Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Memphis Beat: "One Night of Sin"

Posted By on Wed, Jul 21, 2010 at 10:49 AM

Memphis Beat, "One Night of Sin"
Originally Aired July 20, 2010

Disappointingly, this was probably the least "Memphis-y" episode of Memphis Beat yet, and since that's what we care about here, this recap will be shorter than most.

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Episode Named After: "One Night (of Sin)," in its original version, is a gloriously hung-over 1956 New Orleans R&B gem from Smiley Lewis. Elvis Presley recorded it a couple of years later, both in Lewis' version (which you can hear on the compilation Rockin' Bones: 1950s Punk and Rockabilly) and in a cleaned-up version. Elvis' altered "One Night" ("with you" replacing "of sin") was released in 1958 on a single opposite " I Got Stung," hitting #4 on the pop chart and #10 on the R&B chart. Elvis later did a killer version of the song on this 1968 "comeback" special for NBC.

Plot Synopsis: Detective Dwight Hendricks (Jason Lee) and his mama (Celia Weston) are attending a public memorial service for Memphis music legend Darlene "Ma" Boswell. There, the remaining members of the performing Boswell family — husband Doc and daughters Sadie and Delilah — perform a bluegrass-inflected tune and manager Frank Dixon delivers a eulogy.

Afterward, while Dwight is doing a man-on-the-street interview with a documentary filmmaker, Dixon is found dead behind the theatre where the memorial service was held, having fallen from the building's third-floor balcony. Lt. Rice (Alfre Woodard) suspects grief-based suicide but Dwight's advanced detecting skills lead him to assume foul play.

As Dwight sifts through multiple suspects, including a "super fan" played by guest star Giovanni Ribisi, a "B" plot about partner Whitehead's inappropriate tall tales on the job doesn't go much of anywhere.

Respect (Memphis music featured in the episode): Not much. Dwight and Delilah duet on "One Night (of Sin)" at a nightclub to close the show. Beyond that, Lucinda Williams' "Can't Let Go" is heard at a bar while Dwight and Whitehead talk. That's not a Memphis song, more like a general "Southern" song. A seemingly re-recorded bit of Booker T. & the MGs' "Green Onions" is heard.

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The City (Truthy Memphis): This was sort of like the Nashville episode of Memphis Beat, with the show's creators seeming to confuse Tennessee's two music cities. The Boswell clan is presented as something of a modern-day Carter Family and the memorial service is packed with white people in cowboy hats. Dwight's mama thinks she sees Dolly Parton in attendance. "All the country music heavies" are there, as one character notes, and it's all very Grand Ole Opry, despite Dwight's insistence that, "I don’t know how you can't be a fan of the Boswells, being from Memphis."

Ribisi's character runs a fan website and lives in a house packed with Boswell memorabilia. He's a little creepy. Obsessive fans are certainly part of the Memphis music story, but the really unbalanced ones don't tend to live in Memphis. (Maybe Holly Springs.)

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Dwight is more in line with the kind of dedicated but non-creepy super fans you'd find here, and we see more of the "Elvis" room at his house, including a close-up of a framed poster from Presley's 1968 film Speedway.

A more perceptive nod to Memphis modernity: Dwight's meet-up with the young filmmaker trying to make a documentary about Memphis music.


Union Street (Unreal estate): The only new addition to the Memphis Beat geography in this episode is the "Palace Theatre" where the memorial takes place. It's presented as an old, big, worn, elegant multistory theater. A pretty good stand-in for The Orpheum.

What Decade is This Again?: Dwight on the performance of the Boswell's late manager: "[He] made the sound too slick the past 10 years. Took the concerts out of the state fairs and into the arenas, like they're too good for the ordinary folk." Ordinary folk? Either Dwight is Andy Taylor or a pandering modern politician.

Analysis: Memphis Beat continues to evolve from potential atrocity to run-of-the-mill cable series. That's nice for them, but we're here for the "Memphis," good or ill. And this episode didn't have enough.

Memphis-y Trope Central to Next Week's Mystery: It's "fight week" on Memphis Beat, with a bar brawl and a plot involving a struggling boxer.

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