Thursday, July 15, 2010

Memphis Beat--It's Catchy!

Burkie's guestblogging again! And, unless there is an outcry, I may be doing it a bit more frequently. Not that Jenn & Mira aren't doing a great job--they are! But there's a lot of TV out there; have you noticed? Hundreds of channels! Even with all their DVR & On-Demand gadgetry at hand, the ladies can't cover it all!

I'm going to concentrate on shows from two particular networks that I've become a fan of: TNT & USA.

Memphis Beat is only four episodes old and I've already proclaimed elsewhere that it may be the best TV show ever! Okay, that may have been an exaggeration. Full disclosure, though: I'm biased. I have a special relationship with Memphis and the things associated with Memphis--Elvis, the blues, BBQ, etc. And, I've always liked both Jason Lee & Alfre Woodard, who both star in this quirky series.

Detective Dwight Hendricks (Lee) is a good cop whose success is based largely on his knowledge & love for his hometown. Memphis is not a large city, but it's very unique. On the banks of the Mississippi, it's named after a city on the Nile in ancient Egypt. It was the home of Elvis, and the home of BB King, who has a club on Beale Street, the touristy strip of music joints, bars, and restaurants there. It's the home of Sun Records, which launched the careers of not only Elvis but also Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash and others. It's the home of Stax Records, which helped put great soul stars like Isaac Hayes, the wicked Wilson Pickett, Sam & Dave, and others into the spotlight. The great soul singer Al Green retired from music to become a preacher, and still preaches in Memphis. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated in Memphis. Memphis dry rub ribs are legendary. I'm just saying, there's a lot things that make Memphis special. It's long overdue that a TV show is based there, and the producers are doing a great job of making Memphis as much of a character in the show as Dwight is. ((and yes, it's glorified or idealized or even Disneyfied; Memphis has more than its share of problems as well, but this is TV, so don't worry about that!))

Back to Dwight. As I said, he's a good cop and has built up a good rep in his precinct, but then he gets a new boss: Lt. Tanya Rice (Woodard). It's your basic clash of styles. She's sassy & businesslike; Dwight is cool & easygoing. She's a single mom struggling to balance work & home; he moonlights as a crooner. And he croons well, too (remember, Lee played the lead singer for Stillwater in Almost Famous). Elvis songs, but not as an Elvis Tribute Artist (the politically correct term for Elvis impersonators, for those of you who didn't know). There are other colorful supporting characters, too, including Dwight's mom, his ex-wife, and the other cops in the precinct.

And that brings me to my only complaint about this show: it's on the wrong network. I like TNT (as you'll see). It has built a nice niche for itself with its catchphrase: We Know Drama. But, I think the USA network has also built a nice niche for itself with its catchphrase: Characters Welcome. This show is a cop show, but (so far, at least) the procedural stuff has been more small-time stuff, not Law & Order stuff. It's Memphis and the characters who shine here. This show belongs on USA!

I realize that not everybody will enjoy this show as much as I do, but I think it has a lot going for it and wouldn't be surprised if it attracted a strong fan base. Memphis has probably been mentioned in more great songs than even New York, so it's about time it got some TV time!


melissa myers said...

we have watched the first few episodes and plan to continue watching -- as long as our dvr can keep up of course. it's a good show.

Jennifer said...

Yes, keep guestblogging!

I'll have to check this one out. I don't know anything about Memphis or Elvis really but I usually like Jason Lee, despite the fact that he named his son Pilot Inspektor...

burkie said...

oh, i didn't know that. that is unfortunate both for the kid and for my friend candy, for whom i thought jason lee would be a good match :)