TNT is set to premiere one of their newest shows in June, a cop show titled Memphis Beat. I learned about the show while visiting my mother in Mississippi. Immediately, I smelled trouble and sought more info on the show’s website. Memphis Beat stars Jason Lee who portrays a Memphis cop named Dwight Hendricks. Hendricks is supposed to be something of a Southern eccentric like myself, but perhaps with more quirk and less sass. When he’s not busting the bad guys, he’s moonlighting as an Elvis impersonator.
Now, keep in mind, I’ve been in Memphis for almost 20 years. I have yet to see a native Memphian impersonate Elvis. As a matter of fact, there’s a slew of Memphians that have never visited Graceland. That’s right. NEVER. You can count me in that number as well. The closest that I get to Graceland is passing by it in route to some other destination in Whitehaven (the neighborhood where his mansion is located). To be quite clear, most Memphians spend very little time harping over Elvis; that’s actually a byproduct of his obsessed fan base that journey to Memphis twice a year; once in January to celebrate his birthday and once in August to commemorate his death. You see, because of them, we don’t really have to love Elvis like that because he was here. Furthermore, there’s virtually no reports of random Elvis sightings to prove he’s still alive either. After all, if he was to show up anywhere, it would be Memphis, wouldn’t it?
Instead, a great deal of Memphians take pride in the legacies of Gospel, Blues, and Soul music, and least I forget, BBQ. Al Green and the late Isaac Hayes are perhaps adored just as much as Elvis. Let me tell you, as a Black woman, it’s a beautiful…and hilarious…experience to see a couple of rhythmless White people sing ALL of the lyrics to Love and Happiness. It happens, even in Memphis.
Stax Records, Hi Records, the National Civil Rights Museum, Sun Studios, Beale Street, Neely’s Bar B-Que, the Rendevouz, and probably the Peabody Ducks are honored highly among Memphis residents. They’re historical points of reference….which leads to the second problem of the show. Memphis Beat is NOT filmed in Memphis. It’s filmed in New Orleans. Again, what? Shouldn’t the show be called New Orleans Beat, instead? Now, how TNT and the producers of the show are going to be able to pull this one off will be interesting. It’s almost like they sat at the meeting while brainstorming on the show’s concept and said, “Yes, let’s focus on Memphis, but let’s shoot it in New Orleans because we can eat beignets on our lunch break!”***
I just listed a lot of the infamous landmarks in Memphis. When people watch this show, would it be wrong of them to expect to see them, especially if they live or have visited here? Considering that the city has been promoting itself to the motion picture industry as an ideal filming location, how come the show wasn’t filmed in Memphis? While New Orleans and Memphis have a lot in common in many ways, Bourbon Street looks nothing like Beale Street, thus the experience in visiting the Birthplace of Jazz is entirely different from the Birthplace of the Blues.Memphis could have used that revenue and publicity just as much as New Orleans. Besides, filming the show in Memphis and making sure some of the city’s hot spots get a close up could have enhanced our tourism dollars as well. But this is the kind of breaks that Memphis have been getting off and on for the past several years. Every time it seems like the place will get the opportunity to re-introduce itself to the world, it seems to always end up with the short straw.
I will probably watch the pilot for the sake of Alfre Woodard. DJ Qualls is also co-starring in the show and, to me, he’s just as out of place as he was in Hustle and Flow. For the most part, I’ll take a pass on Memphis Beat because it just may give me heartburn. After being here so long, I’ve seen enough Elvis worship to last me a couple of lifetimes. I’ll also forego watching the show in a small protest on the city being so undermined in cultural significance and getting the shaft on filming rights.
Oh no, is that my pride showing? Yeah, I believe it is. 🙂
***If anyone has a hankering for beignets while in Memphis, they can just swing by Cafe Beignet downtown and grab an order. Unless you just have to get that Cafe Du Monde experience, these beignets will fit the bill properly.