TV Review: Star-Crossed

As I tend to go to the gym on Monday nights (a habit that started last week), I had to make sure to DVR the Pilot for the new series Star-Crossed so I fired up the trusty Optimum app on my cell phone to do so. Strangely, one of the shows that was listed as "More Like This" was SeaLab 2021, a hilarious animated short series that aired on Cartoon Network's Adult Swim during the early Aughts. Though slightly skeptical, I held out hope that if Star-Crossed was anything remotely similar to SeaLab, despite nothing in the commercials even implying anything like this, then I may have found my new favorite show.

Yeah, the two shows are nothing alike.

Anyway, Star-Crossed starts in 2014. A spaceship crash lands on Earth and is quickly surrounded by the United States military. The aliens, from a planet called Atria, are gathered up and sequestered in squalid living conditions called "The Sector". Ten years later, it's decided that seven Atrian teens would be allowed to attend a public school as a way to integrate the aliens into human society. Of course, that doesn't go over too well with a species so paranoid and xenophobic that they refuse to accept multiple languages being spoken in one country so of course protests are held and tensions are raised within the halls of the school.

This was the only image from the show of
Aimee Teegarden by herself I could find.
The show focuses on Emery, played by Aimee Teegarden, a shy suburban girl whose father happens to be an agent assigned to guard the Sector. She's special in the sense that she's spent the last four years in a hospital due to an "immune deficiency" and is facing the stress of going to public school for the first time in years. Her new experience is meant to mirror that of the alien teenagers, both them and her facing the new danger that is high school, but whereas Emery is easily accepted by her peers, the Atrians have a much harder time fitting in.

The Pilot opens with an intense scene of violence and friendship. After the crash of the alien ship, a young boy is encouraged by his father to run. He hides in an old shed behind Emery's house where she discovers him and shows him kindness, bringing him a blanket and food. But the military track him down and callously shoot him in front of the little girl, an act that would no doubt emotionally scar a child. This scene, by itself, was gripping, and had me ignoring my Sloppy Joe dinner until it was over. I couldn't believe the intensity that they put into it, especially given that this is a love story on The CW. Unfortunately, that intensity wears off rather quickly as the show progresses. Emery grows up thinking the boy was dead but soon discovers one of the new boys in school, Roman (Matt Lanter, who voices Anakin Skywalker in The Clone Wars), is the boy that survived the attack, which gives them an instant connection.

Clearly the show is an amalgamation of an allegory over the paranoia and unease Americans (and humans in general) feel when threatened by outsiders and the Shakespeare-inspired love story of two people whose families do not mesh together (as evidenced by the title itself). And while it hits both of these themes square on the head, it does so in such a heavy-handed way that it's hard not to notice them. There's no subtlety over the tensions surrounding the integration, or the attraction Emery and Roman feel. The two make silly choices to help each other even at the risk of their own safety. But at the end of the day (episode?) everything they do seems to make sense and remain in character.

The idea of aliens crash-landing on Earth isn't even the most outlandish concept in the show. Let's consider that a public school is so high tech as to have fingerprint-enabled lockers, automated food dispensers in the cafeteria and a holographic American flag to pledge allegiance to. While I can accept that the technology has advance that far in the next ten years, especially given what scientists would be able to engineer after assimilating the alien's tech (which is likely what happened based on the technology we see in The Sector), I don't believe that it would integrated within the public schools in the span of a decade. Public schools, run by tax dollars, generally don't splurge for the highest of tech. I'm thinking lockers with fingerprint technology wouldn't be all that high on the budget next to teachers, books, and computers and bake sales and wrapping paper drives can only generate so much income.

It's hard for me to really pass judgement on a show like Star-Crossed, mostly because the love story aspect just doesn't appeal to me. It basically boils down to X-Files meets Dawson's Creek and even though, under normal circumstances, that would add up to Roswell, it lacks even the supernatural elements Roswell had (for the most part). Star-Crossed is layered in melodramatics that make for interesting television, but not necessarily good television. Take, for example, the name of the home planet, Atria, the anatomical structure of the heart. Given the first episode, we're to see that the aliens have more compassion than the humans. Again, completely heavy-handed and in-your-face symbolism, yet it somehow works. While I don't think I'm going to be making Star-Crossed part of my regular viewing schedule, I can see it being one of the CW's more popular shows.

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