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October 3, 2015

'Memphis Beat' - 'Baby, Let's Play House' Recap

by Bob Sassone, posted Jun 30th 2010 5:15AM
Memphis Beat(S01E02) You know what I hate watching? TV shows set in a place where it's really hot and humid when I'm really hot and humid as I'm watching them.

It's in the 80s in my apartment right now, sticky and soupy and very uncomfortable. So I got even more uncomfortable watching Jason Lee and company walking around a hot Memphis, T.N. I wonder how they can work in that weather (the show is filmed in New Orleans), especially wearing long pants and suits and uniforms. I get that same feeling when I watch 'Burn Notice.'

That has nothing to do with tonight's episode, but one's environment can affect the way one thinks about something.

Last week I mentioned that 'Memphis Beat' was like the aforementioned 'Burn Notice,' but this episode actually reminded me of 'The Mentalist.' I know, that may seem like an odd comparison, but stick with me.

Look how this episode was structured, with Dwight and Charlie interacting with the gang at the police station and then going to the house and interviewing Cleo (Juliette Lewis) and her family. The family is obviously lying so Dwight has to go back a couple more times to ask them questions to figure out what's going on. Then Rice goes to talk to Troy and make him disarm in a typically dramatic talking scene, but there's still 20 minutes left in the episode so you know the whole truth hasn't come out yet. And then Dwight makes the family reenact the crime because he knows they're all lying, and that eventually one of them will slip up and the truth will come out in a rather convenient (and ridiculous) error by the kid. Going up the stairs? Really?

All that was missing was Dwight using his strong powers of observation to control the suspects and witnesses.

It sort of highlights what's wrong with this show (even if I do enjoy it). The show is actually pretty predictable (honestly, it was like "THIS FAMILY IS LYING" scrolled across the screen every single time the mom and her son were questioned by the cops). While I liked last week's story about the old female D.J. being taken advantage of, this one seemed a little routine. It's like the writers had to invent this needlessly complex scenario where first the son said he did it, and then Dwight figures out that because of where everyone was standing and all that the mom was actually the shooter, and that the kid was going to take the rap so the cops would go easy on him.

I appreciate the fact that there's some human element involved here, real characters, but it all seemed a bit too much. By the ninth or tenth straight lie by the mom and the kid I think I sighed audibly. I was waiting for one of the actors to break character and turn to the screen and say, "Hey, I know this is tedious, but it's tedious in a realistic way! Please stick with it, OK?"

But as I said, it's not that the show isn't without strengths and charms. It has a good pace, and the cast is good, and there are enough quirky moments to put the show slightly into the red zone on the quality dial. But with all the talent involved, I just don't want to see it turn into just another police show that happens to have characters who speak with Southern accents.

More thoughts:

• I like the fact that Rice doesn't just sit in her office at the police station, but actually dons a vest and goes to talk to the kid with the gun. But why didn't one of the other cops go in there? Did they go out of their way to get Rice more involved in the story than was realistic?

• I also liked the scene with Rice and Dwight's mom, though I'm hoping it doesn't get too cutesy.

• I'm curious to see when Abraham Benrubi (Sgt. Lightfoot) shot these two episodes in relation to when he shot 'Happy Town.' He looks totally different here.

• Always great to see Daniel Hugh Kelly -- 'The 100 Lives of Blackjack Savage' is one of my favorite short-lived shows -- and it's nice that he'll be around as the boyfriend of Dwight's mom.

• The episode had 81 percent less Elvis, and that's a good thing. Elvis is fine, but the first episode had enough Elvises (Elvi?) for six episodes. Nice work by Lee on the song at the end though.

[Follow Bob on Twitter.]

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It was nice to see Mallory Knox.

July 01 2010 at 9:13 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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