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Memphis Beat is an hour-long cop Dramedy on Turner Network Television (TNT). It stars Jason Lee as Detective Dwight Hendricks of the Memphis Police Department. The show is something of a throwback to 80s cop dramas where the detectives were quirky and unconventional, his boss (in this case Alfre Woodard as Lt. Tanya Rice) was a by-the-book commander frustrated by said lead and his fellow cops served mostly as straight men to him (with the requisite awkward rookie, here played by D.J. Qualls.).
Though the show is set in Memphis, it is shot mostly in New Orleans (for tax reasons). Ratings were good for the first season, but not without criticism (particularly from Memphis locals) that the show was Memphis-based in name only: The On-Screen Memphis is basically New Orleans-by-way-of-Sparta, MS, save for some shout-out to local landmarks (and of course, references to Elvis). The show's producers have promised to make Memphis in the second season feel more like the actual Memphis.
Memphis Beat contains examples of the following tropes:
- Black Boss Lady: Lt. Tanya Rice
- California Doubling: The show's titular setting is Memphis, TN. The show itself (aside from the occasional establishing shot of Memphis landmarks) is shot in New Orleans, LA — about 260 miles to the southwest.
- The Cast Showoff: Each episode ends with Lee showing off his musical chops.
- Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: Sgt. J.C. Lightfoot.
- Cowboy Cop: Dwight.
- Conspicuous CGI: The pilot contained a glaringly out-of-place radio station marquee.
- Deep South: What the setting was treated like, most of the time, in Season 1.
- Did Not Do the Research: Zig Zagged — for every bit of Memphis culture they nailed (like the existence of WHER radio) they got something else wrong (WHER is defunct, and the building they located it in is [and always has been] actually the Memphis Business Journal building). More like Did Not Do Enough Of The Research."
- Elvis Impersonator: A running gag in the pilot.
- Exotic Detective: Dwight is a font of Memphis musical lore (Especially Elvis and Sun Studios).
- Fan Nickname: Fans and detractors alike have taken to calling Lee's character "Detective Earl"
- Good Cop, Bad Cop: Usually with Whitehead taking the role of "Bad Cop."
- Good Ol' Boy: Dwight.
- Momma's Boy: Dwight is unapologetically devoted to his mother, Paula.
- Outlaw Couple: in "Identity Crisis" the twist is that there are TWO Bonnies: the latter the girlfriend, the former is his mother.
- Screwed by the Network: TNT hardly promoted the show over its two seasons and quietly canceled it despite a positive reception. You think they would have tried to make a show starring Jason Lee and produced by George Clooney one of their big shows.
- Shining City: Most of the main cast (and many of the perps) treat Memphis as such.
- Southern-Fried Genius: Dwight
- Straight Man: Dwight's partner, Det. Whitehead.
- Theme Naming: Each episode is titled after a Memphis blues or rock and roll song.
- What Might Have Been: The show was originally conceived as Delta Blues and was set in a fictional town near New Orleans.