Warning: This review does contain spoilers
Emery: I thought you had died….
Roman: I almost did; one of my hearts stopped beating. Luckily, I have a back-up.
That’s an example of the dialogue featured in tonight’s CW premiere of Star-Crossed. Granted, it’s not the worst dialogue ever uttered on TV and certainly not the worst dialogue ever uttered on the CW, but it gives you a good indication of what sort of cheeseball schmaltz to expect.
Years ago, WB aired Roswell, a pre-Friday Night Lights Jason Katims series about a high-school romance between an alien and a human and for all of its flaws, it still did a number of things right. Chief among them is a very effective pilot that was fun, compelling, romantic and witty from beginning to end. But that’s kind of the difference between the WB and the majority of CW’s efforts. WB didn’t always knock it out of the park, but it still produced some level of quality despite being a “teen” network. CW has no qualms in producing some of the laziest, most generic crap you could ever imagine just because it’s “hot” at the moment.
There are a number of parallels between Roswell and Star-Crossed, making it seem like a cheap knock-off, made even cheaper when you consider how uninspired everything else about it is. Forgettable characters, a promising premise wasted, bland dialogue; it’s everything you hope your pilot isn’t.
Star-Crossed opens with aliens “invading” the Earth and immediately being rounded up or killed. One of those aliens is a young boy named Roman who gets away, hides in Emery’s barn for a night while she sneaks him food. He’s quickly discovered (no word on how they track him down) and shot with some laser gun looking thing (Emery believes he’s dead, but of course he isn’t…). The little girl who plays young Emery is the same little girl from Ben and Kate and We Bought a Zoo and she’s incredibly adorable…which is probably the only compliment I’m gonna pay anyone on this show.
She grows up to be Aimee Teegarden, looking completely unrecognizable as Emery, but she’s still very CW attractive and in case you weren’t immediately aware, her sick friend, Julia (Malese Jow), makes sure to make mention of how hot she is in their first scene together. Turns out that Emery has been in the hospital for most of the past four years due to an autoimmune disease, but she’s returning to school while Julia remains sick in bed in a late stage of cancer. This is explained through awkwardly exposition inserted in the girls’ first on-screen conversation.
The premise, as you likely know, finds the aliens (here, called Atrians) being assimilated into a high school, allowed out of their gated sector for the first time since arriving on our planet. Much of this is clearly supposed to mirror real-life racial desegregation situations, but don’t expect any actual depth. Honestly, the aliens look and act just like humans with the only difference being some weird hair styles and face tattoos. So besides some pouting and one physical altercation, there’s not much that happens as a result of the Atrians’ persecution at the hands of the humans (which consists of childish teasing).
Throughout the hour, we discover that Emery’s dad works as a top official securing the Atrians’ sector (that’s right, not only is a girl falling for a boy from the wrong side of the tracks but her dad’s the one that supposed to keep them there!), Emery discovers that Roman is the boy she saved all those years ago and they make googly-eyes and press their hands together (while she becomes a social pariah after sticking with him after the cops show up at a party) and Roman uses an alien miracle drug to presumably save Julia’s life.
Along the way, we encounter a number of instantly forgettable teens (one played by fellow Friday Night Lights alum, Grey Damon, who’s harboring an obvious crush for Emery) and see a few instances of futuristic technology (after all, Star-Crossed does take place in the mysterious world of 2024).
Look, there’s the potential for an interesting show here. Aside from the public being aware of the aliens in this story, Roswell essentially made this same show over a decade ago and it was much better. There is nothing here that differentiates aliens from humans and aside from the miracle plant, they have no discernible powers. At one point, Roman’s dad comments that he’s mastered the human art of sarcasm, as if just implying that he’s somehow different will make it so. But from what we’re shown, there’s nothing about Roman that makes him any different than any other brooding teenage boy (who looks 25) that you’d find on the CW.
Teegarden and Matt Lanter (who plays Roman) have acceptable, if forgettable, chemistry and if the words coming out of the mouth were in any way interesting, maybe their relationship would be enough to hook me (that is, after all, the blatant hope of this show).
Despite my griping, it’s honestly not a terrible show, there’s just no chance of it being mistaken for a good one. It’s the kind of show that infuriates me because it’s so lazy and formulaic and so shamelessly pandering to a specific audience, I find it insulting. I would have been interested in a version of this show that allowed its characters to be interesting and dared to flesh out this world in a more complex way, but I won’t be sticking with this version of Star-Crossed. My guess is that not many others will either and it won’t make it beyond episode 13.