Back when Mallrats was released, I swore I knew Jason Lee from somewhere. I think it was several months before I was alerted to the fact that he was a professional skateboarder, and in case that wasn’t it, I might have seen him in a music video. I didn’t have my finger on the pulse back then.
I didn’t get much out of Mallrats, but I had oddly high hopes for Lee. It took a bit for him to get going, but then nice turns in Kissing a Fool, Mumford, and Almost Famous gave me a certain sense of satisfaction. Then, for several years, I started to get rather irritated by him. All I could think was that he has better work in him, but all I kept getting was Dreamcatcher, Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, and Jersey Girl.
You might think I’m building you up to some positive comment about My Name is Earl, but I’m not.
While earning him some popularity, award nominations, and a decent run, I never cared for the show. The actual funny moments in the show were few and far between, in my opinion, and I was still looking for him to give me the quality actor who was trying to emerge way back in 2000. I’m not going to mention that other movie that was released during the middle of My Name is Earl‘s run.
I’m not sure of the twists and turns that bring together an actor’s career, but somewhere in the recent past it seems that someone said to Lee, “Listen Sk8ter Boi.”
Memphis Beat may just be what I was waiting for.
Few shows that have aimed at a locale enough to include it in the title have come close to capturing a city’s feel the way Memphis Beat has, and that would be true whether you ever saw anything that looked like Memphis or not. The visual style, the music, the characters, and so much more, simply drip of Memphis – though I reserve the right to be refuted by Memphis residents. Knowing nothing at all about the show, you could watch Dwight Hendricks (Lee’s character) walk to his car, get in, and drive away, and you’d know he had done it in Memphis.
Centering on Hendricks, a police detective who is equal parts quirk and charm, the show allows itself to be driven by a Memphis style, blues music, and its rich characters. Balancing comedy and drama, though it’s a dry comedy, the investigative necessities, while interesting in themselves, leave room for development of some overall effort, and enough time to play around with our character appeal.
Even our storylines are dipped in grease and served with grits, with synopses like – “attempted murder of BBQ King,” “death of the matriarch of popular country western family,” “legendary session musician is holding someone hostage,” and “missing beauty pageant queen.”
Lee pulls the show along with an efficiency and ability that will probably surprise many viewers, and though billed as rather quirky, he is in fact the touchstone to reality for his surrounding characters (who easily outdo him on quirk) and his surroundings (as practically the poster boy for both Memphis itself and “modern southern gentleman”).
It is, however, a show that is not without certain difficulties, and because of them I felt rather obligated to see just how well it was going to be able to settle into a rhythm. Dwight’s partner, Charlie White (aka Whitehead, played by Sam Hennings), might easily have turned rather annoying. New boss Tanya Rice (Alfre Woodard), who is unimpressed with Dwight’s somewhat lackadaisical approach to police work, might have become overplayed and ineffectual. DJ Qualls, who has himself had few chances to really show what he’s about, might have easily had his uniform-officer character spin into a hopeless goof.
It hasn’t gone wrong yet, and each episode have lived up to the potential established in the pilot. It has so far proved to be one of the exceedingly rare shows that seems to have avoided the transition from sprint to marathon altogether.
You can catch up on past episodes at TNT.com here – http://www.tnt.tv/series/memphisbeat/ and I highly recommend that you do. It’s easily one of the best things that has hit summer television this year, and you’ll want to be caught up as we move forward.
To help celebrate the show, I have a giveaway for you. Leave a comment below, and you are automatically entered. One lucky winner will receive –
- One Memphis Beat T-Shirt
- One bottle of memphis hot sauce
- One bottle of memphis original bbq sauce
Winner will be randomly selected August 24th.
Below check out more info on the show, and a few videos.
Blues Music, Southern Charm and Crime Make a Soulful Blend in TNT’s New Drama MEMPHIS BEAT, Starring Jason Lee and Alfre Woodard
There’s a new sound coming to TNT this summer. It’s the bluesy, guitar-laced sound of MEMPHIS BEAT, TNT’s soulful original series about a Memphis police detective starring Jason Lee (My Name Is Earl) and Alfre Woodard (Three Rivers) and co-starring DJ Qualls (Hustle & Flow). The drama series is produced by George Clooney and Grant Heslov’s Smokehouse Pictures and Warner Horizon Television and airs Tuesdays at 10 p.m. (ET/PT).
The show centers on Dwight Hendricks (Lee), a quirky Memphis police detective with an intimate connection to the city, a passion for blues music and a close relationship with his mother. He is “the keeper of Memphis,” a Southern gentleman who is protective of his fellow citizens, reverential of the city’s history and deeply rooted in its blues music scene.
Despite his impeccable instincts as a detective, Dwight’s loose, relaxed style of police work rubs his demanding new boss, Lt. Tanya Rice (Woodard), the wrong way. But Dwight may eventually win her over to a Memphis state of mind, especially when he takes the stage at his favorite hangout to perform a legendary song or two.
MEMPHIS BEAT co-stars DJ Qualls as Davey Sutton, a uniform cop who considers himself to be Dwight’s protégé. Also starring are Celia Weston (Junebug) as Dwight’s effervescent mother; Sam Hennings (Saving Grace) as Charlie White, aka Whitehead, Dwight’s seasoned, hypertensive partner; Leonard Earl Howze (Barbershop) as Reginald Greenback, a fellow detective struggling to make ends meet with two teenage daughters; and Abraham Benrubi (ER) as Sgt. JC Lightfoot, an officer who uses Chickasaw tribal wisdom in his police work.
MEMPHIS BEAT was created by Liz W. Garcia (Cold Case) and Joshua Harto (The Dark Knight), who also wrote the first two episodes. Harto, who grew up in the South and has spent a lot of time with his country-musician grandfather, sees the show’s setting as a chance to spotlight one of America’s great cities. “Memphis has been largely forgotten in film and TV today,” he says. “It’s where the blues and Johnny Cash and Elvis came from. It’s where Martin Luther King was assassinated and where Isaac Hayes and Aretha Franklin were born and raised. It’s the perfect blend of drama and humor for our show.”
Music is just as vital to MEMPHIS BEAT as its unique characters, drama and humor. “Music is a huge part of this show,” Garcia says. “It has to be. You can’t live in Memphis and not have your life steeped in music. The city has a soundtrack.”
To get that perfect Memphis feel, the production team approached noted blues singer/songwriter Keb’ Mo’. He will provide original compositions and performances for the show to supplement classic Memphis tracks.