Welcome to Nervous Recs, the VICE staff's personally vetted recommendations to help us all survive the very strange time that is coronavirus quarantine.
There are two main camps that will most appreciate today’s Nervous Rec: lovers of teen soap operas and sci-fi enthusiasts. A few series have explored this Venn diagram territory of supernatural powers and adolescent angst—most memorably Smallville, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and, of course, Stranger Things. But the most underrated entry in this category is the early 00s WB show Roswell, which is centered on three babely teen aliens trying to fit in and conceal their extra-terrestrialism in Roswell, New Mexico (and, of course, the humans they make out with).
So, what makes this such great Escapist Content? For one thing, it's genuinely well-written (... most of the time). The show’s creator, Jason Katims, had previously worked on My So-Called Life and went on to produce Friday Night Lights and develop Parenthood, and in the second and third seasons, they brought in writers from Star Trek: The Next Generation to spice up all the space stuff.
There's also the stellar cast, which included Shiri Appleby, Tom Hanks’ non-rapper son Colin Hanks, and Katherine Heigl, as well as lesser-known bohunk Jason Behr as Max and ridiculously attractive Brendan Fehr as bad boy orphan Michael, who ride around together in a very cool old Jeep. The soundtrack is pure nostalgia therapy, too, an incredible mix of turn-of-the-millennium fodder. (The pilot alone features tunes from Garbage, Filter, Hole, Sarah McLachlan, Eagle Eye Cherry, The Hippos, Eleventeen, and Dave Matthews Band.)
If you love the snappy dialogue of The OC but couldn’t relate to those Orange County rich kid vibes, Roswell might just be the guilty pleasure for you. The vibe's a little edgier than the Abercrombie ad aesthetic of Dawson’s Creek (way more leather jackets) and the plotlines get dark: there's murder, conspiracy, issues with corrupt law enforcement, and even pod people. But on the flip side, it has the highly watchable sexy teen trash stuff we all lowkey crave; the show is a little more wholesome than Dawson’s Creek or Buffy, but there was one episode where the entire premise is that when the local humans hook up with the aliens, they have hallucinations about the galaxy. And of course, there's plenty of interspecies tension; But what if the sheriff finds out? Or the FBI? It’s soooo dangerous!
Just check out the very 1999 opening credits, which feature Dido’s characteristically melodramatic smash “Here With Me":
Dido, hot aliens, and distrust of the government; what more do you need in a teen soap?
Roswell is available to stream free with subscription on Hulu, or for $1.99 an episode on Prime Video, Vudu, Google Play, or Apple TV.