell after her research grants dry up because “somebody needed a wall.” The unsubtle dig at our current president is one of many timely sociopolitical comments in “Roswell, New Mexico.” The show thankfully reinstates Liz’ Mexican heritage. (In the 1999 series she became “Liz Parker”), which allows the writers to draw out all sorts of metaphors about aliens—both extraterrestrial and earthly. Although they run the local UFO-themed greasy spoon (recognizable as downtown Albuquerque’s Lindy’s Diner), Liz’ family are undocumented immigrants, which keeps them at arm’s length from local law enforcement. (“We could move to a sanctuary city,” says Liz, continuing the well-meaning but ham-handed political lessons.)

Unfortunately, one of the main representatives of local law enforcement turns out to be Sheriff’s Deputy Max Evans (Australian actor Nathan Dean Parsons). Max was Liz’ high school crush and vice versa. You can tell they’re still in love because they stare slack-jawed and moony-eyed at one another for minutes on end. That’s not the only thing complicating Liz’ homecoming, either. Turns out Max (plus his married sister and his rebellious brother) are all space aliens with miraculous powers. They’ve been hiding that secret for decades. But Max kind of spills the beans when he uses his alien healing powers to save Liz’ life after she’s shot by a mysterious assailant at the diner.

That “Roswell, New Mexico” wants to say something important about the age in which we live is admirable. But the message about xenophobia gets bogged down in the show’s dueling ambitions. Star-crossed romance, sci-fi thriller, murder mystery: “Roswell, New Mexico” isn’t sure which genre it wants to commit itself to. The cast (Mason in particular) is appealing and the premise is intriguing. But the overly didactic dialogue, the intimations of kinky sex and the majorly unsubtle antagonists (racists, men in black) strand the show somewhere between teenage fantasy and grown-up drama.

“Roswell, New Mexico” airs Tuesdays at 8pm on KWBQ-19.