Goodbye Earl for Jason Lee, Hello Memphis Beat
· Jason Lee
· Alfre Woodard
· DJ Qualls
· IMDb: Memphis Beat
Television Review: Memphis Beat, "That's Alright, Mama"
by R.J. Carter
Published: June 22, 2010
Jason Lee heads off in a slightly more serious direction with the new TNT police dramedy, Memphis Beat. Lee plays Detective Dwight Hendricks, a law officer with a down-home perspective on handling cases and a penchant for moonlighting in bars as an Elvis-esque singer.
When we first see Hendricks on the job, it's to investigate a convenience store break-in being handled by Officer Sutton (D.J. Qualls. This short scene does a quick job of establishing the overall tone of the series in a microcosm, juxtaposing the seriousness with which Hendricks takes his job with the absurdity of stupid criminals and Qualls' reprise of Barney Fife.
Hendricks also gets a new boss with this pilot episode, Lt. Tanya Rice (Alfre Woodard), with whom he is immediately at loggerheads as her by-the-book style conflicts with his desire to keep a "boob lamp" around to help the guys decompress. This sets up a not-too-overdone dynamic that plays in the background while the more serious plot takes over, as Hendricks is assigned to investigate a non-communicative elderly woman suffering from physical abuse -- a case that quickly becomes personal for Hendricks when he discovers the woman's identity. A secondary plot thread (one thing is for sure, Hendricks is kept busy) involves Hendricks' mother, Charlene (Robin Lively), and his overprotectiveness of her as she embarks on a relationship with a new neighbor.
Despite some of the incomprehensible visuals (how someone of Qualls' build could pass police academy beggars believability), Memphis Beat nonetheless had me hooked from the first few minutes. It may have gone out of its way to establish its Memphis-centricism (does CSI:NY have to refer to landmarks and local celebrities to establish its identity?), but so long as that doesn't become a prevailing in-your-face pattern and can fade into an ever-present white-noise background, TNT may just have a new fan-grabber on their hands, presenting a unique alternative to the many police procedurals that permeate the television listings.
Memphis Beat debuts June 22, 10pm ET | 9pm CT on TNT.