TV Review - Star-Crossed

Matt Lanter and Aimee
Teegarden in "Star-Crossed"
Meredith Averill created this series after being a writer for The Good Wife, and it's sad that she would go from a fantastic and smart drama to something as derivative and brand-driven as Star-Crossed. The reason it's derivative and brand-driven is because it's on the CW, which is the minor broadcast network that like other networks has been propped up thanks to spin-offs and shows that have come from established properties. Yes, there are comparisons to be made, but The Good Wife felt more original and less like anything else on any network, especially CBS. Star-Crossed is the opposite. It feels less original and more like everything else on the CW. It also feels so much like so many other shows that deal with science-fiction.

Matt Lanter (90210 and Star Wars: The Clone Wars) plays Roman, a very handsome teenage boy who is an alien from another planet. His species crash-landed on Earth when Roman was just only ten-years-old or so. Fighting broke out because humans thought the aliens were hostile, but when it was learned that the aliens, known as Atrians, weren't hostile, they were confined to a sector of land where they could live somewhat freely. Now, it's 2024 and Roman is allowed to go to high school amongst humans. Roman and other Atrians look human, except they have body tattoos that occasionally glow.

Aimee Teegarden (Friday Night Lights) plays Emery Whitehill. She met Roman when he first arrived and briefly took care of him. Now, as a teenager herself, she is going to the same high school, Marshall High, and she has obviously developed or is developing romantic feelings for Roman. Unfortunately, she can't be with him because her father, Ray Whitehill, a guard assigned to the Atrian sector, accidentally shot and killed Roman's father Nox.

The Atrian sector is depicted as a kind of ghetto. Keeping the aliens limited to this sector invokes the Oscar-nominated film District 9 (2009), which itself was an allegory for the ghetto and slums of South Africa. Star-Crossed could also be an allegory for any ghetto and slum housing blacks or other minorities either abroad or even in the United States. The killing of an alien by a law enforcement agent also invokes movies like the recent Fruitvale Station (2013) or Spike Lee's Do the Right Thing (1989), making Star-Crossed also an allegory for the uneasy relationship between minorities like black people and the police. Roman is one of seven Atrians allowed to go to school, which echoes the Little Rock Nine in 1957. For a show that makes so many allusions to the black experience, it's funny and sad that only two black characters exist in minor roles: Lukas, played by Titus Makin Jr., and Gloria, played by Victoria Gabrielle Platt.

The show introduces the group of humans called Red Hawk. The Red Hawks hate the aliens. They represent the extreme example of the xenophobia and bigotry that exists here and exists in reality when it comes to minorities like Muslim or Arab people in the United States in the wake of 9/11. It follows that a terrorist group would emerge within and without the Atrian sector called Trag. The Trags are clear-cut evil. They just want to kill humans, possibly all of them and possibly take over the Earth. The focus on this, especially in the first three episodes, pushes this series away from Roswell (1999), which was another show about teenage aliens on Earth and in high school. The show was on the WB and UPN, the networks that the CW used to be.

The focus on the terrorism and the potential war pushes it more toward series like V (2009) or Battlestar Galactica (2004). It also helps that one of the actors from Battlestar Galactica appears on Star-Crossed. Tahmoh Penikett plays Jack Beaumont, an enforcer for the Trags. Penikett is trained in the martial arts of muay thai and is good at fight choreography. Greg Finley (The Secret Life of the American Teenager) plays Drake, a friend of Roman. Drake gets recruited to the Trags as an operative. Finley isn't trained in martial arts, but his tall, large, muscular form can't be denied, and in almost every episode is commented upon.

Because of which, Finley and Penikett occupy a similar, physical space. As such, there's a natural, if unspoken tension. The show immediately puts that tension to a head in Episode 3 with a shirtless, fight scene. The series could have continued to deal with this tension, but instead it eliminates that tension rather quickly and it does so for no other reason than to underline the point that the Trags are evil and no nuance exists there. It also underlines that Finley is the beefcake preferred because he's younger.

Roman is comparable to the main character in the recent CW series The Tomorrow People, which is similarly about a teen boy named Steven who also is trying to keep the peace between two groups, one human and one not, who are potentially at war. Both Roman and Steven have dead daddy issues too.

The problem is that Star-Crossed unlike The Tomorrow People has not done enough to bridge the gap between the two groups here. It's trying, but one thing that hurts it is that it didn't really take the time to build the relationship between Roman and Emery from the beginning. If there is love there, it's barely felt. Yes, there is a big proclamation between the two in Episode 6 and a sexy, underwater kiss in Episode 7, but it's too little too late. The writers have kept these two characters too far apart for far too long.

As Episode 8 shows, it was all to build on the triangle between Roman, Emery and Grayson, played by Grey Damon (Friday Night Lights). It's not a very solid triangle though. Thankfully, the three leads are three very pretty people, so any lack of dramatic momentum can be offset with wistful gazing.

Three Stars out of Five.
Rated TV-PG.
Running Time: 1 hr.
Mondays at 8PM on CW.


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