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Fox's Rosewood too often seems built of balsa


Morris Chestnut is front and center in Rosewood. Fox photo

Premiering: Wednesday, Sept. 23rd at 7 p.m. (central) on Fox
Starring: Morris Chestnut, Jaina Lee Ortiz, Gabrielle Dennis, Lorraine Toussaint, Anna Konkle, Domenick Lombardozzi
Produced by: Todd Harthan, Wyck Godfrey, Marty Bowen

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Morris Chestnut’s Dr. Beaumont Rosewood Jr. strides through Miami with the same abundant confidence and swagger as Dwayne Johnson’s Spencer Strasmore does in HBO’s Ballers.

They also share super-muscular torsos and serious medical issues that could someday punch them out. It even looks as though the same very raucous party yacht has been rented for both series. Other than that . . .

In Fox’s Rosewood, the title character is a showy “private pathology consultant” with big self-congratulatory billboards about town. Strasmore is a mere sports agent tending to spoiled multi-millionaire football players. But both series bank heavily on their leading man’s larger-than-life persona. Johnson’s is already entrenched while Chestnut is still trying to build himself up.

Wednesday’s Rosewood premiere, as a lead-in to Fox’s all-powerful Empire, clicks sporadically without ever really humming. Rosewood’s deductions, both at crime scenes and in his state-of-the-art Magic City Lab, are reeled off to the point of absurdity. After just “one lap around the body,” he determines that a hooker accused of pushing a middle-aged guy off a balcony should be immediately released because the dead man actually did himself in.

It’s all about as believable as me saying, “Aha, your very pungent bad breath proves that you ate a limburger cheese sandwich and washed it down with buttermilk before your repulsed blind date quickly ditched you. You then reflexively stalked and killed her because your domineering mommy taught you since birth that all women are no good and only want to hurt you. You again were filled with self-loathing for not listening to her. So your guilt is palpable. And damn, here’s a breath mint.”

Rosewood initially clashes with a veteran cop who keeps fending him off and then giving in. But his principal foil is detective Annalise Villa (Jaina Lee Ortiz), a saucy import from New York City who wears tank tops on the job, talks as though she’s always speaking into a megaphone and has no use for Rosewood until, of course, she does.

Villa’s also very handy with her fists, subduing suspects and bad guys with the greatest of ease while Rosewood looks on approvingly when not spouting medical mumbo jumbo. A poor sap named JuJu initially balks at talking until she literally twists his arm before adding, “Now you’re gonna tell me everything you know. Otherwise I’m gonna drag you back to the jacuzzi and baptize your shifty ass in a very unChristian sort of way.”

Supporting characters include Rosewood’s sister and lab mate, Pippy (Gabrielle Dennis); their demanding mom, Donna (Lorraine Toussaint); and Pippy’s co-worker/fiancee, Tara Milly (Anna Konkle). The latter is taking pole-dancing lessons in preparation for the couple’s honeymoon. Rosewood somewhat amiably grimaces.

The premiere episode’s central mystery is the death of a former student in Mama Donna’s music class. “Son, this girl was special. She had a gift,” Rosewood is told. So there’s no way she could have died in a simple car accident. It had to have been murder.

Well, yes it was. And the climactic capture of the killer is loopier than the byplay and deductions leading up to it. Villa starts to thaw, but not without still playing at least a little hard to get when Rosewood proposes a partnership.

“You’re oil, I’m water,” she retorts. “And we got lucky.” Give it up, girl.

Publicity materials for Rosewood include a “Dear press member” come-on from Todd Harthan, the series’ creator and co-executive producer.

“In the simplest of terms,” he says, “Rosewood is a fun procedural drama wherein Rosewood and Villa solve incredible crimes with style, wit, sex appeal and a heavy dose of fast-paced banter, though we’ll let you guys decide if we pulled that off.”

Based on the opening episode, this guy is inclined to think they haven’t. Rosewood can be fun in spots, but more often is way over-cooked. “I like to inspire and be inspired by everything around me,” Rosewood proclaims. So far that’s just not happening for me.


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