Things are awfully bright on Fox's new drama Rosewood, and it's only partly because of the Miami sun.
"The seed of the idea was to do a show about an eternal optimist," creator Todd Harthan tells TVGuide.com. "I felt like anti-heroes and cynics were being well-serviced on TV, and I thought I'd go the other way and have someone who approaches life with this profound appreciation and sees the good in people before he sees the bad."
That man is Dr. Beaumont Rosewood (Morris Chestnut), a private medical examiner who can solve a murder by a quick glance at the tiniest details on a victim's body. As the "Beethoven of private pathologists," he naturally rankles all the Miami PD cops with whom he crosses paths, presumably because of his skills, but perhaps it's also his million dollar smile and washboard abs, which the show finds a way to feature prominently in the opening moments.
Fall Preview: Get scoop on the must-watch new shows
But take a second look at Chestnut's toned torso (it's OK, really), and you'll notice the complicating factor of the series: Rosie has a huge scar across his chest thanks to a congenital heart defect that threatens to end the good doctor's life at any moment. (He also has an issue with brain bleeding and an affliction with his eardrums that could eventually render him deaf. Just for good measure). That's right, Rosewood loves life because he doesn't know how much of it he has left. Of course, if the show finds an audience, we're pretty sure he'll have several good years of crime-solving to do.
"While we're obviously not going to kill him off, as early as episode 3, he has a crippling side effect to one of the medications he takes," Harthan says of how the show will deal with his medical ailments. "It haunts him and plagues him in a very visceral way. The struggles he has day to day in facing what he's up against are real and grounded in something people can relate to. It's not, "Oh, his life is threatened this week by his heart condition,' but there are things that plague him and make his life difficult."
Also giving Rosewood reason to live? A tough NYPD transfer named Annalise Villa (Jaina Lee Ortiz), who is the cynical oil to Rosewood's sparkling water. But of course, Villa will eventually be charmed by Rosewood, even if a past tragedy has her uninterested in finding new love.
"She absolutely finds herself getting pulled into his optimistic point of view and feels like he's rubbing off on her, but her instinct is to push it away because she fees guilty about moving on," Harthan says. "She feels guilty about feeling anything for anyone else other than this husband that she lost. It's a huge obstacle, and it's going to take her a very long time to get over that emotional heartbreak. The thing that further complicates it is she lost the love of her life prematurely. She slowly starts to have feelings for Rosewood, who she knows could lose his life prematurely. So, there's another layer to why she's pushing him away."
If none of this sounds like a dozen other medical or crime procedurals you've seen before, you clearly don't watch a lot of TV. Leaving aside Chestnut's charismatic charm, there isn't a whole lot to be optimistic about in the show's pilot episode. But even though Rosewood's lesbian sister Pippy (Gabrielle Dennis) and mother Donna (Lorraine Toussaint) are broadly sketched in the premiere, Harthan promises those characters are what will eventually elevate the show beyond the stock procedural — and make it a good coupling with its otherwise inexplicably paired lead-out Empire.
"In the first eight episodes, we're really digging in deep to this family dynamic, what makes them tick," Harthan says. "It's not a family without secrets. They're not the kind of secrets you're going to see on Empire, but they're definitely secrets that yield drama and good story. This really develops into a family drama with a lot of soap elements. It's a character drama with a lot of soap. Yes, we hang our hat on a case every week, but we do not have any down-the-middle procedural episodes basically from Episode 2 on."
And ultimately, the character with the most to figure out is the guy who seemingly has it all together. "It's not an easy road for this guy," Harthan says of Rosewood. "While he smiles and is a lighthearted, charming warm presence when he's around other people, this is a person who is profoundly scared of silence and being alone. We're going to see those moments. We're not going to shy away from seeing the flaws in this man, him in his darkest hours. If we don't do that, it's going to get awfully one-note.
"He really has to look at himself in the mirror," Harthan continues. "This is a man who enjoys every minute of his life, but one of the things he doesn't want to do is have a family of his own because he doesn't want to leave them with emotional heartbreak. So, he's a bit of a hypocrite. He appreciates the people around him, but he's not holding on to any of them. They're all fleeting, surface relationships. How can you really impact anyone's life around you if you don't dig much deeper? That's something he's going to wrestle with. It's his phobia, and it's not easy to get over phobias, even when you're an incredibly brilliant doctor and you know better. It's his affliction."
Rosewood premieres Wednesday at 8/7c on Fox.