Morris Chestnut has what it takes to lead a primetime drama.
He’s talented, charismatic, telegenic and funny and thankfully for fans, he brings all of these attributes to the new Fox drama Rosewood. The series premieres this Wednesday, just before the season two premiere of Empire.
In case you haven’t seen the promotional ads, Chestnut stars as Dr. Beaumont Rosewood Jr., a gifted private pathologist who helps the Miami police department solve difficult cases—even when they don’t want his help.
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In the pilot for instance, he works with Det. Annalise Villa (Jaina Lee Ortiz) to solve the murder of a young woman who was once a student of Rosewood’s mother (the incomparable Lorraine Toussaint). Of course there’s romantic chemistry between Rosewood and Villa but the pair’s “will they or won’t they” tension never overshadows the case of the week.
What works: Rosewood has a lot going for it including great casting. In addition to the gravitas and likability Chestnut and Toussaint bring, Ortiz’s Villa character is tough but relatable. Her fight scenes are fun to watch and she and Chestnut have undeniable sparks of attraction giving the show a Bones, Castle, and Moonlighting feel.
Domenick Lombardozzi (The Wire) will join the series in episode two as Villa’s boss and Rosewood’s adversary, Capt. Ira Hornstock. Gabrielle Dennis (The Game) and Anna Konkle round out the cast. Dennis costars as Rosewood’s sister Pippy and his toxicology expert and Konkle plays TMI, his DNA expert and Pippy’s fiancée. The fact that Pippy and TMI are engaged lesbians feels refreshingly organic instead of forced.
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Rosewood also pays homage to Miami Vice with Latin jazz and a strong rotation of pink and blue clothing and accessories. The family dynamic between Rosewood, his mom Donna, and sister Pippy also grounds the show as does Rosewood’s health hurdles.
What doesn’t work: Some of the dialogue comes across as too flippant at times. Although the show is sprinkled with humor, the writers have to realize that less is more when it comes to snarkiness and murder cases. The criminals also have not-so-convincing things to say but hopefully, the show will find its rhythm as time goes on.
Chestnut should also try to smile less. Yes, his grin is gorgeous but if it appears too much, it could turn into a drinking game. The relationship between Rosewood and Villa will also have to find its footing. He’ll need to tone down his eagerness and she’ll need to be a little bit more agreeable or that too could become redundant.
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Chances of survival: In a perfect world, Rosewood would air after Empire so that it could benefit from residual high ratings. As the hit sophomore drama’s lead in, there is no guarantee that people will turn to Fox at 8 p.m. and keep it on for Empire one hour later.
Luckily for Rosewood, the competition isn’t too stiff in that timeslot – Survivor on CBS, The Mysteries of Laura on NBC and The Middle and The Goldbergs on ABC – so at least the procedural won’t be vying for the same type of audience as its competitors. Strong writing will make all the difference and if Rosewood finds its rhythm and plays to its strengths, the show will be just as fine as its leading man.
Rosewood debuts Wednesday, September 23 at 8 p.m. ET on Fox.