Roswell, New Mexico
Updated: Jul 15, 2019
A Sci-Fi Murder Mystery for 1990s Kids
Streaming on Netflix | 2019 | TV-14 | 1 Season, 13 Episodes
Genre: Murder Mystery, Sci-Fi, Romance
Why I Watched: Like all good 1990s teen girls, I was an avid WB watcher. So when I heard that my beloved Roswell, which aired on the network from 1999–2002, was slated for a reboot, I thought, "There's no way that this is going to work." Still, I dutifully tuned into the reboot's January premiere on The CW, the network that resulted from The WB and UPN's closer in the mid-2000s. I kept coming back for more because, y'all, this show is my jam.
You Might Also Like: I'd be remiss if I didn't suggest you enjoy the original Roswell, currently streaming on Hulu. It's so very 1990s, replete with a Dido theme song. Bonus: It's helmed by young Shiri Appleby (who directs Roswell, New Mexico episode 9, "Songs About Texas), Katherine Heigl, and Colin Hanks. The reboot is set 10 years in the future and is an adaptation of the book series, not the original show. Still, if you're in for a trip down the teen-angst-filled memory lane, a revisit of the original is for you!
One reason I loved the show is that it felt like it grew up with me, maybe even for me. Liz Ortecho (Jeanine Mason) is taking a break from her research career at UC Boulder to visit her dad on the 10-year anniversary of her sister Rosa's death. Within minutes of arriving back in the city limits of Roswell, though, she finds herself living in the past when her former-crush-now-sheriff Max Evans (Nathan Parsons) pulls her over at a DUI and ICE checkpoint. It's like she's seventeen all over again, running into her ex-boyfriend Kyle Valenti (Michael Trevino, The Vampire Diaries), living under her dad's roof, and working her old job at The Crashdown Cafe. Her small town somehow feels even smaller than it used to, until she learns that Max and his siblings, Isobel (Lily Cowles) and Michael (Michael Vlamis), are from outer space. But can they be trusted? Or, do they know something about Rosa's death that they aren't telling Liz ...
The CW took a gamble on Roswell, New Mexico, on the surface a reboot of one of Warner Brother's least successful teen shows. With its science-fiction edge, Roswell was a bit more complicated than The WB's most successful series, Dawson's Creek (1996–2003). The show had a loyal but small following, and so it was ultimately canceled in 2002 after moving to the UPN network. So why bother bringing this series back to life, rather than Buffy or Creek? Because it didn't have the kind of diehard following that those other series had, the Roswell, New Mexico reboot gets to be more of an echo than the original than a reunion tour. Along with that setup, comes all kinds of creative freedom.
Roswell, New Mexico has all of the tropes we want in a CW show: A smart and strong heroine, a damaged alien cowboy with a heart of gold, an alpha girl in a downward spiral, love triangles, and a healthy dose of woke-ness. But instead of aiming for a teen audience, this series has its eyes set on millennials. “It’s a little bit more adult content than we’ve been allowed to do in the past [on the CW], and so I’m excited that we’re showing what people in their late 20s are dealing with realistically with discrimination or sexuality, and we just pose these questions that are very important to this generation and we push the envelope a little bit,” Heather Hemmens, who plays Liz's best friend Maria, told MTV News.
Whereas the original was interested in the feelings of otherness that accompanied high school, the contemporary series is thinking through other issues of belonging. Liz is faced with openly racist violence. Her father is undocumented, trying to find a path to citizenship. Iraqi War veteran Alex Maynes (Tyler Blackburn, Pretty Little Liars) is finding his way after losing a limb in combat and after coming out post–Don't Ask Don't Tell. Yes, the romance is there. Yes, the murder mystery is plot heavy. But like the best CW shows, Roswell, New Mexico hits home with real meaning and commentary on the experience of a generation.
Another thing that this series has going for it is the choice to film on location. The series is shot entirely in New Mexico, between Albuquerque, Sante Fe, and Las Vegas (the small town in New Mexico, not the gambling center; population 14,585). And that means beautiful long shots of deserts and sunsets and cactuses that will have you looking up plane tickets and job options out west. Bonus: The series employed more than 2,000 New Mexicans in the process of shooting.
I related to this show in such a real way—and not just because the main character and I share a first name! I have Buffalo's my hometown in Georgia, they have The Wild Pony. Liz, Maria, and Michael are a mirror image of my own friend group, the way they can spend a decade apart but still pick up like nothing has changed when they get back together. All of the characters navigate evolving parent–child relationships now that they're adults. And did I mention the soundtrack? Prepare to hear all of your 1990s favorites, from Third Eye Blind to Counting Crows.
Roswell, New Mexico shows what it's like to remember your past with both fondness and pain, to want to change and also to cling to how things used to be. And what human (or alien) hasn't experienced that brand of ambivalent nostalgic?
Happy streaming! Liz
PS: The CW just announced a Season 2!