BURN NOTICE and MEMPHIS BEAT...
SIZZLING HEAT

I know I'm going about this bass-akwards, but these two shows do have a few connections. They also have a link—if only in my head-- with our cowboys, maybe even a tincture of MANNIX, so bear with me. Forgive the dithery prose--I’m not exactly firing on all cylinders these days: I lost my Mother in April. Now my thoughts won’t line up in orderly fashion, and my writing sucks.

But maybe not so much as television does in 2010. Some critic called it a “vast wasteland” ‘way back in the 50s, when all three networks carried original programming for a full three-four hours after the news. The best writers, actors and directors in Hollywood worked on those shows.

Now I see the medium as an enormous reeking landfill, complete with buzzards, scurrying rodents and methane fumes. Not all of the shows in the Golden Years rose to the level of our beloved GUNSMOKE, but somehow I think that and THE TWILIGHT ZONE and THE ANDY GRIFFITH SHOW and I LOVE LUCY—plus many more--will be playing somewhere until civilization crumbles, and THE BACHELOR and DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES and KATE PLUS 8, uh, won’t.

I reckon I don’t need to saddle that particular hobby-horse just now—y’all have heard it before. Suffice it to say that I find the grid as unappealing as a vegan would at an all-you-can-eat barbeque buffet. Not a lot to suit my tastes. What pops up as new “original” programming seems to be people-ated mostly by Kens and Barbies who aren’t old enough to vote yet, much less hold down the kinds of high-powered jobs they pretend to. Something close to 90% of the cop and crime shows are dominated by the same formulaic “whiz teams” made up of cookie-cutter doll-babies led by a token older actor as the designated parent figure. They perform amaaaayzing and frequently impossible CSI techniques, in record times. (Honestly if I see one more backlit “autopsy table” I’m gonna haveta break something.)

And these are just the things I CAN watch. The roiling sewer of reality shows and trumped-up game shows all designed to bring about public humiliation to a raft of poor snooks is far more than a temporary indulgence in bad taste—it is fostering cruelty and low-brow, juvenile behavior in an entire generation of Americans.

Oh, whoa is me…. But, ya know, it IS unusual for me to find shows I am enthusiastic about, so let me cheer when I can.

I discovered BURN NOTICE early last year, mostly because their ads featured a hot Dodge Charger like the one my husband had. Maybe it’s telling that I noticed the car before the man. In both cases….

It took a while to get into the show, but I was delighted the cast was over forty. I’ve long thought Bruce Campbell had leading-man (or lead detective) potential. My problem there is they tend to use him for comic relief and he’s too good a character to turn into a buffoon. I love Sharon Gless, and she works in this show the way yeast gets a rise out of dough. Gabrielle Anwar is a hoot as well, though--really sweetie--have a sandwich sometime.

Before I happened upon MEMPHIS BEAT or BURN NOTICE I was unaware of either lead actor. Simply hadn’t heard of them. Jeffrey Donovan is a pleasant surprise. I mean, he has this visage that could easily appear savage, what with the scars and shark eyes and mullet mouth. He’s remarkably talented, especially with accents, and I’ve seen him do a few impressive stunts himself. There is a dark virility to this fella I find appealing, believable—and even attractive.

BURN NOTICE is simply dazzling. I missed most of the first season, but intend to pick those up on DVD. (BTW, by what cheeky bravado are they calling five or six episodes, or even a dozen, a season now? SISSIES!)

The photography is movie-quality colorful...thankfully none of that deathly de-saturation, the setting of Miami is refreshing and lavishly portrayed, the car chases are heart-stopping, and the pyrotechnics, well…where do these people who never seem to have much money manage to get an inexhaustible supply of C-4, black-ops weapons and expensive gadgets?

(Don’t ask too many questions, dear.)

Of course the oily black Dodge Charger is a major player for me. I have trouble navigating the high-tech websites, but I understand there is some claim this car is a 1973. Well, there are at least two in the current season, with slightly-different hood scoops—neither of which was ever stock. My husband and I agree this is more likely a 1971. The grille and tail trim certainly are. We think the cars are cobbled-together from parts. The bodies from 1971-1973 models were nearly identical. These cars are rare and expensive now, with nicely-restored examples bringing six figures.

In a 2008 episode I saw this week, that Charger might have been a 1973 with a very large non-stock hood scoop, but I wonder what happened to the three ports in the lower-aft roof? And the black steering wheel has been painted white and is clearly peeling. In one ep, the interior of the trunk of this black car is white!

"Born black" Chargers were extremely rare, much like my "born black" T-Bird.

While these cars were powerful and highly-maneuverable (speaking from experience, they WILL do a bootlegger turn, sometimes when you don’t want them to!) they cannot do what the Dodge did in the episode “Lesser Evil.” I mean it leapt up four marble steps and then made a twenty-foot flight down the other side and kept on running. It’s indestructible. They’ve fire-bombed it and shot it up several times…hey, I need the name of their body man.

You know, my friend Marty Robbins raced several of these, including the winged Daytona.

As a car enthusiast, I groan when they “kill” wonderful classic cars. I also howled when they destroyed FIVE black Crown Vics in one show. Those are marvelous, handsome, sturdy, comfortable vehicles. Cousins to my Grand Marquis.

I have a small problem with the addition of Coby Bell to the cast this season—perhaps for PC reasons? When you have a winning formula, don’t mess with it. Bell is a leaden weight. He apparently attended the Eric LaSalle school of acting where he learned to master the 1000-yard stare, to look through people rather that at them, and to mumble his lines.

This show clicks for a variety of reasons—it’s fast and fun and clever, the characters have loyalty for one another, the guts and bolts of it are explained by the flatfooted voice-overs for those of us not up on the latest spy techniques. For me, this one’s much better than any regular season offering. Something to look forward to. They could do a movie version and I would pay to see it.

MEMPHIS BEAT

When I first heard about this show, only a few weeks ago, I had that queasy feeling in my gut I get whenever Hollywood “does the South.” They NEVER get it right. They use us for purposes of entertainment, never veering from their pre-conceived notions about our prejudices, and the end result is just laughably awful—all stereotypes and clichés and derogatory riffs. Never fails.

They promote it as tributary—but inevitably exploit our fog and rain and swampy metaphors. Our history steeped in iced-tea and whiskey. Our molasses drawls and timeless genteel mannerisms. Yet they are compelled to redefine them through tacky mirrored lenses. Something about the attitude in LA strips our soul from the celluloid before the product is birthed. Gah!

The South is a really big, complex, richly-diverse place. We’re not all peas in a pod down here. Knoxville is about as different from, say, Charleston, as Duluth is from Mars. Not all of us sound alike, either, and there are basic accent types that can be keyed to certain areas. (Not an exact science….) I believe you have to have been bred, born, raised and spent most of your adult life here to have any comprehension of what it means to be a Southerner. It isn’t that mysterious, but it IS that special.

What happens when outsiders come here to do whatever type of portrayal is that you invariably get not an honest portrait, but an outsider’s interpretation. It’s like Paris Hilton doing a documentary on the Inuit. That kind of cheesy attitude. They remain convinced they are superior.

After seeing the pilot, I looked up the show’s credits on the IMDb. MEMPHIS BEAT was created by the newlywed team of Liz Garcia and Joshua Harto. They are all of 33 and 31 years old. Liz is a Connecticut Yankee who graduated from Wesleyan, where apparently they don’t teach Southern history—or geography. Josh’s bio says he was born in West Virginia and “spent a lot of time” in the South. Palm Beach, Florida? Dear me—NOT the South, not by any stretch of the imagination! That’s a retirement mecca for Northerners who need to spend down!

So what we have here at the starting gate is a well-financed young couple who seem mostly clueless about their material, and couldn’t BEAR to spend more than two or three days in Memphis taking in the sights. In fact, they prolly grew faint from being away from their personal trainers and herbal spa treatments that long.

And yet….

As I said before, I knew nothing about leading man Jason Lee before this show. Really, never saw the man or heard of him. (No offense--I just don't have much TV time.) I had never seen MY NAME IS EARL. I did watch one of those last weekend, and part of another, trying to get a handle on the actor. Unfortunately, I tuned into an ep full of fart jokes with Lee in pink curlers...and had to run screaming from the room! All I can say is...if I had seen that earlier (Ow, my EYES!) I would have been too blind to sample MEMPHIS BEAT. I have a good sense of humor. I'm not a snob.

But it's taking my vision a while to return to normal.

Update: I have made my way through a few more of these EARL eps, and have changed my mind a bit. It isn't really mature humor, but there is something winning about it. Jason Lee projects a sweetness and charm, an earnest quality and some inherent decency in the eyes. He brings a lot of that to the role of Dwight Hendricks.

Now the tiny tots must have been given some early incentives to go out and render forth. George Clooney (not a fan) is one of the BUCK-aroos. The original name of the show was DELTA BLUES. And perhaps they should have kept that, since the show is not actually filmed in Memphis, but rather New Orleans!

Pushing that insult aside for a moment, it appears clear the creators looked long and hard at cable’s most successful original series, BURN NOTICE. They “lifted” some key ingredients, because, hey, isn’t TV all about formula? So what we have here are two cocky-but-capable, darkly-virile leading men who live in the South, are close to their widowed mothers, drive classic cars that belonged to their dead fathers (am anticipating this will come out in MB), still sleep with their ex-girlfriends/wives, have buffoonish-but-capable partners and are considered loose cannons but compassionate crime fighters. Did I miss anything? Did they?

Well, MEMPHIS BEAT could use a few more car chases….

The pilot is “That’s Alright, Mama.” They do a couple of days’ worth of exterior shots in Memphis during “Elvis Week,” which is in August (or faked that event with signs) and then most of the rest is filmed in and around New Orleans. Geez. Who thinks these two cities are interchangeable? There’s a short list of similarities: both are river cities, both have large black populations with serious crime rates, both are hot and steamy, both have blues and jazz overtones….um, I’m running out of excuses here.

But then we all look alike to outsiders, don’t we?

Sometimes clichés have more than a pinch of accuracy. Memphis does get sticky—if you’re outside anytime between mid-April and early November, you are pretty much gonna stew in your own juices. Yet breezes from Arkansas freshen things up. But this is a major metropolis. We have air-conditioning here. And sliced bread. Even flush toilets. Most all of us. (I spent some time in Memphis and Olive Branch, at the headquarters of Holiday Inns—back in the days of glory.) So everyone going around sweat-stained and fans running—that’s partly a stale leftover from Hollywood’s infatuation with Tennessee Williams.

I’m having more than a little trouble going about this “review.” Certainly you’ve guessed I really like the show—otherwise I wouldn’t bother. And yet it was laden with tiresome stereotypes, and had the audacity to film in another city, NOT in my beloved Tennessee! I should be foaming at the mouth.

Maybe I am…quite mad, and that’s the problem.

But they got me before the opening credits. Really. Somewhere between “Heartbreak Hotel”, where this guy with a receding hairline, long charcoal sideburns and whiskery face is belting out an Elvis tune, then shrugs off the leather jacket and plunks it in the trunk of a ’64 Pontiac, gold detective shield at his belt. Dwight strolls casually into a seedy all-night store where the clerk has been murdered and pauses at the scene: a crazily beheaded Icee machine impotently spurts blue slush over a spreading pool of blood, with Butterfingers stuck in the sticky mess.

Yup, they got me…in some body part I didn’t even know I had.

Now the pilot is not only a cornucopia of expected stock imagery, it’s riddled with bloopers. Sometimes these are fun, but honestly, can’t the tots just ask someone? Isn’t there enough budget money for a technical advisor? Heck, I woulda done it for gas money!

And yet this may be the most entertaining pilot I’ve seen in many years.

The most-glaring goof was probably in that opening scene, though it took me a second viewing to see what was bothering me. The crime takes place at an all-night liquor store. We don’t have those in Tennessee. You can’t sell packaged liquor or bottled wine after 11pm here. Worse, no liquor store can sell food items, and no grocery store—or convenience store—may sell liquor or wine. Only beer and malt liquor. We have a powerful liquor-store lobby in Tennessee, and have been fighting to allow wine sales in grocery stores for some time. No luck. I caught this because a flour brand we don’t get here showed up in the store aisles next to the Dixie Crystals sugar.

aHAH!!

Louisiana, of course, does allow this…so, if they had stayed in Tennessee more than a few days they might have been clued in. But then there were the two fryers with french-fries going. They weren’t burned. Who put them in at a murder scene?

Another gaffe was early on, when Dwight is driving the Pontiac along the river. It’s supposed to be dawn, but the sun is on the wrong side of the Mississippi!

And why does this tiny precinct station look like something from TV’s HEAT OF THE NIGHT? They say the air-conditioning has conked out. Really? All umpteen window units at the same time? It’s MEMPHIS, folks. We have CENTRAL AIR!!

(Don’t ask too many questions….)

“That’s Alright, Mama” is indeed all about mothers. Maybe that’s why they got me? The story is flawed, yet the characters are rich, like expensive chocolates. (Some nutty, some nougats….) I honestly think there was a bit of Divine intervention in assembling the cast. Sam Hennings is dead-on perfect as the older detective partner, “Whitehead,” who has asthma and an artsy wife conning him into amateur plays. His wit is sardonic and dry, and he works with Lee like a wheelhorse. Sam is from Macon, Georgia and clearly one of us.

Celia Weston plays Dwight's mother and is one of my all-time favorite actresses. She is from my ex-hometown of Spartanburg, South Carolina. Her exaggerated, affluent Southern Belle accent isn’t really typical in that region, but I don’t fault her at all here. The note she strikes of loving mother who does not interfere is right on.

Alfre Woodard also uses a very elaborate and protracted drawl. She is from Tulsa, and often we confer “Honorary Southerner” status upon our Okies. I question her character’s history a bit, because she says she has “birthed, raised and educated five children.” She’s a single woman in her late fifties. However did she rise to the rank of law-enforcement Lieutenant and commander of a precinct? Not without a whole lot of domestic help, let me tell ya. She’s more than a little arch, but I like her. Even though her stated role here to the department is “Mother.”

It might be folly to burden the lead character with TWO mothers.

D.J. Qualls rounds out the top tier as Officer Sexton. He is a goofy-looking fella from Manchester, Tennessee—which is near the Tennessee Walking Horse capital of Shelbyville. His character is a Barney Fife type, though clearly not even Mayberry would hire this guy. In the pilot, there in the liquor store, he’s the uniformed officer who was first on scene--tracking the Smurf-blue goo around. When Dwight flushes the bad guy out of his hiding place within a greasy food service module, tattooed bad guy stands up and his britches drop, showing bare fanny. Gasp! Bare man-butt on TV! (Funny, the promos shown in daytime hours feature the man with black undies.)

The part I find disturbing is when Dwight wryly tells Sexton he can “frisk this one.” And Qualls goes over and cuddles up to the perp’s bare bum, eyes closing in bliss. Well, of course this is a gag, and we’re not supposed to think too hard about it. But I was offended, and I think any police officer would be as well. Imagine if the perp was a woman! Perhaps they were trying to establish the character as gay, yet he is seen in the end sitting at a bar table with a girl. If the boy is indeed gay, then it gives another nuance to the calf-eyed adoring looks he keeps giving Dwight.

The pilot story involves the case of elderly Dottie Collins, a former Memphis disc jockey from Dwight’s youth, who now has dementia and is lost and has been abused. It’s a brave topic, and opens the door for Dwight to sit on the bed at his mother’s house and tell Dottie about the first time he heard her play Elvis—and how his father was killed in the line of duty.

But one of the truly jarring goofs is when Dwight earlier calls her “sweetheart” to her face. This just isn’t done!! No Southern Gentleman would address an older woman that way. It would be, “Ma’am.” Nor would he call her Dottie directly. That would be “Miz Dottie.”

Of course no one outside Memphis thinks about the city without thinking about Elvis. I can’t criticize this, because the city has promoted Elvis as a tourist attraction. It’s just that natives don’t really consider it “sacred ground” just because Elvis was there. That’s fiction. (And did Elvis really sweep floors at Sun Records?) I liked Elvis, but haven’t advanced to the higher rank of “fan.” It does look as if Elvis impersonators may be an ongoing joke here. Those were the “Rolling Elvi” by the way, clowning at Elvis Week.

Before I get to the star himself, I should mention a key player here. The loyal mount. That would be the steel blue 1964 Pontiac Tempest LeMans coupe with GTO option. Pretty sure that’s it. Wonderful vehicle, the first “Goat” and an early muscle car of the period. Not sure about the power plant, but it could be this 389 had the tri-power option with 348 horsepower. It does have rear lifters. Now the blue car seen in many promos with Dwight rolling over the hood, is NOT a GTO. It might be a 1967 (?) Chevelle. And in some scenes, the GTO does not have the badge in place on the grille.

No explanation as to why two MPD detectives are tooling around in a vintage car without seatbelts…except that it’s cool.

My worry is that star Jason Lee--as Detective Dwight Hendricks--has an albatross around his neck with memories of MY NAME IS EARL. That’s a hard act to bury. And yet he fits this part the way an old shoe fits a tired foot. He’s using a generic drawl that may not precisely match any accent typical of a boy raised in Memphis—it's more of a faint Midwestern twang--yet it passes. It works well enough. I have NO idea how the actor himself speaks, since I have never seen him in anything else.*

*Well, NOW I have....

Lee strikes a measured pace throughout. He's strikingly handsome, yet never seems to wear much makeup, nor does he embrace typical Hollywood vanities. His perfect teeth aren't capped, he's made no effort to work out, and the cotton shirts are rumpled and sweat-damp. He looks REAL. And he looks like a HERO.

Despite roguish wit, Dwight proves to be an earnest, sincere lawman who can “play dolls” with an eight year-old in her tree house or bend a neglectful adult son over a rooftop edge. There’s a steadiness about his manner, and an underlying intensity in the eyes. You don’t see any flagging spirit or intent to cut corners, despite a world-weariness that frays his edges and darkens his gaze. He just soldiers on.

The inner good-guy is evident. He looks after his mama, her mousetraps and humidifier, and especially the suspicious new neighbor who romances her and might be after his dad’s pension.

Y’all know I’ve been a sucker for singers all my life. So when Dwight finally solves the crime and has arrested the bad guy, he invites the lieutenant he has been at odds with to the club where he entertains. Naturally music would be a prime ingredient for MEMPHIS BEAT. At times the soundtrack vocals are a bit heavy-handed and loud, but I can’t say this doesn’t work in the sentimental pilot. And the finale is surprisingly well-done.

There’s Dwight zipping into a worn leather jacket and belting out a dynamic number (okay, it was Barry Manilow’s IF I CAN DREAM) in a smoky blues club. Dropping to one knee and everything. I thought at first the actor himself was singing, but realized anyone who sang that well AND looked that good would be in Music City under contract. Lip-synching is very hard, even for seasoned singers who are mouthing their own records. Lee is actually singing the song to a track, using a dead mike, I think. And he must have practiced this forever, because I tell ya, the boy nailed it.

As satisfying as all that was, I couldn’t figure exactly why the show and the character were so appealing to me—especially with all the screw-ups.

So when I watched it again I came to rest on a compelling scene in Dottie Collin’s house. They filmed this in a genuine old home, by the way. Set decorators made a half-hearted attempt to make the place look decayed, using wrinkled wall fabric, but it's really in fine condition with perfect molding and hardwood floors.

From his treehouse vigil, Dwight has seen Dottie’s “son” take her from the place. He forces his way in, prowling through the second-floor hall where he put a wastecan earlier to catch what he thought was a roof leak. It is no longer raining. He sees a door and realizes it’s an elevator. He forces the door with his pocket knife (got me again, since most traditional Southern men carry sturdy, serviceable knives) and sparks the elevator into life. In the attic he slices the duct tape from an old refrigerator--the thing that has been defrosting and leaking water—and discovers the body of Dottie’s real son.

The entire scene is shot with no sound other than the strong vocals from “All I See Is Darkness.” Not sure of the singer. The pace is deliberate--deathly slow. Sometimes the mark of a fine actor is whether they can carry these scenes without dialogue. The only way to tell what a character is thinking is what is written in his face. In this we see determination and dread lobbying for control. The sequence is just beautifully done.

Yet there remained the question. So I ran it again and just as he rounds the corner, boots scuffing softly, half crouched, sweat-soaked, wary…it hit me. A voice whispered, “cowboy.” Of course! How could I have missed it?! This guy walks, talks, acts, breathes COWBOY. It’s in his every painful move. I mean, you can almost hear Tex Ritter singing, “I do not know what fate awaits me/I only know I must be brave….” He’s every lawman who ever walked into danger alone.

The joke is on me…he’s a singing cowboy and I’m just now getting it!

Something else curious about Lee is that he is significantly down on his right side. I won't go into what I think is wrong here, since it is none of my business, but the effect is to give him a sort of natural gunfighter stance. I doubt he has had cause to use this in his career of comedy.

I don’t think the two regular episodes aired so far have quite lived up to the promise of the pilot. Juliette Lewis starred in the second, and while it wasn’t so bad, a dragging trend seems to be going with too many kids in the show. And they had her in some house with again, no air conditioning, and a 1920s kitchen. Geez, even welfare mommies have proper sinks and stuff.

Plus they have been at odds with the characters as established, because gentlemanly Whitehead now says really nasty things to kids, and in the third ep Dwight is suddenly cast as a womanizer—after the first two shows clearly portray him as basically decent and enamored of his ex-wife. Be consistent, people.

The third show involving beauty pageants (yup, another stereotype) is not very good. What made the pilot so enjoyable was the gravid undertone. You can’t do a series like this with success and then turn to farce.

Of course we can’t send feedback to the producers. I have spent enough time in L.A. to know Hollywoodians live behind a one-way glass wall that is sound-proof. Otherwise the Zen treatments wouldn’t work. But if I could give them some advice it would be: MOVE THE SHOW TO MEMPHIS. And hire technical advisers. Strap them to your thighs! Show us some respect. Utilize humor but beware of slapstick. Don’t over-domesticate the lead character. Hire some real writers who can avoid the plotholes and bad dialogue. Show off the GTO muscle with a car chase or two (hey, it's way too late for y'all to take the high road here) and for Heaven's sake, let the good guys SHOOT somebody!

(This ain't the HALLMARK channel!)

To Jason Lee I would say: do not use any goofy Earl grins; and quit chewing so much on the inside of your mouth—you’re making MY mouth hurt. Play it like the elevator scene and you are on your way to glory. As well as you have done in comedy, you may not be aware how utterly perfect you are in a sober, intense role like this.

I said I would connect the dots here, and I apologize to all of you for taking the scenic route. For indulging. Um, I’ve had this pet theory for a long time about why so many of today’s younger actors fail to make the grade. (Fail to convince ME.) And it has to do with seasoning and maturity. I think one of the reasons our beloved TV cowboys were so believable and inspiring had to do with the actors’ inborn character.

So many were from the “Greatest Generation.” They were either born during, or raised in, the Great Depression. They knew hardships and struggles few of us could imagine. Most served in the military, and many even in combat. That’s partly why they were so convincing and able.

I’m a Baby-Boomer and very aware I had an easier youth than either of my parents. I think the two generations raised since are softer even than we were—in a multitude of ways. I have said in the past, especially when commenting about the likes of Brad Pitt and Ben Affleck (I don't mean to pick on them specifically) and so many brat-packers, that the worst thing that ever happened to them when they were young is that they skinned their knees and Mommy had run out of Batman Band-Aids.

Well, if I read their mini-bios right, both Donovan and Lee were raised in plush suburbs. One in Massachusetts, and the other in Southern California--each in upper middle-class circumstances. Neither served in the military and I can’t see any overwhelming tribulation that would forge character strength. Yet both play their heroes with verve and substance. Both have believable strength and maturity--not to mention that delicious brand of dark hirsute virility I crave and admire.

So I need to back up a bit here and rethink stuff. I MUST be wrong because these guys ARE good! They are MANLY MEN in an era devoted to Peter Pans.

Tune in to the tube!

Jax

 

Copyright 2010, originally posted to TV_WEST in July
M. Jacquelyn Patterson
Knoxville, Tennessee

 

Posted to IMDb:

Re: Attention to Detail
by johnnyringo_outdraws 3 days ago (Fri Aug 6 2010 23:10:39)
Edit Reply

I agree with you completely, FLCRACKER! Now, I fell in love with this show before the opening credits in the pilot. And that NEVER happens!

MANNIX was the last time, I think....

I'm an East TENNESSEAN, and I don't like it when shows supposed to be taking place here are filmed in another state. (Yup, I've heard all the reasons...and I still hate it. Matter of principle.) Now the other gentleman on the board implies these shows should never be held to any degree of accuracy, because they aren't documentaries or whatever...and after all, isn't everyone just too stoopid to care?

Bullpoopy. Any job worth doing is worth doing WELL. If you want to hold your audience in that fragile state of suspension of disbelief, then you must RESPECT them, and respect your subject matter! Hire a technical advisor, people!!

The big problem with MEMPHIS BEAT is that it was conceived and produced by two VERY young people with little to no knowledge or respect of the REAL South they are exploiting. Sorry, folks, wealthy beach communities in Florida do NOT count! And they don't care to ask for guidance. It's yet another case of Hollywood banking on their prejudices about OUR prejudices...down hyeh.

That's why each episode has embraced--and NOT with loving care--moldy cliches like beauty pageants, and wealthy manored-types with black servants, and country music families with <gasp> INCEST and barbecue joints and biker bars and really, what's next...KKK rallies and Tupperware parties? Six-toed albinos?

So bloopers abound in this show with the same gay abandon as sterotypes. Huge stuff, like not knowing TENNESSEE liquor laws prohibit sales of hard liquor and wine in convenience or grocery stores. Like the repeated referrals to MEDICARE checks when they meant Social Security checks. Like Dwight calling Dottie "Sweetheart" to her face. (NO well-raised Southern Gentleman would think of doing that to an elderly woman!) Like the sun "rising" on the wrong side of the Mississippi River! Like the failure to note a third floor in the residence, or what's up with the power there?

Oh, there's more...and that's just the pilot. Which for me was one of the best I've seen in recent years, mostly due to Divine intervention in casting. These people work together like gears in a Swiss clock. Jason Lee and Sam Hennings could not be more perfect as partners if Sam had pointy ears....

(For fun I added some of the boo-boos to this IMDb site over a month ago, but they have yet to appear.)

It goes on. Too often the scripts resemble rumpled bedding. More than too often they dissolve into giddy farce. And while you can get away with some belly laughs in good drama, you can't goof around with your subject and expect then to sell any serious scenarios. Because you pulled the teeth of the thing. Take the courtroom scene in SUSPICIOUS MINDS, for instance. Ridiculous! Written by fourteen-year-olds. (Funny line by Dwight, though, about the defendant smacking the p**s out of the clerk.) Hey, Memphis isn't Mayberry. And HOW OLD was that defense attorney? I have tires on my T-Bird older. (Plus the flag there was NOT a TENNESSEE flag!)

Really, would a seasoned detective like Dwight come rain-soaked to this grinning CHILD for advice about the split money? No, he would go to another detective.

I agree most anyone here in Tennessee, especially police officers, would recognize the Airborne symbol. They missed a sweet chance to give Whitehead a military background. Hennings seems born to these roles.

Lapses in logic abound. There really IS no way to remotely land a twin-engine Beech in that fashion, at least not without manual guidance in real time with visuals. And the plot reveals it was intended to crash. So that was wrong on several scores. Plus, HOW would Dwight know one parachute was missing and HOW on EARTH did they ever think someone could have jumped out and CLOSED THE DOOR behind them!?

<sigh>

Did anyone note the absurdity of the Porshe theft and beating in RUN ON?

I have been doing some reviews at my non-commercial website. Thinking aloud, mostly. The bottom line, though, is I am exceedingly fond of the show, despite its warts and blunders.

M. Jacquelyn Patterson
www.johnnyringo.net