At one point in Fox’s new “Rosewood,” another procedural in which medical examiners and cops team up to crack the case, “private pathology consultant” Dr. Beaumont “Rosie” Rosewood Jr. (Morris Chestnut) is told by hard-nosed Detective Annalise Villa (Jaina Lee Ortiz) that he has a “love affair with death.” Unlike TV executives, he has a reason–he has some holes in his heart (and a few strokes in his past) that means he’ll be dead within the decade. But not before he trades some allegedly sparkling exchanges with the skeptical Villa.
Yet another mystery series that believes tossing together an attractive cast, a sexy location (Miami, in this instance), and some crime scene forensics is a recipe for success, “Rosewood” will hopefully signal an end to the seemingly endless procession of procedurals. There’s nothing offensively terrible here, just a lot of insulting banal details. Thirty years later, TV writers are still trying to replicate the success of David and Maddie’s sparring on “Moonlighting,” but at this point that carbon is so faded it’s barely legible.
Everyone on “Rosewood” has some sad secret tugging at the heartstrings. Rosie has his literal broken heart; Villa has a metaphorical one, thanks to a husband who abruptly dropped dead from a pulmonary embolism. And far too much is made of Rosie’s charm; Chestnut is a charismatic actor, but he pushes so hard against the wooden script and the character’s limitations that it’s easy to believe he’s sweating from the sheer exertion of it all instead of the Miami sun.
Surrounded by Rosie, who has erected all over town billboards advertising his services as the “Beethoven of private pathologists” (because who hasn’t been stuck at a stoplight, wondering how to go about investigating a loved one’s recent demise?), Villa isn’t so much convinced of his abilities (and charm!) as she is worn down into Stockholm syndrome. Every time she goes out to do some detecting, there’s Rosie, a wisecrack already prepared and polished. She breaks a suspect’s nose; he sets it. She goes undercover on a yacht; he’s there to save the day because the show is called “Rosewood” and not “Villa.” Re-edited, the series could easily be a thriller in which he’s stalking her; as it now plays, he just seems bored and horny.
As for the rest of the cast, well, there are worse places to collect a paycheck than in Miami–or L.A. masquerading as Miami, anyway. Lorraine Toussaint points up just how rich and nuanced “Orange Is the New Black” was by following up her season-long arc on that show with her stint here as Rosie’s mother, who asks him to look into the death of a former student, one that has been written off as a car accident but is clearly Something More. And Gabrielle Denis plays Rosie’s sister (and employee), who mostly serves to humanize Rosie and let the audience know that family is important to him.
At its worst, “Rosewood” plays like the kind of ridiculous, over-the-top drama with which a sitcom character becomes obsessed. At its best, it offers its audience the chance to feel smarter than its characters. For anyone who is repulsed by the quantity of quality TV currently airing, the opportunity to remain four steps ahead of allegedly brilliant characters could be seductive. For the rest of us, it’s the death business as usual.
“Rosewood” premieres Wednesday, Sept. 23 at 8 p.m. on Fox.