February 17, 2014

THE SKED Pilot Review: “Star-Crossed”


STAR-CROSSED:  Monday 8PM on CW – Change the Channel

If aliens are in high school, we must be on CW.  The network’s midseason entry STAR-CROSSED plays as a clip reel of CW’s greatest hits, from the supernatural teen romance of The Vampire Diaries to the forbidden love of Beauty and the Beast to the high school bitchiness of 90210 (in fact, back when the network was known as WB, it already did aliens in high school with Roswell).  There’s not a lot of originality or inspiration on display in the pilot, written by Meredith Averill (a writer/producer on The Good Wife) and directed, with a surplus of neo-Spielbergian visual tics, by Gary Fleder.

We begin with a prologue set in the present day, heavily indebted to E.T., where 6-year old Emery (who will grow up to become Aimee Teegarden, Coach’s Daughter from Friday Night Lights) finds an equally young alien, Roman (he’ll become Matt Lanter, from 90210), hiding in the family shed.  Roman is one of a group of aliens whose spacecraft has just crashed in Emery’s town outside Baton Rouge (apparently aliens, too, know about Louisiana’s film and TV tax credits).  The military quickly sets about shooting or rounding up the aliens; those still alive are confined to their own sector, which resembles a cross between a work camp, a New York street fair and a gypsy village.  Roman is apparently killed by the authorities when he shields Emery from their weapons, but ten years later, when the first aliens are permitted to attend a human high school and Emery’s eyes lock with those of one of the new students, there’s no doubt about who he is.

Star-Crossed plays all the cards you’d expect.  There’s the racial allegory (the aliens are bused into school amid angry picketers, feared and bullied as less than human), situations cribbed from classic romances (by the end of the pilot, the similarities to Romeo & Juliet go beyond the title), and sci-fi fantasy (much talk about healing powers, and Emery–herself a sickly child who spent four years hospitalized–has a best friend who just happens to be dying of cancer).  There’s nothing wrong with hitting these marks, but if a show is going to establish itself as worth watching, it needs to do something vital with them, the way Vampire Diaries has with its consistent wit and a complex, satisfying mythology.  Star-Crossed shows little initial sign of that kind of potential.  Instead, it’s a reprise of cliches about the sensitive young miss, brave but outcast hero, blonde mean girl, burly bully and concerned but clueless parents.

Friday Night Lights was a very unusual network TV environment for actors, accentuating improvisation and indie film naturalism (scenes were shot with multiple cameras so the spontaneity of takes could be preserved in editing), and in the more conventional world of Star-Crossed, Teegarden has little of the vividness she brought to FNL.  Lanter is a veteran of these kinds of shows, so he’s much more comfortable, but not in a very interesting way–if not for the extended shots of their enchanted faces and the musical score, we wouldn’t see much spark between them.  Malese Jow, who was previously on Vampire Diaries, livens things up a bit as Emery’s friend, but none of the other supporting performers are memorable.

Monday has been a difficult night for CW over the past 2 seasons, and Star-Crossed‘s night-mate Beauty & the Beast is hanging on for dear life as well.  The Star-Crossed pilot doesn’t suggest it has much breakout potential.  At best, it seems to be fodder for the network’s standard audience, hardly capable of transporting viewers to another planet.

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."