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Series / Memphis Beat

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L-to-R: Det. Greenback, Det. Whitehead, Lt. Rice, Dwight, Ofc. Sutton

Memphis Beat was an hour-long cop dramedy on TNT from from June 22, 2010 to August 16, 2011, starring 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 who was continually frustrated by Dwight's Cowboy Cop tendencies (although the two would later develop a more comfortable work dynamic) and his fellow cops served mostly as straight men to him (with the requisite awkward rookie, here played by DJ Qualls).

Though the show is set in Memphis, it was 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 onscreen Memphis is basically New Orleans-by-way-of-Sparta, MS, save for some shout-outs to local landmarks (and of course, references to Elvis).

Memphis Beat contains examples of the following tropes:

  • Black Boss Lady: Lt. Tanya Rice, to the point where Alfre Woodard was nominated for several awards for her portrayal.
  • Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: Sgt. J.C. Lightfoot.
  • Cowboy Cop: Dwight, but not so overly so. The first episode, for example, depicts him directly disobeying Lt. Rice's orders and staking out the victim's home, leading to him managing to crack the case.
  • Deep South: What the setting was treated like, most of the time, in Season 1.
  • Elvis Impersonator: Dwight has a side gig as an Elvis impersonator and each episode ends with him performing an Elvis number.
  • Every Episode Ending: Each episode ends with Dwight performing an Elvis song, usually at a club as an Elvis impersonator.
  • The Exotic Detective: Dwight is a font of Memphis musical lore (Especially Elvis and Sun Studios).
  • Good Cop/Bad Cop: Usually with Whitehead taking the role of "Bad Cop".
  • Good Ol' Boy: Dwight, which was a big part of the appeal of the show.
  • 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.
  • Shining City: Most of the main cast (and many of the perps) treat Memphis as such.
  • Southern-Fried Genius: Dwight was pretty good at sounding like a Good Ol' Boy, but managing to pull off a Sherlock Scan or two or make connections that others had missed.
  • Straight Man: Dwight's partner, Det. Whitehead.
  • Theme Naming: Each episode is titled after a Memphis blues or rock and roll song.