E: Have I mentioned that the music on Memphis Beat is fantastic? First off, it’s not as Elvisy as I feared. There’s rich, gorgeous, well made stuff. And the credits? Seriously, I think they’ve got the best credit sequence in the biz. Alfre Woodard written on a coaster? Abraham Benrubi’s name scrawled on the back of a classic car? That’s some seriously good stuff.
The show itself is pretty good, too. This week’s episode features Juliette Lewis (which would have been a draw back in the past, but instead turned out to be a bonus), lies, lies and more lies. And our hero sees through them all. I’ve been hoping for a fun scripted summer series, and this is looking like it.
Once more, Dwight Hendricks works his detective magic by listening when other people wouldn’t. And he pays attention to the little things no one else notices. The Dwight and his partner, Charlie “Whitehead” White (played by character actor Sam Hennings) get called to a primary school where a young boy (perhaps 7 or 8?) has been sent to the principal for fighting. A bit of overkill to call in the police, I think, but this is the third time this week, and it seems that something odd is going on at home. Sean insists his dad works for the FBI and has been kidnapped; his much larger classmate didn’t believe him, and so, they fight. There’s something beguiling and honest about the brave, pugnacious little tyke that catches Dwight’s eye.
It turns out that something is certainly odd at home. The boy’s mother, Juliette Lewis, explains that the father (a trucker) is off on a job. But it turns out Dad’s left his rig at work and hasn’t shown up. Again and again, new evidence shows up, and Hendricks returns to Lewis’s house for a new round of plausible, seemingly heartfelt lies. I suppose that could have been tedious, but it wasn’t. With every round of revelations, her husband’s character takes a deeper hit. There are at least three different criminal activities to be smoothed over. Lewis does a bang up job as an ultimately (I thought) likable liar, and the boys who play her two sons do as well. (Devon Werkheiser, you need to get your agent on the phone with the imdb – Troy was a huge character in this episode. Why aren’t you listed?)
This episode brought us a further into the show’s world. There’s a funny chase scene to start everything off, set to some particularly fantastic blues. We get some cute interplay between Lt. Rice and Mrs. Hendricks, who’s come to the precinct to pay off a parking ticket. Celia Weston, seriously, is worth her weight in gold. I particularly like the exchange about skinny jeans and how Rice is much better looking than the last Lieutenant. They are completely charming. Rice also gets the chance to impress Hendricks and White with her negotiation skills. Buffoonish Officer Sutton, played by DJ Qualls, actually gets to do something competent. His colleagues are as surprised as the audience. We get some annoying interplay between Mrs. Hendricks and her smarmy neighbor/boyfriend Tony. Why was Dwight out with his mother on a date? Gross! Tony, by the way, was recognized by Mr. E as McCormick from 80s adventure show Hardcastle and McCormick, which made us both pretty happy even if we don’t like the fact that the most worthless, feckless character on the show happens to hale from our home state.
We were also introduced to Dwight’s ex-wife, with whom he maintains a steamy but fraught relationship. She seems to be a constant disaster, although chiefly about comic things like curtain rods and cooking dinner; he wants to save her, she doesn’t want to be saved. From the knowing face White made, and some snide cracks, it seems they have a bit of a pattern. They’re awfully lovey dovey for exes, though, I have to tell you.
And there it is. It’s still worth checking out (and if you haven’t yet, I’m sure either TNT or Hulu will have it). Dwight is observant, and the people in his unit seem deeply concerned with their community and making things come out right. It’s nice to imagine there are big city cops with that attitude. By the way, I noticed the name Grant Heslov in the credits with quite a bit of pleasure last night. Heslov is George Clooney’s writing and producing partner, and wrote the script for the fantastic “Good Night And Good Luck.” Clooney seems to have a producing credit as well. Will I end up as fond of these characters as I am of the casts of Bones and Castle? I don’t know. I’m not a hundred percent sold on Dwight yet (though I seem to have forgiven him for being named Dwight, which took some doing) but he has some genuinely lovely moments. He’s not as immediately captivating as Simon Baker on The Mentalist, but is there anyone out like as prepossessing as Simon Baker? In the end, I’m glad that Clooney and Heslov and Lee and Woodard and Weston and Qualls and Henning and Benrubi and the rest of them are giving me their time, though. If you’re looking for some summer tv, it’s a nice way to spend your time.