From Cult Times #63

See also: Part 2 here

It has the combined staff of our American office sitting on the edge of the bed (it’s a relaxed kind of office), but can a series that was sold on the strength of its romantic overtones win through as a Sci-Fi action series? We asked Roswell High's executive producer Jonathan Frakes...

Roswell stars Jason Behr, Shiri Appleby and Nick Weschler

Jonathan FrakesJONATHAN FRAKES never had a doubt about it. The co-executive producer of Roswell figured that the freshman series would return for a second season. In fact, Frakes – who also directed several well- received first season episodes and guest-starred a couple of times (as himself) as well – never thought that Roswell was in serious danger of cancellation, despite the show’s usually lethal combination of low ratings and high production costs.

“I am an eternal optimist,” the ever-genial co-star and director of Star Trek: The Next Generation says, laughing. “I think they held off until the end because they were trying to decide exactly where to put us. But once we moved to Monday I think it became clear that we were the best thing that had happened to the WB’s Monday night slot in years. So I was quite confident that we were going to be a part of their future.

“We just got the pick-up for the rest of the second season, which I’m sure you’ve heard about by now. We are all very happy about it, obviously. So I think Roswell will be around for a while; that we will be a part of the TV landscape. I think the move to Sci-Fi, the addition of [scriptwriter] Ron Moore, the way that the cast has gelled – just like The Next Generation cast did years earlier – and the loyalty of teenage girls to Roswell have all contributed to our coming back and to, what looks to me like, a promising future.”

It’s quite true that young females make up a huge chunk of Roswell’s modest, but steadily growing, viewing audience. That tidbit makes the changes in the show all the more intriguing and risky. Though it may very well be a cliché to say so, girls tend to like romance and boys usually prefer Sci-Fi. Thus, Roswell’s late first-season transition from romance/Sci-Fi show to Sci-Fi/adventure/romance series was a huge gamble.

“The single biggest marching order, from all of us down in the trenches through the higher-ups at the studio and the network was, ‘Do not lose sight of the relationships, because that is what sold the show’,” Frakes notes. “So, it’s a matter of finding the balance. That’s where we are now. Obviously, some scripts lend themselves to the balance better and more efficiently than others.

“I think that the human-alien relationships, which are personified mostly by Max [Jason Behr] and Liz [Shiri Appleby], are what drew everybody in. It certainly intrigued me. By putting Max with Tess [Emilie de Ravin] – his destiny from the pod days, as it were – we are breaking up the A-story love team. We’ve got the comedy team intact, even though they’ve broken up, too, and that’s Michael [Brendan Fehr] and Maria [Majandra Delfino]. But I think we need to be very careful about completely losing our two lead lovers. We always need to come back to them...”

Ian Spelling

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• In Part 2 of our online feature, meet William Sadler (Sheriff Valenti)

Images © Warner Bros, S Payne
Feature © Visual Imagination 2000. Not for reproduction.