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'Roswell' recap: Revisiting the aliens

The story is as old as time: Boy likes girl, girl likes boy, girl uncovers boy’s secret identity. Hilarity ensues. No, but seriously, the epic love story of Liz Parker and Max Evans in Roswell deserves to be remembered and introduced to a new generation of fans.

Season 1 | Episode 1 | “Pilot” | Aired October 6, 1999

In honor of the “flashback Friday” trend, I thought I’d kick off my time as an EW Community Contributor by recapping the best episodes of Roswell, a criminally underrated WB/UPN sci-fi series from the late 1990s/early 2000s. If you’re new to the series, I highly suggest adding it to your list of summer Netflix binge watches. Even if you’re already a fan, it’s always a good time to rewatch!

One of the brains behind the show may sound familiar to you now: Jason Katims. As in, the Friday Night Lights, Parenthood, and About a Boy creator. If that doesn’t sell you on the show, maybe the cast will do the trick. Jason Behr, Shiri Appleby, Majandra Delfino, Brendan Fehr, Katherine Heigl, Nick Wechsler, and Colin Hanks round out the cast. Fun fact: Many of them reunited at the Austin Television Festival earlier this month for a panel in honor of the 15th anniversary.

We’re first introduced to Liz Parker (Shiri Appleby) as she’s christening a new journal with a strange beginning: “I’m Liz Parker, and three days ago, I died. After that, things got really weird.” Uh, I’d say so! Cut to her and her best friend, Maria (Majandra Delfino) working as waitresses in a kitschy tourist trap of a diner known as the Crashdown Cafe. (We later learn that Liz’s father owns the cafe, and the Parker family even lives in the apartment above it.)

Liz no sooner gains the attention of some tourists in town for the alien festival than she’s the accidental victim in a shooting, when two other customers get in a fight and a gun is fired. This is where Max (Jason Behr) and Michael (Brendan Fehr) come in. They witnessed the shooting, and Max rushes to save Liz’s life. We see visions of a younger Liz that Max is witnessing as he heals her gunshot wound before the cops even arrive. As soon as the sirens get closer, though, Max smashes a bottle of ketchup and begs Liz to go with the story that she slipped and a bottle broke on her.

Sheriff Jim Valenti (William Sadler) instantly starts investigating this case. Witnesses in the cafe, including the tourists, all confirm that a gun was shot, but no bullet can be found anywhere. When Liz gets home that night, she discovers a glowing handprint left on her stomach where Max touched her.

The next morning, everyone is back at school but all anyone can talk about is the shooting. Maria bugs Liz to tell her what really happened with Max, but so far, Liz is keeping her word and staying mum on the subject. Maria and Liz’s friend Alex (Colin Hanks) wasn’t at the cafe at the time, but he’s equally concerned about the incident.

Meanwhile, Max’s sister Isabel (Katherine Heigl) and Michael are getting on Max’s case about the very public risk he took in saving Liz’s life. Not only did he save her life, but he also revealed his true identity as an alien to Liz. Now Michael and Isabel want to skip town before anyone else learns the truth about them.

Oh yeah, it was super-convenient that Max had walked into biology class chewing on a pencil and got freaked out when the assignment was to take a swab of cells from inside your mouth and view them under the microscope. He got a bathroom pass and missed the rest of class while Liz did some detective work of her own. With his pencil eraser at hand, she discovered that his cells were wildly different from her own. The conversation that follows this discovery confirms Liz’s suspicions that Max is an alien, or as he prefers, “not of this Earth.”

Sheriff Valenti isn’t letting go of this case so easily. His son, Kyle (Nick Wechsler), caught of glimpse of the glowing handprint on Liz’s stomach when he brought her home after a date. For whatever reason, he must have told his dad, who then confronted Liz about it in school. He showed her pictures of an unsolved murder case from 1959 where the victim was found with a similar handprint left behind. It turns out Jim’s father worked on that case, and it is hinted that he eventually drove himself crazy over the circumstances surrounding it. The apple may not have fallen so far from the tree because, like his father, Jim is very interested in getting to the bottom of this story.

In order to find a way to throw the sheriff off Max’s case and allow Max and company to stay in Roswell, Liz comes up with a plan for the upcoming Crash Festival by staging a similar accident where there are bound to be witnesses. Maria plays the “victim” of a hit-and-run in the parking lot while Michael, dressed in a cliched alien costume, runs over and places a hand of silver paint onto her. Liz has her timing down pat as she makes sure that even the tourists who were so interested in her after the shooting at the cafe witness this scene.

Valenti chases after the person in the costume, only to be led to his own son, Kyle. Obviously shaken up, Valenti has no choice but to lay off of Max for now — but not before he vows to find out the truth eventually.

As if Max and Liz’s chemistry isn’t obvious enough, there are literal sparks flying in the background when they talk about how they really shouldn’t be together because it’s just too complicated. With the addition of Dave Matthews Band’s “Crash into Me,” this is an admittedly cheesy ending, but it works so well. It definitely stands the test of time, as this pilot remains on my list of favorite episodes.

I’ll be highlighting the 10 most essential episodes spanning the course of this series. Feel free to follow along and share your comments with us! Whether you’re watching Roswell for the first time or you’ve lost track of how many times you’ve rewatched the series, let me know what you think.

TV Families | EW.com
Mark Harris
February 23, 1990 AT 05:00 AM EST

The Bradys are back, with a passel of 90’s hassles. Do they represent the typical American Family? Did they ever? Who does? Stare and compare!

Kind Of Family
TheBradyBunch 1969-74: Blended
The Bradys 1990-: Enormous
Married…With Children 1987-: Postnuclear
Thirtysomething 1987-: Extended
The Flintstones 1960-66: Modern Stone Age

Family Pet
The Brady Bunch: Tiger
The Bradys: Alice
Married…With Children: Buck
Thirtysomething: Grendel
The Flintstones: Dino

Typical Guest Star
The Brady Bunch: Davey Jones
The Bradys: There’s no room
Married…With Children: Sam Kinison
Thirtysomething: Carly Simon
The Flintstones: Ann Margrock

Expression Of Joy
The Brady Bunch: Groovy!
The Bradys: Ritual hugging
Married…With Children: ”Oh, great.”
Thirtysomething: ”Of course I’m happy for you. Really. But what about me? Why does it always have to be about you?
The Flintstones: ”Yabba-dabba doo

Expression Of Rage

The Brady Bunch: ”Hmmm…”
The Bradys: ”If you back away from something you really want, then you’re a quitter!” (the angriest any Brady has ever been)
Married…With Children: ”Aaagh, God, take me from this miserable life!”
Thirtysomething: ”I’m not angry, OK?”
The Flintstones: ”Willllmaaaa!”

Typical Problem
The Brady Bunch: Marcia and her rival both want to be the prom queen.
The Bradys: Bobby gets paralyzed.
Married…With Children: Al doesn’t buy his family Christmas presents.
Thirtysomething: Nancy gets cancer.
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney are staying out too late.

Typical Solution
The Brady Bunch: The prom committee decides to have two queens.
The Bradys: Bobby gets married.
Married…With Children: They hate him.
Thirtysomething: If only we knew…
The Flintstones: Wilma and Betty decide to follow them.

House Style
The Brady Bunch: Conservative but mod, circa ’69
The Bradys: Conservative but mod, circa ’90
Married…With Children: Roach motel
Thirtysomething: Enviable
The Flintstones: Suburban cave

Clothing Style
The Brady Bunch: Early Osmonds
The Bradys: Made in the USA
Married…With Children: Flammable fabrics
Thirtysomething: Eclectic earth tones; nice ties
The Flintstones: One-piece

Most Annoying Character
The Brady Bunch: Alice’s cousin Emma, the substitute housekeeper (too strict)
The Bradys: Marcia’s husband, Wally (chronically unemployable)
Married…With Children: Steve (supercilious)
Thirtysomething: Ellyn (goes through Hope’s drawers, babbles, changes hairstyle every other week, generally mistreats her friends)
The Flintstones: Mr. Slate (bossy)

Attitude Toward Sex
The Brady Bunch: Never heard of it
The Bradys: Omigod — even Cindy does it!
Married…With Children: Peg: Yes. Al: No.
Thirtysomething: They didn’t get all those kids by accident.
The Flintstones: Prehistoric

How Spouses Fight
The Brady Bunch: They don’t.
The Bradys: Infrequently, but it happens
Married…With Children: Tooth and nail
Thirtysomething: They stop talking
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney go bowling while Wilma and Betty max out their charge cards.

How Kids Get Into Trouble
The Brady Bunch: Greg takes a puff of a cigarette.
The Bradys: Carol’s grandson steals her business cards and sticks them in the spokes of Bobby’s wheelchair.
Married…With Children: By committing felonies
Thirtysomething: Ethan plays with a forbidden toy rocket.
The Flintstones: They don’t.

How They’re Punished

The Brady Bunch: ”It’s not what you did, honey — it’s that you couldn’t come to us.”
The Bradys ”Next time, ask.”
Married…With Children: By the authorities
Thirtysomething: It blows up in his face.
The Flintstones: They’re not.

What Family Does For Fun
The Brady Bunch: Takes special three-part vacations to Hawaii and the Grand Canyon
The Bradys: Has flashbacks
Married…With Children: Exchanges insults
Thirtysomething: Talks
The Flintstones: Attends showings of The Monster at the Bedrock Drive-In

Unsolved Mysteries
The Brady Bunch: How exactly did Carol’s first husband and Mike’s first wife die?
The Bradys: What’s with Marcia’s new face and Bobby’s blonde hair
Married…With Children: What kind of hair spray does Peg use?
Thirtysomething: Why did Nancy take Elliot back? What do Gary and Susanna see in each other?
The Flintstones: How does Barney’s shirt stay on if he has no shoulders? Where do Fred and Wilma plug in their TV?

Worst Behavior
The Brady Bunch: The Brady children once made Alice feel under-appreciated.

The Bradys: Marcia’s son Mickey watches Bobby’s car-crash tape for fun.
Married…With Children: The Bundy’s kill their neighbor’s dog.
Thirtysomething: Elliot has an affair and talks about it.
The Flintstones: Characters don’t wear under-clothes.

Best Reason To Watch
The Brady Bunch: This is what life should be.
The Bradys: They’re all grown-ups now!
Married…With Children: Terry Rakolta hates it.
Thirtysomething (Tie) This is your life. This isn’t your life.
The Flintstones: This is what life might have been.

Best Reason Not To Watch
The Brady Bunch: Blurred vision from rerun overdoses.
The Bradys: You’re all grown-ups now.
Married…With Children: She has a point.
Thirtysomething: After a while, you think it’s real.
The Flintstones: The Simpsons

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