Pilots and Premieres: “Star-Crossed” – Series Premiere

Who:  “Star Crossed,” currently airs on network TV, specifically the CW, Mondays at 8:00 PM.

What: “Star Crossed,” a science fiction romance depicting an Earth of the not-too-distant future on which crashes a host of refugee aliens called “Atrians” who seek asylum and shelter from their home planet.  The Earth population does not welcome them with open arms, however, and they are forced to co-exist by being relegated to a “sector” to live, except for a group of teenagers who are permitted under armed guard to attend a local high school.  One of the aliens and one of the humans instantly connect due to having met as children, but societal prejudices reign supreme.

When: The series premiered on the CW, Monday, February 16, 2014, at 8:00 PM.

Where: The show is set in what appears to be Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

Why: As a lover of all science fiction, I was intrigued by the premise of the show, even though it seemed to combine Roswell with Romeo and Juliet.  I had no high expectations, however, as the teen angst quotient had potential to be rather high with this one, for better or for worse.

How – as in How Was It?

The pilot/premiere rating scale:

***** – I HAVE TO WATCH EVERYTHING.  HOLY SMOKES!

**** – Well, it certainly seems intriguing.  I’m going to keep watching, but I see possible pitfalls in the premise.

*** – I will give it six episodes and see what happens.  There are things I like, and things I don’t.  We’ll see which “things” are allowed to flourish.

** – I will give it three episodes.  Chances are, I’m mainly bored, but there is some intrigue or fascination that could hold it together.  No matter how unlikely.

* – Pass on this one, guys.  It’s a snoozer/not funny/not interesting/not my cup of tea… there are too many options to waste time on this one.

Star Crossed = ***

SYNOPSIS

In September 2014, a spaceship crash lands outside Baton Rouge, and the survivors are met with hostility by American military and law enforcement.  They are rounded up and herded into a camp called the “Sector,” where they are forced to live.  Roman, as a child, is able to hide temporarily in the shed of Emery, a young girl whose father works for the government.  Emery watches, however, as soldiers come to take Roman, shooting him in the process and leading her to believe he has died.

In September 2024, Emery (Aimee Teegarden) is attending her senior year of high school, after having been previously and semi-permanently living in a hospital ward due to having an acute auto-immune disorder. Somehow, she was cured and is able to attend her first semester along with the Atrians, who are being allowed to integrate, one might say, for the very first time too.  While her welcome is inauspicious, the Atrians are challenged by anti-alien protests and bullied by many students inside the school.  Yet, Roman (Matt Lanter), now grown, catches sight of the kind, shy girl who fed and sheltered him when he was young.  While the Atrians have trouble adjusting to high school – and more trouble than the average American teen – Emery finds herself instantly accepted, yet she is immediately drawn to Roman, as he is to her.  This bond is strengthened when Emery and her friend Julia (Malese Jow, The Vampire Diaries), her friend from the hospital who is sick with the same disorder, sneak into the forbidden Sector looking for an alien herb believed to have curative properties. Roman helps Emery to escape; Emery returns the favor when confrontations between humans and Atrians reach fever pitch.  It seems the two are “star crossed” in love and in life, doomed to an attraction that can only bring them difficulty in the end, though Roman, at least for now, is willing to take the risk and subvert the taboos.

THOUGHTS

Star Crossed mixes liberally borrowed elements of Roswell, Alien Nation, E.T., District 9, and Romeo and Juliet and blends them into a moody romantic drama teeming with all of the angst associated with the genre and the network on which this show airs, with the added spice of making the aliens attractive beings that look like humans with distinctive tattoos.  The premise isn’t complicated: a romance, by all rights doomed to fail, will most likely and predictably lead to mitigated bliss on the part of the main characters, even if briefly or in spurts.  To add to the romance factor: a subtext about prejudice that isn’t so much “sub” as it is “text,” clubbing the viewer over the head with the direct parallel to the history of racism in this country.  Instead of aliens from other countries, the aliens in this story are literally from outer space and not welcomed in a Close Encounters kind of way, though their entrance into high school recalls vividly the demolishing of Brown v. Board of Education and the integration of the University of Alabama in during the 1960s.

The performances, at least in the pilot, are generally middling at best, by most including the adult actors.  The writing is not sophisticated: this is a teen drama geared toward teens, focused on important issues like social status and hormones.  The most charismatic of all of the actors is Lanter, a charming, attractive man playing a sensitive alien boy who may be marginally more evolved than his fellow alien refugees or the humans outside the gates of the Sector.  The second most charismatic actor is Jow, whose spirited Julia, “obsessed with all things Atrian,” adds the necessary supportive best friend trope to the reserved Emery.  For her part, Teegarden is winning enough to look at, especially when alongside Lanter, but fails to bring any depth to her character: her reaction to everything around her is generally flat; her emotions do not read beyond the superficial, as if surprise or sadness is too hard for her to muster.

In the end, the most interesting aspect of this show, for this viewer, will be the character of Roman and what he might bring to the dynamics coloring alien-human relations on this show as well as to his relationship with Emery.  There are also some more than decent visual effects, used judiciously and with the intent of punctuating certain scenes, such as the repeated image of the defunct spaceship, larger than life and looming over the Louisiana countryside, a symbol of the unrest about the alien refugees.  Still, the Sweet Valley High undercurrent of this program, which borrows so obviously from other science fiction vehicles, may quickly become old and boring to a viewer over 30 (like me) who might enjoy their science fiction with a side of something more substantial. Thus, this show’s pilot merits a three-star rating and a six episode trial (the first full season will be watched if it’s thirteen episodes or less).

RECOMMENDATION

Star Crossed is recommended to anyone in the age range of 12 to 29 or to anyone who enjoys a melodrama aimed squarely at teens.  In addition, the show might appeal to anyone who enjoys lighter science fiction with a healthy dose of romance, something like Star Wars or, more aptly, Roswell or Alien Nation, prior programs skirting similar elements.

THE FUTURE OF THE SHOW:

TVLine is calling renewal of this program “too early to tell.”  Ratings measurement outlets have noted that Star Crossed, which is now paired with The Tomorrow People on Mondays, is gaining viewers, particularly in the target demographic, though Monday is a competitive night for the marginal CW.  This viewer is hoping that The Tomorrow People gets the renewal pickup; if the network likes the combination, it could be a science fiction heavy evening to match some of its other themed nights.  Let’s see how it all fares.

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