Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Pilot review: The CW's STAR-CROSSED

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

written by Meredith Averill | directed by Gary Fleder

The title may refer to a Shakespearian quote from Romeo & Juliet, but The CW's new romantic sci-fi drama is clearly more indebted to Stephenie Meyer's Twilight and the network's own Beauty & the Beast. Jokes are always made about the number of vampire shows choking the airwaves, but the broader sub-genre of 'supernatural romances' must outnumber them 10:1. Haven't we had our fill of these things?

Created by Meredith Averill (writer on the weak Life on Mars remake), the set-up of Star-Crossed isn't inherently bad, it's just a poorly executed attempt at several unoriginal ideas. An alien ship crash-lands on Earth in May 2014 (one to mark in the calendar), prompting the clich├ęd overreaction from mankind during this "first contact", which resulted in the Atrians being rounded up and sent to internment camps. Jump forward a decade to 2024 (where we have touch-screen vending machines and hologram teachers), and progress has also been made in alien-human relations. We now allow the marooned Atrians to live in a shanty town under curfew and the attractive teenage ones can attend high school. (Why the adult Atrians haven't had their brains picked for better technology is anyone's guess, unless the school's vending machine originates from beyond the stars.)

Star-Crossed may be a well-meaning muddle of Alien Nation, District 9 and The WB's Roswell, but it's the product of a hack who doesn't know how to suture those things together in an interesting way. Or throw in something—anything—that's fresh to call its own. Not that the target demographic really care about sci-fi allegories, as they're just tuning in to watch two attractive actors make goo goo eyes at each other, for as long as the show's allowed to. Which may be a long time, such is the sad state of affairs with ineffectual genre fare like this. The CW's abysmal remake of Beauty and the Beast somehow made it to a second season, if you can believe it, and that was actually much worse.

The pairing producers hope teenagers will be 'shipping hard on Tumblr are "cute human" Emery Whitehill (Aimee Tegarden) and "hunky alien" Roman (90210's Matt Lanter), who first met as children when Roman took refuge in her garden shed (E.T-style) from humans hunting his kind. Now they're all hormonal teenagers going through high school together (although Lanter's turned 30 so they're a weird-looking match), and having to contend with bullies and social prejudice. On a basic level, I'm not even against any of the above as a starting point, but the creative decisions are just very unremarkable and offer nothing fresh. The aliens look perfectly human with some elaborate facial tattoos, but it would be far more engrossing if Roman was "ugly" to humans and he had to win Emery's heart with his personality and character traits.

A similar misstep was taken with Beauty and the Beast, of course, although that was even more unforgivable because of what the title clearly implies—and the fact the '80s original had proven a romance between two visually-clashing people can be very rich, rewarding and emotional. No chance of that in Star-Crossed, alas. I have no idea why Emery and Roman won't become lovers as early as next week, to be honest, and just get engaged by mid-season. Nothing about their potential coupling feels taboo or difficult enough.

I won't be watching a second more of this patchy drivel, so good luck to those convincing themselves it has depth and the leads have heart-swelling chemistry (they really don't). Even sci-fi fans who can somehow take pleasure in watching purely for 'world-building' will find Star-Crossed very unimaginative compared to something like Syfy's Defiance.

17 February 2014 | The CW