The Not So Rosy Outlook for Rosewood: Pilot Review

Rosewood Series Premiere

What are the bare bones, if you pardon the pun, of your typical police procedural?

Well, you have to have a know it all detective who drives everyone nuts while they solve the case, a grumpy cop who eventually warms up to said know it all detective, and a couple of lab assistants who spout off scientific knowledge as the plot demands and help the know it all detective and grumpy cop with their cases.

What makes Rosewood from any other “crime of the week” show?

Those archetypal characters are a black man, a Latina woman, an interracial lesbian couple respectively.

At first glance, Rosewood seems like it might be the next show in line that finally reflects the diversity of the United States and prove to network executives that people of color are more than capable of leading popular series, much like Empire, Fresh Off the Boat, Jane the Virgin and Black-ish have done. Considering the fact that Rosewood is set in Miami, where the population is 70% Latino and 20% Black or African American so the show would have committed a great disservice if they didn’t make their cast reflect these demographics.

Unfortunately for Rosewood, it’s not enough to have a range of different skin colors on the screens–the show also needs to fully develop these characters.

The plot begins when Donna Rosewood (Lorraine Toussaint) begs her son and title character Dr. Beaumont Rosewood (Morris Chestnut), is a charming, albeit slightly annoying pathologist, to investigate the murder of her ex-student, Nora Grayson. Rosewood immediately inserts himself into the police investigation, which is being led by Detective Annalise Villa (Jaina Lee Ortiz). Villa is less than pleased to have the private pathologist barge in as she tries to conduct her police work but of course, Rosewood is just so dang charming that she eventually lets him tag along and the two work together to solve Nora’s death which turns out be the typical reason good girls from the right side of the track get killed: Nora was involved in the Miami drug world and got killed when a deal went bad.

While I’m not denying the charisma of Morris Chestnut, the problem is that Rosewood never truly gets the chance to win over other characters, or the audience for that matter. It’s a classic case of “telling instead of showing”. In his first scene, Rosewood joins Miami Detective Willard (Anthony Michael Hall) at a crime scene.

Willard’s first reaction is to tell Rosewood to buzz off even though background characters seem happy to see him. When Rosewood gets the chance to show off his pathology skills at the crime scene, it’s not because he charmed Detective Willard directly; it’s because a background character (who was never seen again) encourages Rosewood to take the shot.

Uh, it’s not enough to tell us Rosewood is charming and beloved by all; show us that he is. Having him win over the grumpy cop that shows up again in another scene is more effective than having him schmooze with background characters.

The show can’t seem to decide if he is a hedonistic, flirty know it all detective (characters make references to his Casanova ways although Rosewood hardly flirts with anyone onscreen to prove this; another case of telling instead of showing) or a know it all detective whose tragic backstory (Rosewood is revealed to have a congenital heart defect that gives him a limited lifespan) gives him a Pollyanna attitude that makes him a CSI version of Leslie Knope. I’d prefer it if he was the latter since it’d be a fresher spin but like I have said, the writers need to develop that character.

Another character who is in serious need of development is Rosewood’s partner in crime solving, Detective Villa. Jaina Lee Ortiz gave an interview to the Huffington Post where she gushed about being excited to play a Latina character who is “tough, smart, sexy, and vulnerable all in one”. While Villa was definitely tough (she is seen kickboxing in her introduction and took down the bad guy in the end), the other character traits weren’t fully developed. You could say that she was vulnerable towards the end of the pilot when she reveals to Rosewood that her husband recently died, but that was more awkward than aw-worthy. “When you lose the love of your life, you lose your love for life,” she says dramatically, which contrasts to the tough as nails image she had going on previously–and not in a good way.

Since police procedurals are such a basic premise, every show tries to add a couple twists to make their stand out from the other ones on television and Rosewood got carried away adding so many that they don’t make much sense when you apply real life logic.

Since Rosewood is a private pathologist (and apparently a very popular one considering how many billboards and high tech he can afford), why would the Miami PD allow him to work with them if he’s going to charge more than the county coroner? Rosewood attempts to hand wave this by explaining the county coroner is overwhelmed and he will only be working with Detective Villa but still: wouldn’t this all have been easier if he was employed by the city all along?

Additionally, Rosewood’s workplace is a little convoluted.  His sister Pippy works for him and alongside her fiance Tara and…that’s about it. I mean, I’m sure a pathologist’s private practice wouldn’t be bustling with many co-workers but having the entire staff be related, whether through blood or in-laws, strikes me as a little strange. Plus, how did Pippy and Tara meet? Were they workplace colleagues first or did one of they just happen to secure a job together? We really don’t know anything about this couple other than they are engaged, which strikes me as the writers checking off another diversity box instead of treating them like fully formed characters.

We all remember the controversial Deadline article where author Nellie Andreeva fretted that ethnic castings were ousting white actors from roles. The real fear, however, is network executives thinking that ethnic castings will slap a Band-Aid on bad writing. While people of color are excited to see faces that look like them on the silver screen, they won’t keep tuning in if a show has little to offer.

Although only the pilot has aired, Rosewood needs to prove that it can offer something more besides checking off a diversity quota.

  • I really like Morris Chestnut so I was pretty excited for this show, but the pilot was a bit uneasy…it was like they were trying way too hard to establish all the quirks of his character. I will say this though, I thought the same thing about the first few episodes of Hannibal, and that ended up being a really good show…so I’ll give it a chance, sometimes it’s really hard to judge a show based off its pilot. Oh and I also loved how they used “Go” by The Chemical Brothers during the opening scene – that’s one of my favorite running songs, too I’m glad Rosewood and I think alike.

    • what did you think of the second episode?

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