Vacant characters in empty romance
I’m sure someone out there will enjoy the CW’s “Roswell, New Mexico.” If that “Saturday Night Live” Netflix sketch has proved anything, it’s that there’s a show for everyone. Unfortunately, in a mini-screened America, the pool of useless, degraded, empty images only grows each day — and “Roswell” doesn’t help reduce the quota.
The pilot of this escapist but timely show has to do with a young undocumented immigrant named Liz (Jeanine Mason — the season five winner of “So You Think You Can Dance”). Liz re-falls for her longtime crush (Nathan Parsons), who moonlights as a police officer. He turns out to be an alien (get it?) whose family crash-landed in Roswell years ago. She gets shot in her father’s cafe one night, and the crush resurrects her (aliens can do this), causing a host of problems. There’s hidden identities. There’s sci-fi mystery. There’s romance between 2-D cutouts whom we’re supposed to instantly care for.
(You could copy their sexual tension with a Xerox machine.) There’s obnoxiously contemporary commentary: an overworked, too-obvious crackpot of a podcast host fed lines like “Aliens are comin’, and when they do, they’re gonna rape! And murder! And steal! Our! Jobs!”
There is a lot of milquetoast drabness. There’s the “OC”-ish mile-long stares between former flames set to pop tunes, and a nonstop stream of male angst you thought you were rid of after the Sadie Hawkins dance. The blank characters talk about nothing but their situation. They exist only to plot-dump, and don’t seem to have any scurrilous inner life.
Every now and then, there is an incredible image or two: Liz uses a rock to hammer her dead sister’s displaced crucifix back in its place on her grave. Tears stream down Liz’s face, then, out of nowhere, she shakes her head as if she were thinking “racists will be racists,” as the lead singer of some generic Christian rock band sings in the background, “I wish it were me instead of you …” This garrulous earnestness, reaching for an effect and failing wildly, is hard to forget, especially when it is surrounded by so much puffed-up non-drama — in one eye and out the other.
The performances deal in insipid caricaturing on the order of the Millennial who confuses polo with polio in “Three Billboards.” “We are youths,” the whipper-Snapchatters declare, what with their endless Tequila shots and pileups of microaggressions (Millennial bartender Maria to her cowboy customer: “You’re not distracting me from my money with your thinly veiled racism. That was 10 dollars” — another kook moment hard to forget, in spite of the clunky handling).
If this is supposed to be a hip and with-it transmogrification of Millennial life for the CW, I’ll pass. For a great show that gleans young life (romance, hookups, anxieties), watch “Sex Education” on Netflix. For something about aliens that speaks to the current political tire fire, re-watch Paul Verhoeven’s “Starship Troopers” (1997).
Nathan Parsons (left), Lily Cowles and Michael Vlamis appear in “Roswell, New Mexico,” which begins Tuesday, Jan. 15, on the CW. The series is based on the popular “Roswell High” books.
Jeanine Mason plays Liz, who finds her feelings for former crush Max, played by Nathan Parsons, rekindled in the sci-fi romance “Roswell, New Mexico.”