by Greg Akers
Episode Named After: The Elvis song, which hit #1 on the Billboard charts in November 1956. The song also lends its name to the film featuring Elvis' acting debut. Presley debuted the song on his first appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show in September 1956.
Rowdy Memphis (Plot Synopsis): A man wants to kill himself by jumping off the top of a building downtown. Officer Sutton (DJ Qualls) tries to talk him down, and Dwight Hendricks (Jason Lee) reasons with the man, who has woman troubles. Dwight gets some breakfast to go at The Arcade. Lightfoot (Abraham Benrubi) has wife troubles.
This week's mystery surrounds a missing Miss Southern Appeal. Ivy is a 17-year-old beauty contestant who has been working toward the Miss Southern Appeal pageant "all her life." Whitehead (Sam Hennings) says, "A rich girl lost in this city: never a good thing." The pageant owner's son Jimmy Masterson is a creepy guy and a suspect. Dwight's ex-wife Alex (Sunny Mabrey) is working toward opening a catering business, and Dwight helps out by getting her a gig at the police station. Masterson turns out to just be a drunk. The investigation leads to Kate Caldwell, Miss Bluff City, an enemy of Ivy's. Caldwell says Ivy had been fighting with her parents. When confronted, the Hatchers tell an unlikely story. Ivy's been hanging out at a biker bar called Bic's. Ivy's sister decodes Ivy's diary, which reveals abuses her parents inflicted on her. Caldwell is interrogated for more information; Caldwell quotes Ovid, and Whitehead quotes back Johnny Cash. Dwight figures out Ivy is pregnant. Her boyfriend is an employee at Bic's. Dwight does the right thing again. Ivy and her boyfriend were just getting set to run off together, to escape Ivy's parents. Dwight helps that happen. Lightfoot presses charges against his wife because she stabbed him.
Respect (Memphis music featured in the episode): "The Thrill is Gone" by B.B. King. "Green Onions" by Booker T and the MGs. "Shake" by
Sam Cooke (Correction: The Otis Redding cover is featured in the episode). "Nearer My God to Thee," performed by a capella by a character. "Fancy (Don't Let Me Down) by Bobbie Gentry. Dwight sings "Love Me Tender."
This week's selection was better representative of Memphis music than last week's. The cuts from B.B., Booker T, and Cooke are all obvious, but that's three more to cross off the list as hopefully the music supervisor gets to dig deeper. "Fancy" doesn't really have anything to do with Memphis so much as Southern, blue-eyed soul. It was recorded at Fame in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, and — again — name-drops New Orleans. Gentry is from Chickasaw County, Mississippi, which is in the northern central part of the state. I suppose that's not too far from Memphis Mid-South.
The City (Truthy Memphis): Sutton says he's from West Memphis, Arkansas, originally, and grew up dreaming one day he'd live in the big city, and now he does. He's about to rent a loft apartment downtown and there's a Starbucks on the same block. "City life," he says, full of musing wonder.
The Miss Southern Appeal is "a Memphis tradition." I may be too far removed from such matters, but I'm not familiar with any beauty pageants prominent enough to be a tradition. The real-world analogue, I presume, is Carnival Memphis, though that's not a pageant, it's a society event.
Bic's biker bar is a mile from the rich part of town full of giant houses. That's actually very believable. An interracial romance is portrayed very normal and positive — except from the parents' perspective. Also believable, I like to think.
Union Street (Unreal estate): Sutton says that where he grew up "there was nothing but corn and cotton." And truck stops, he forgot to mention.
The suicide jumper says he works at Brown Hardware "out on Poplar." I don't know if there's anywhere you could be standing in Memphis where it wouldn't be weird to make the reference to something "out on Poplar." Least of all downtown.
When talking to the jumper, Hendricks says he doesn't want to see him "splattered 10 feet across First Avenue!" Hilarious. Wrong in so many ways.
What route would Ivy have taken to the brunch she's missing from? "Jefferson Avenue, I assume. She's not allowed to drive on the highway," her dad says. Is there anywhere in the city you'd be departing from that you would assume someone took Jefferson downtown? Apart from Neely's. Plus, since Jefferson doesn't extend unbroken into Midtown, it isn't even in the top 5 most likely streets to take downtown. The argument on the other side is that the Hatcher's home is on Jefferson. The immense house would make it one of the 10 largest in the city. Much less on Jefferson.
There's a Miss Simpson County in the pageant, but there's not a Simpson County in Tennessee. There is one in Kentucky south of Bowling Green, and there's one in Mississippi south of Jackson.
A reference is made to Jive Records on Beale Street.
One of the clues in the mystery is stationery from Memphis Country Club, which, we're told, has 100 members and 50 employees. That doesn't seem likely, even from an economic point of view.
One character's alibi is that he was jogging with friends at Overton Park.
Analysis: This was a much better episode than the previous two, aside from all the Memphis errors and from a TV-watching perspective. There were some nice little things, like fingerprint ink still on a suspect's fingers while he's addressing beauty pageant girls. The mystery was mildly more bizarre, which was appreciated. The editing was much improved. Whitehead came off much better than previously.
Memphis-y Trope Central to Next Week's Mystery: The murder of a barbecue chef. I totally called it. As Susan Ellis reported on her blog Hungry Memphis after the pilot premiered: "One glaring absence is barbecue. Coworker Greg Akers has got that one figured out. He says that the show, so bent on proving its Memphis bona-fides, will most certainly have an episode featuring a crime revolving around a beloved barbecue pit master." Boom.
Brief Personal Rant: I don't really care one way or the other, but one particular local-person criticism of the show annoys me. That Memphis Beat doesn't get the city right and what Memphis really needs is something like The Wire. I don't disagree in principle — I'd like Memphis to be portrayed much more accurately too — but don't forget: There's only ever been one Wire in six-plus decades of TV. It happened to be about Baltimore. Maybe two such shows, if you count Treme about New Orleans, by David Simon who did The Wire. But the vast majority of shows set in cities are not The Wire. I agree that The Wire may be the best thing TV has ever created, but the death grip on it as the only acceptable way to portray a city like Memphis has got to go. There's a vast gulf between a method of locale portrayal like the ones in The Wire and, say, Mayberry R.F.D. There's lots of middle ground to explore. Besides, Simon is from Baltimore. If everyone agrees Memphis needs a Wire, we need to produce it ourselves.