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'Memphis Beat' Preview: Jason Lee's Got the Blues

by Chris Harnick, posted Jun 22nd 2010 12:00AM
Memphis Beat
Welcome back, Jason Lee! After 'My Name Is Earl' faded away in 2009, Lee disappeared from TV sets to go play with Alvin, Simon and Theodore in the 'Alvin and the Chipmunks' movie, but now he's back on TV. He hasn't come back empty-handed, this time Lee has a badge.

'Memphis Beat' follows Lee as Detective Dwight Hendricks, a cop with close relationships with his mother and his city. He also happens to have a passion for the blues.

The Memphis Police Department is a boys club complete with a lamp shaped like a naked woman's torso. However, all that changes when Lt. Tanya Rice comes to town.

Played by the superb Alfre Woodard, Lt. Rice acts like the den mother to the team of cops that also includes Sgt. JC Lightfoot (Abraham Benrubi, yes Jerry from 'ER,' but now with braids!), Officer Davey Sutton (DJ Qualls), Hendricks' partner Charlie "Whitehead" White (Sam Hennings) and Detective Reginald Greenback (Leonard Earl Howze).

Celia Weston plays Hendricks' beloved mama, Paula Ann. But, rounding out the cast in a huge way is the city of Memphis. It and its heritage is as much a character as the credited cast.

Memphis BeatHendricks and his relationships with three women: his mother, Lt. Rice and his city, are the key to this show. The first episode introduces Lt. Rice to the MPD and she quickly shares her new ways of doing things: computers, daily status reports and the removal of the boob lamp shake up the squad. However, she also quickly asserts herself as the mother of the group, Hendricks' mom away from home. It's clear Hendricks won't be a sleazy lady-loving cop, but there are hints of a fractured relationship with an unnamed woman.

Whitehead and Hendricks are assigned to help an addled elderly woman find her way back home, but the case quickly spirals into something quite bigger, especially after Hendricks realizes who she is.

Like a typical TNT cop drama, this show is as much about the characters as it is about the police work. The first episode is primarily focused on Lee's character, but with such a diverse and seasoned supporting cast, the seeds have been planted for a lot of great character moments.

Tell us: Are you excited for 'Memphis Beat'?

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I love the show. I know what the real Memphis is like...spent the longest 8 months of my life there and prayed God would get me out alive. I saw one episode of Police Women of Memphis and was sickened to realize these freaks are the city's "finest"...and that Memphis apparently doesn't mind the rest of the country knowing it.

But the show is purely entertainment to me. I like the quirky characters & the storylines. Dozens of shows are supposedly based in cities to which there's no similarity in real life. I've lived in Houston, Miami, Chicago, Dallas... and I've seen shows set in every one of those cities that did not reflect the real city. You think the REAL Miami is like what you see on CSI: Miami...?

Mike is right -- Memphis Beat isn't a reality show, it's light drama, purely fictional and very entertaining IMO. I doubt it will succeed, too quirky I think, but I'll enjoy it while it lasts.

August 04 2010 at 9:59 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I like the show. I have been in Memphis a lot. It isn't a reality show - IT IS ENTERTAINMENT. Get over it!

June 27 2010 at 3:53 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

It's kinda obvious to me that the producers, etc. spent little time researching Memphis before making this show, other than the surface elements such as Blues and food. Not saying it's bad, but did they even bother to watch First 48?

The Memphis police department is not backwater, they don't use computers straight out of 1990, and they don't all have southern drawls so thick you have to strain to understand what they're saying. The people of Memphis are funny, educated, eccentric...lots of fodder for a show, but let's get a little more realistic and a little less stereotypical, a little less Hollywood, please. I had hopes for this show, but so far I'm a little annoyed. I think the producers thought they were somewhere in the backwoods of Mississippi or Louisiana, not a metro area such as Memphis.

June 27 2010 at 8:34 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Davy Jones Diesel Dave

Love the music and the older cars. Show is good enough for me. I don't like soap operas. Just guns and smash the roses. I'm just a old salty sailor and otr trucker. Concealed carry guns owners and politically incorrect. Westerns and cops shows. Ice road truckers too. Like Liza ... She okay in my book. I'm sick of proggressive femenists. I
like gals like Sarah Palin and Merchell Beckman.

June 23 2010 at 4:32 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Davy Jones Diesel Dave's comment
Davy Jones Diesel Dave

Where can I get that Boob Lamp? It is a marketable item. I need it for my MAN CAVE ( off limits to women- they got the hen's room where they watch American Idiot, Girls that are Ulgy Betty, some goofy New Show at 7pm cst Tuesday night on ABCF. That is the only e
room I allow Pink and Purple. They tried to do the to the bathroom too...so I got one now with a spa tub, drain in heat floor with no goofy rugs. Walls are white and I can wash it out with a hose and squegee if I water the place or dirty it up.

June 23 2010 at 9:11 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Ho Hum another lame police show with the typical characters that has been done over and over and over again. The worst thin it's not even filmed in Memphis.... The trailers were not anything that grabbed you to look forward to the pilot... I give it under 24 episodes

June 22 2010 at 9:18 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

As a Memphian, I dread seeing this show. The reality of Memphis is, unfortunately, best represented by "The Police Women of Memphis" and "The First 48", not by down-home, cheesy dialogue and stereotyping. It's more offensive to me than Marc Cohn's horrendous "Walking in Memphis".
This show might have grabbed me if it were based in Jackson, MS or Shreveport, LA and not Memphis. The reality is Memphis is too dangerous to film a series based on/in it. Take for instance the recent "The Blind Side", also a movie based heavily on, but not in, Memphis.

Saying that the city is a major player in the cast is ridiculous - this show is what people think Memphis is, not the consistent top 5 homicide city in the country that it is. We do not live in a quaint bluesy metropolis driven by music and soul; we live in one of the most dangerous large cities in the country, but there is something there under the surface that we love.

Based on the sneak previews, this show is merely Memphis performed in blackface; a soft-shoe tap of a procedural that does more to emphasize the stereotypes than to relate the reality. But that said, I'm sure everyone outside the city will love it simply because Earl Hickey, "The Blind Side" and "In the Heat of the Night" had a disgusting, greasy threesome and spawned this trash.

June 22 2010 at 1:45 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to KO's comment

Bingo! It's really obvious nobody associated with this show knows anything other the stereotypes of southerners, or at least that's all they want to portray. They also never stepped foot into a Memphis police station or even watched First 48. The sets are laughable, the accents are horrible, and they did no research at all into the true soul of Memphis.

June 27 2010 at 8:33 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

more flops and shows for people with an IQ of 2.

June 22 2010 at 3:22 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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