by Greg Akers
Rowdy Memphis (Plot Synopsis): While Dwight (Jason Lee) and his mama (Celia Weston) are shopping at a nursery, she tells him that one of his old friends and former band mates has been arrested. The former friend, Jimmy (Vincent Ventresca, who played Billy in Romy and Michele's High School Reunion), needs Dwight's help to clear his name. The crime was an armed robbery on a party boat parked at a marina. The case is being handled by a detective (Jonathan Adams) out of the 7th precinct. (Memphis Beat is set around the 9th precinct.) Dwight feels that the detective has the wrong man for the crime and tells him so, creating friction — especially since this isn't Dwight's case to work. The three criminals took off across the lake on jet skis. Damp wetsuits in his boathouse implicate Jimmy. That seems flimsy to Dwight.
Dwight and Jimmy used to be best pals and the core of the band Banjo Jamison, years before. But Dwight's girlfriend Margot (Jessica Collins) hooked up with Jimmy, putting the kibosh on the musical arrangement.
While Dwight is questioning him, the marina owner pulls out a pocketwatch, which Dwight notices is the same as the one reported stolen, thus providing the case the big break it needs. The mystery ends up leading to Jimmy's band mates in his new band. They kidnap Jimmy. A shoot out results. The good guys win.
An entertaining second plot involves Lt. Rice (Alfre Woodard) and her dealing with her mother (Leslie Uggams), who may be too old to drive now.
Respect (Memphis music featured in the episode): Merle Haggard gets two cuts this week: "Workin' Man Blues" and "The Fightin' Side of Me." Merle's great, but he's from California. Also in this episode: Mable John's "Able Mable." Dwight and Jimmy perform Johnny Cash's "Ring of Fire." Barbara Lynn's "Second Fiddle Girl." Albert Collins' "Things that I Used to Do."
The City (Truthy Memphis): Rice's mom says she's been passing driving tests "since Charlie Parker was alive." Bird died in 1955. It's a borderline obtuse way to indicate a specific point in the distant past. Memphis Beat's Memphians are always referring to historical milestones that aren't really all that universal. (Or sometimes aren't even real, xref Memphis' "first post-Reconstruction mayor")
Margot tells Dwight she saw him perform awhile back at Earnestine & Hazel's on a busy night.
Whitehead (Sam Hennings) tells a story that involves traveling to the White River (in Arkansas, a popular spot for vacationing Mid-Southerners) and involving someone with the last name of Jernigan, which is a prominent name in the city. Whitehead also says someone "looked like a wall-eyed buffalo." That's how Memphians talk, of course.
Union Street (Unreal estate): The crime is committed at Memphis' harbor. "B" roll of Memphis' Harbor Town is used as the establishing shots of the area. A character says the robbery happened "in the harbor," and the marina on the show is reminiscent of either the Memphis Yacht Club or Riverside Marina at the Port of Memphis at McKellar Lake. The homes are high end, like Harbor Town, so I presume that's what they're referencing. Besides, McKellar Lake isn't really a lake (and President's Island isn't really an island.) In real life, Harbor Town is by a river, not a lake. Memphis doesn't have any notable lakes. Is the show thinking of Lake Pontchartrain?
The case leads the investigators to an architectural salvage yard "on the east side of the town." Don't even get me started on Memphis' famed sides of town.
Dwight, Jimmy, Margot, and Dwight's mom all go get drinks at the Beale Street Bar Rinky Dinks. Dwight and Jimmy reconstitute Banjo Jamison for one song, a rendition of "Ring of Fire." Banjo Jamison forever!
In an avalanche of overly specific fictional information, Memphis Beat provides a list of addresses in one scene. None of these streets are real: Meadowsweet Dr, Robert E Lee Blvd, Cornflower Ln, and Hyssop Ave. One of the streets they name is real: Elmhurst Ave. Musta been a mistake.
The funniest thing to me so far in the show involves the key clue to wrapping up the episode: the sound of a drawbridge warning in the background of a phone call Dwight gets. He and Whitehead recognize the sound as coming from a drawbridge, and notes that there are "only two in town." Memphis has no drawbridges.