For a show about pathology, this Fox drama's biggest mystery is identifying what it wants to be.
Credit: Jeff Daly/Fox

Miami is a pretty place. Pretty in all senses, really.

So it makes sense that FOX’s Rosewood takes advantage of that, starting with the opening scene. The whole gang is there: the ocean, the trees that line the ocean, the surprisingly manicured running trail that cuts through the trees that line the ocean, and of course, Dr. Beaumont Rosewood Jr’s abs. Miami is a very pretty place.

That scenery is cut short though as Dr. Rosewood’s (Rosie to his friends) attention is drawn to the sky — helicopters above signal that crime is afoot, and that’s how we’re launched into the series.

Dr. Rosie, played by Morris Chestnut, is not called into the crime scene as the police’s pathologist because he’s not your regular pathologist — he’s a private pathologist. Actually, by his own assessment, he’s the “Beethoven of private pathology.”

From afar, he suspects that the murder at hand may not be as it seems. He charms his way past the police’s caution tape, looks at the victim’s yellowed eyes and crusty lips and deduces that the murder was in fact a suicide, probably as a result of a terminal illness — specifically pancreatic cancer. Then Dr. Rosie pivots, bringing the crime scene’s attention to his giant billboard advertising his services.

Somewhere in the universe, even Dr. Gregory House sat up from his couch, stared at the television and said, “Wow. Seems a little arrogant and hasty.”

In the following scenes, we’re introduced to Rosie’s sister, Pippy (played by Gabrielle Dennis) and his mother, Donna (played by Lorraine Toussaint). Donna brings us this week’s case — a reexamination of a Nora Grayson’s autopsy. Nora used to be a student of Donna’s, and it’s in the brief moments that we see Lorraine Toussaint on screen that we are reminded just how wonderful of an actress she is. The issue is that Donna is, at first impression, just another concerned television mother. Watching Toussaint tackle this role is like dropping Usain Bolt in the middle of an elementary school field day.

But that’s how the show functions. The pilot is rooted in a laundry list of classic television tropes. Rosewood is a procedural drama set in the capital of all procedural dramas, led by an arrogant, yet irresistible man who is backed up by a supportive mother and a determined, sometimes vulnerable female sidekick named Detective Annalise Villa, played by Jaina Lee Ortiz.

Throughout the hour, Detective Villa and Dr. Rosie take turns passing off leads and suspects, revealing that Nora Grayson wasn’t the perfect student that people knew her to be.

The duo finally come together on a boat party with a man who keeps referring to himself as “305.” Obviously that’s the Miami area code, but something in my heart keeps telling me that there’s some Pitbull copyright infringement in there somewhere. Per the usual formula, the case is solved and Mama Donna is pretty psyched that the memory of her student can finally be put to rest.

Leading up to that conclusion though, Detective Villa and Dr. Rosie exchange more than evidence and autopsy notes — Annalise reveals that her husband died from a pulmonary embolism. In a not-so-surprising parallel, Dr. Rosie reveals that he was born three months premature and has his own set of health issues, including two strokes. These details are the overarching story lines that are supposed to draw viewers in and invest in these characters, but there’s an issue.

The trickiest part of Rosewood is not the procedural format of the show — procedurals have thrived since the dawn of time, or at least the dawn of television dramas. Rosewood’s trouble comes from the fact that the pilot doesn’t give viewers a clear picture of what the show wants to be. The episode teeters about, leaning one minute toward the humor of Psych, the next toward the gravity of Dexter, and then finishing the cycle by emulating the sexy, action-packed Miami Vice, while never quite getting to the point of being as good as any of the three.

Case in point: Annalise and Rosie share a final personal moment at the end of the episode, but then Dr. Rosewood echoes his humble brag from earlier in the hour, directing Annalise’s attention to another of his many billboards.

Though very pretty, Miami skylines and Chestnut’s abs only have so much currency. Rosewood faces the same issue as its main character — it showed up with a problem from moment go and with a very limited timeline to remedy it, and the clock’s already ticking.

Rosewood airs Wednesdays at 8 p.m. ET on Fox.

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