Review: 'Rosewood' - 09/22/2016


Generally speaking, anytime a broadcast TV drama undergoes a "reboot" after its first season, it's an indication that the studio and/or network believe more in the promise of the show than what was on the screen during the first season. There is this calculation that while the creative direction was flawed, there is still enough interest from the audience to believe the show's fortunes can be improved with some changes.

The problem with this calculation is that most of the time the changes don't work. The studio/network/producers don't have an accurate take on what didn't work in season one, so the alterations they make for season two don't improve anything. They are just fresh reasons why the show doesn't work creatively.

The Fox drama "Rosewood" began its reboot towards the end of season one, as it became apparent that for all the likeable elements of the show, there was a lot about the procedural that didn't work. In the series, Morris Chestnut plays Dr. Beaumont Rosewood, Jr, a hunky and brilliant Miami private pathologist who does private autopsies for hire. He took on some autopsies for the police, which of course quickly brought him into contact with Det. Annalise Villa (Jaina Lee Ortiz). Villa had recently transferred from New York after her husband died. And like any good Fox procedural, Rosewood and Villa argued, then reluctantly became a team.

One of the worst trends in procedural dramas right now is the insistence on creating some sexual tension between coworkers. Fine, ship all you want about some characters, but if you want to see what happens when you force the issue, let me introduce you to season one of "Rosewood." There were episodes with weirdly grafted on innuendo, Rosewood went through several romances including a serious yet implausible one with his doctor that broke up primarily because she (like everyone else in the world) suspected Rosewood and Villa would eventually become an item.

Things were just as muddled in Rosewood's family. He had his sister Tara (Gabrielle Dennis) working with him in his private lab, along with her partner/eventual fiancee Pippy (Anna Konkle). He eventually adds his mother (Lorraine Touissant) to the staff, although all she seemed to do was mother Rosewood and be the sounding board for Tara when she was having relationship problems. At one point a rival private pathologist Mitchie Mendelson (Samuel Huntington) sets up shop in Miami and within a couple of episodes, he's working for Rosewood, even though his character is written as the most annoying man on television.

"Rosewood" was juggling a lot of plot twists in season one and that's a problem when most of them only distract from the underlying chemistry that makes the show work. So as season one approached its end, producers began reshuffling the deck for season two. They broke up Tara and Pippy's relationship by having Pippy kiss co-worker Mitchie. Rosewood lost his fiancee and when he began investigating the death of Villa's husband against her wishes, their chemistry suffered a well-needed setback. Villa's mentor and Police Captain Ira Hornstock (Domenick Lombardozzi) was demoted back to junior detective.

While it's always a risk judging a season by one episode, the rebooted "Rosewood" stands as one of the rare dramas in which the show was changed for the better. It's clear that whomever was responsible for the decisions clearly grasped why the show struggled in season one. This season premiere is remarkably more confident and entertaining than anything in the previous season, which is a rare gift for fans.

Let's take a look at just one change that might seem to be a subtle tweak at first. The decision to demote Hornstock was probably made in part to bring in a less-friendly boss for Villa and Rosewood. The typical procedural drama trope would be to make Eddie Cibrian's Captain Ryan Slade a new boss who doesn't like the Villa/Rosewood team and doesn't trust police consultants. And while that might eventually be the case, in the season premiere he's weirdly supportive in a sort of snarky way and it's difficult to get a grasp on just what he thinks of the duo. It's a nice change and one that I think has a lot of potential if handled correctly.

But a less appreciated consequence of moving Hornstock back to detective status is that Domenick Lombardozzi is really good when he is doing regular police investigations. A couple of episode story arc in season one that reunited him with his old police partner Floyd Butter was probably my favorite thing from last season. And in the season two premiere, his brief appearances make the decision to keep him on the show as being a very wise one.

It's less clear how things are going to shake out back in Rosewood's lab, although there is a lot of promise there as well. Mitchie's weirdness has been dialed back about 70 percent, making him much easier to take. He and Pippy also make a pretty good team in the lab. As for Tara, she is apparently pursuing her music career as a post-break-up therapy move. It's not clear how much she'll appear in season two, but her absence opens up the storylines quite a bit. Her exit also frees her Mom to pursue some plans of her own, one of which is apparently to lead an investigation seeking to free a man imprisoned on murder charges.

Rosewood and Villa took about half of the season premiere to get back to a semi-normal working relationship and by the end of the episode Villa had even agreed to help Rosewood with his investigation of her husband's death. While this move won't kill the almost inevitable romance between them, it will kick the love down the road a bit. And that provides the breathing room necessary to help the show find its natural chemistry.

Still, there are a couple of changes I still worry about as a regular viewer. There's a new addition to Rosewood offices, which includes an elevator. I suspect that's in part because it gets old showing everyone running up and down the stairs. And I'm not quite what to think about Rosewood's new heavily-tattooed-yet-still-sexy receptionist. So far, she basically just gives Mitchie someone other than Pippy to drool over. But other than that, her vaguely sexy greetings as Rosewood and crew walk by isn't quite enough to justify her addition to the show.

In the end, even though I watched season one of "Rosewood," I was a bit perplexed when Fox picked up the series for a second season. But having seen a glimpse of the show's future, I finally get it. And so, apparently, do the producers of the show, which should make this a much more enjoyable season for viewers.