Out of this world: Aliens hide in plain sight in 'Roswell, New Mexico'

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Kyla Brewer / TV Media
Jeanine Mason stars in "Roswell, New Mexico"

Jeanine Mason stars in "Roswell, New Mexico"

Extraterrestrials have long been fodder for sci-fi television shows, movies and books, but a new TV series goes beyond typical alien cliches to address broader issues such as racism and immigration. 

Biomedical researcher Liz Ortecho (Jeanine Mason, "Grey's Anatomy") learns that her one-time high school crush, Max (Nathan Parsons, "General Hospital"), is really an alien struggling to hide his true nature from those who wish to harm him in "Roswell, New Mexico," airing Tuesday, March 12, on CW. Now a local Roswell police officer, Max isn't the only alien in town, and his friends are also keen to keep their origins a secret.

"Roswell, New Mexico" is actually the second American television adaptation of the "Roswell High" book series by Melinda Metz. The first program, simply entitled "Roswell," aired on The WB and UPN from 1999 to 2002 and followed the lives of teenage humans and aliens in the eponymous town. The prime-time soap quickly became a cult hit.

While "Roswell, New Mexico" does rely heavily on romantic storylines, the show digs deeper to touch on modern-day hot-button topics. Instead of focusing on the lives of angst-ridden teens, the new iteration finds the main characters 10 years after graduation. In contrast to the earlier series, which was criticized for white-washing all of the main characters, CW's new show is truer to the books, featuring a Latina lead and several other characters who represent the diverse population of the United States.

"I don't believe in color-blind casting," show creator Carina Adly Mackenzie explained in a February article. "'Roswell, New Mexico' doesn't attempt to portray a world in which racism and xenophobia do not exist, so we can't arbitrarily fill roles."

The show boasts a complicated web of alien and human characters, led by Mason as Liz, the daughter of undocumented immigrant Arturo Ortecho (Carlos Compean, "Contraband," 2012), who runs a local UFO-themed diner, the Crashdown Cafe. He and his daughter are often the subject of suspicion, especially since Liz's beloved sister, Rosa (Amber Midthunder, "Legion"), died in a car accident that also took the lives of two white girls. The official report claimed Rosa was high at the time, but a skeptical Liz is determined to find out what really happened.

Max's fellow aliens include his sister Isobel (Lily Cowles, "True Story," 2015), a lawyer who is intensely secretive, even with her husband, Noah (Karan Oberoi, "Counterpart"). Their friend Michael (Michael Vlamis, "Spiral," 2018) hides his alien identity under his tough, bad-boy image.

In addition to Liz and her father, the town's human population includes her best friend, Maria (Heather Hemmens, "Hellcats"), a local bartender completely oblivious to the existence of aliens. Liz's former beau, Dr. Kyle Valenti (Michael Trevino, "The Vampire Diaries"), is the son of Sheriff Valenti (Rosa Arredondo, "Quantico"). Master Sgt. Jesse Manes (Trevor St. John, "One Life to Live") sits at the head of a far-reaching government conspiracy. His son, Alex (Tyler Blackburn, "Pretty Little Liars"), has recently returned to Roswell after service overseas, but he's unaware of his father's true mission. All the while, Alex strives to meet his father's expectations.

Nathan Parsons as seen in "Roswell, New Mexico"

Nathan Parsons as seen in "Roswell, New Mexico"

In Roswell, many of these characters face hatred and fear that threatens to tear their families apart. Unlike other sci-fi programs, "Roswell, New Mexico" doesn't focus on the dangers aliens pose to humans. In this case, they're the minority trying to avoid persecution like many of their friends and neighbors. Max and the other aliens may possess supernatural powers, including healing abilities and psychic links to those around them, but, for the most part, they try to lay low for fear of being outed, choosing instead to try to lead quiet, helpful lives.

"Roswell, New Mexico" has promising qualities, but it's been slow to pick up in the ratings department. The first couple of episodes averaged 1.3 million viewers -- a respectable showing but not stellar. In contrast, the first seasons of CW's hits "Supernatural" and "The Vampire Diaries" each averaged more than 3.5 million. Pitted against ABC's sitcoms "Black-ish" and "Splitting Up Together," as well as the CBS drama "FBI," Fox's game show "Mental Samurai" and NBC's critical darling "This Is Us," "Roswell, New Mexico" will have its work cut out for it on Tuesday evenings.

Luckily for the cast and crew, some of the industry's biggest powerhouses are associated with the project. Warner Bros. Television and CBS Television Studios, along with Amblin Television and Bender Brown Productions, all have a hand in the show.

If nothing else, the show's setting is sure to attract some viewers as the site of one of the world's most famous alleged UFO incidents. In 1947, a newspaper headline from the Roswell Daily Record read: "RAAF Captures Flying Saucer on Ranch in Roswell Region." The military, however, soon addressed the confusion by clarifying that a weather balloon had crashed in a farmer's field. Over the years, many conspiracy theories have claimed that aliens crash landed in Roswell that summer and the government covered it up. To this day, the area is a destination for UFO seekers.

Whether or not real aliens have ever been to Roswell, TV viewers can catch up with Max and the others in a new episode of "Roswell, New Mexico," airing Tuesday, March 12, on CW.