Once, long ago, the WB and UPN both aired a show called Roswell, about alien teenagers going to high school and trying to fit in. Now their successor network, The CW, has launched a new "aliens in high school" show, Star-Crossed. But how does it stack up?
The premise. Roswell was about young aliens hiding out in Roswell, NM, who had survived a UFO crash and were now going to high school — and we eventually learned they were clones of the Royal Four on their homeworld, Antar. They kept their alien heritage secret from the FBI and alien-hunters, while trying to learn their own forgotten history.
Meanwhile, in Star-Crossed, everybody knows the aliens are aliens — and in fact, it's more like District 9, except with ridiculously good-looking underwear models instead of inhuman creatures. The aliens crashed on Earth 10 years ago, fleeing their dying homeworld, and now they're forced to live in the "Sector," a kind of refugee camp. But seven alien teenagers are enlisted to go to the human high school, where they are bullied and threatened with castration by the guidance counselor because they have tattoo-like markings. (Yes, just like Beastly.)
Basically, Star-Crossed more or less starts out with one of the members of En Vogue stepping in front of the camera and saying, "Prejudice. Made a TV show about it. Wanna see it? Here it goes."
The love triangle. In Roswell, the main triangle was Liz and Max — Liz is the human who discovers Max's secret and then tells a couple of her friends. She and Max have a torrid relationship — but then it turns out that Max and Tess are the clones of a husband and wife, back on Antar. So maybe Max and Tess are destined to be together?
In Star-Crossed, the love triangle is between a girl and two boys, because we're living in the post-Twilight era. Emery is a kind-hearted 16-year-old who met an alien boy named Roman on the night the alien ship crash-landed, and now she meets him again when he comes to her high school. But meanwhile, Emery also has a thing for the adorably dorky Grayson, who just transferred to her school a year earlier, and thus isn't entrenched in the popular kids' clique.
Emery is torn between the two boys — but just like Roswell's triangle is really about Max's destiny, the Star-Crossed love triangle is also a proxy for Emery's divided loyalties. Does she stand with her dad,the hard-working cop who helps to run the refugee camp, and with the popular kids clique at school that inexplicably put out the welcome mat for her? Or does she stand with the oppressed aliens, who are mistreated and shot at and picketed and punched, but unable to fight back? (She winds up saving Roman instead of running away with her friends in the pilot, which will probably have consequences.)
The fateful healing. In the pilot of Roswell, Max heals Liz after she gets fatally shot, using his alien healing powers — and that leads to her finding out he's an alien, starting the whole business in motion. (For some reason, ketchup doesn't fool her into thinking she didn't get shot.) But Max's healing changes Liz, making her into something other than a normal human teenager.
In Star-Crossed, Emery spent four years in a hospital before just recently being allowed to go to high school. And her hospital buddy is Julia, who is dying of cancer with apparently no possible treatment options left. Emery and Julia sneak inside the alien compound, looking for a mythical herb called Ciper, which can cure anything — only to be told it's basically saffron. But after Emery risks everything to save Roman, he sneaks into the hospital and uses the herb, plus some of his glowy alien blood, to heal Julia, apparently curing her cancer.
The relatively neat thing in the Star-Crossed pilot is that Roman healing Julia has more personal consquences than just someone discovering his secret or being changed — because Roman stays out after curfew, his muckety-muck dad goes looking for him, and winds up getting shot by Emery's dad. That's going to be awkward.
The power-mad aliens. In Roswell, the big lurking storm cloud is Kivar, the evil alien who wants to prevent the four hybrids from taking their rightful places of rulership on Antar. (Plus other assorted baddies who want to stop them or capture them.)
In Star-Crossed, the big threat is partly just that humans will be so evil, we'll crush the poor aliens under our Lands-End boots. But also, there are alien conspirators who want to rise up and put the humans into camps, instead of the other way around. They want to crush the humans with superior alien technology. (Question: How many Adarians are there? Like 100? 1000? Also, their technology didn't really help them when they first landed and the humans shot a bunch of them, right?)
All in all, this show makes a strong bid to be your new guilty pleasure. And you never know, given a few more episodes, it might actually turn into something better than that. Like the new Roswell, for example.