In a crime-of-the-week show, it's either the case that keeps you interested or the characters that are investigating it. In some circumstances, you find a show that is good at making both the crime and the main characters intriguing. "Rosewood" is not that show. The crimes are pretty standard -- angry spouses killing in the name of jealousy, the murderous misadventures of drug dealers -- but what isn't typical is the perfect chemistry between the two main characters. Jaina Lee Ortiz and Morris Chestnut are teaching a master class on how it's done.
Ortiz plays Annalise Villa, a New York-based detective who accepts a job in her hometown of Miami after the death of her husband. Chestnut is Beaumont "Rosie" Rosewood, a private pathologist who works with the Miami Police Department as a consultant. They meet on one of Villa's cases where Rosie proves his value and Villa reluctantly accepts their partnership. Rounding out the cast are Rosie's sister Pippy (Gabrielle Dennis) and her girlfriend Tara (Anna Konkle) who work alongside him in his state-of-the-art laboratory. Lorraine Toussaint plays the Rosewood siblings' mother Donna.
Villa is a talented, self-reliant detective. Rosie is a charismatic, confident medical examiner. On the surface, these characterizations are nothing special but in the hands of Ortiz and Chestnut, they work in a way that makes their buddy cop banter a delight to watch. Chestnut's thousand-watt smile, so easy to overplay, is contagious and Ortiz plays Villa's reluctance to deal with her new "partner" with a clever charm and playfulness that doesn't reduce the character to a cliché.
The two are so watchable it doesn't matter that you'll be able to solve the crimes they investigate halfway through the first act or that Rosie's lab is a nod to "CSI"-type high-tech science. It won't bother you that his mother's main role is to worry about Rosie's fear of commitment or that Villa's boss is straight out of the "grumpy chief" template of police characters. All of these weaknesses are easy to overlook because Chestnut and Ortiz make you want to spend time with Rosewood and Villa.
The show makes a point that Rosewood has a special relationship with death because he has dealt with illness since childhood and it threatens to cut his life short while Villa refuses to deal with her feelings of loss and grief. Both subplots add another layer to the characters but again, it's not groundbreaking stuff. "Rosewood" is a show that you've seen variations of before but what it does better than most is capture the hard to define chemistry between lead characters. For better or worse it's that chemistry that carries the show. I'm firmly in the "better" camp.
"Rosewood" is on Wednesdays at 8 p.m. EDT on Fox.
Melissa Crawley is the author of "Mr. Sorkin Goes to Washington: Shaping the President on Television's 'The West Wing.'" She has a Ph.D. in media studies and is a member of the Television Critics Association. To comment on Stay Tuned, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter at @MelissaCrawley.