Saturday, February 5, 2011

Guilty Pleasures

We all have them. I don’t mean criminalities one hides from police (though some of us have those) or infidelities one hides from a spouse (though even more of us have those). I mean the secret joys of the oil rig roughneck who rushes home to see Spongebob Squarepants, of the museum of art curator who is addicted to Jersey Shore, of the hard-nosed county prosecutor who cries when she watches Dumbo, or of the NFL halfback who never misses The Princess Diaries when it is on cable. That sort of thing. There is nothing really wrong with it, but it’s just not something you’d like most people to know.

What’s one of mine? OK, I’ll admit it. Between 1999 and 2003 I was addicted to a primetime teen soap opera called Roswell. More than that, when the dvds were released I bought all three seasons. But that’s all in the past, right? No, not exactly.

A few months ago, a friend and her teen daughter were visiting at my house. The teen mentioned she couldn’t stomach the hit teen soap Twilight even though many of her friends were obsessed with it. I suggested she introduce her friends to Roswell, which was a vastly superior show. I dug out the pilot episode and put it in the dvd player. Both mother and daughter liked it, but there was an unintended side effect. Damn it, now I’m addicted again, and I see no alternative but to see the series once more all the way through to the end – actually, I just finished the second season yesterday.

The show’s premise: the mysterious crash of an object outside of Roswell NM in 1947 that originally was reported by newspapers to be a flying saucer was in fact a flying saucer, rather than a weather balloon as the Air Force later insisted. Two alien survivors of the crash escaped the scene and secreted away pods in which alien and human DNA were blended; the pods incubate for decades until out pop human-looking kids; the alien-human hybrids grow into teenagers and attend West Roswell High. Silly? Utterly. Yet strangely mesmerizing.

What did the show do right? Solid writing, clever directing, a great cast, dry dark humor, and a core plot of two young literally star-crossed lovers. The show won a fiercely dedicated following, yet, the following was cultish rather than large. Roswell was always on the verge of cancellation; it lasted three seasons only by switching networks. So what did the show do wrong, at least commercially? It didn’t focus specifically on the teen audience, especially girls. In particular, the two male leads in the show, while good-looking, lack the swoon-inducing presence of, say, Robert Pattinson on Twilight, and so failed to win a female teen/tween following outside the pool of sci-fi fans. After all, if a middle-age bachelor can enjoy the show, the target demographic wasn’t hit with precision. The female aliens played by Emilie de Ravin and Katherine Heigl are the real eye candy on the show.

So, if you are someone who is likely to have your TV set commandeered by teens, let me suggest keeping the Roswell dvds handy. They might save you from being driven from the room by what is on your screen. Be warned, though. You might find yourself watching them alone, too. I promise not to tell.


  1. Oh I've got some anime guilty pleasures that even my wife shies away from. No, it's nothing in the adult variety. It's the oh so outrageous "Sailor Moon". For some reason I get a big kick out of that first season of shows with or without the hideous English dub. There is another show called "Revolutionary Girl Utena" that I love, but is so saturated with pink and pastels that can feel my testosterone dropping with each passing minute. But man if it isn't visually interesting, mysterious and just plain bizarre. And it features Japanese Rock Opera in full blown 70's style. Yeah it's great show. ;)

  2. You're a brave man, Roman.