TNT, Tuesdays 9 p.m.
Did you think, with the debut this year of shows like "Treme" and "Justified," that maybe TV, in its newly ascendant position as a better source of entertainment than the cineplex, might finally have moved beyond treating the South as a giant cliche? No dice, thanks to "Memphis Beat," a new series that debuts on Tuesday on TNT. As cartoon portrayals of Memphis culture and people go, this one seems to take fewer cues from "Walk the Line" than "Walk Hard," the parody that followed. Jason Lee, worlds removed from the cantankerous culture geek of Kevin Smith films, plays Dwight Hendricks, a Memphis police detective who wears all black, drives a vintage GTO (mostly up and down Beale Street), solves crimes with his instincts and rallies the troops with lines like "Memphis is sacred ground." His partner, Whiteside (Sam Hennings, looking like a refugee from "Spencer for Hire"), offers comic relief with lines like, "You ever try one of them vegan-tofu whatchamacallits? The dadgum thing made me hungrier than I was before I ate it." And Alfre Woodard, slumming big time, plays a new lieutenant whose by-the-book nature provides a foil for Hendricks — but maybe not for long, according to the "Memphis Beat" press release: "Dwight may eventually win her over to a Memphis state of mind, especially when he takes the stage at his favorite hangout to perform a legendary song or two." Apologies if you just threw up in your mouth a little. Even worse knowing that, for all the Memphis lore it tries, but fails, to wrap the narrative in, aside from some B-roll footage, "Memphis Beat" is filmed in New Orleans! Moreover, the show's mix of comedy and drama is as tone deaf as I've ever seen. The first scene in the first episode opens with a shot of a grisly gunshot wound to the head, and ends with the perp's pants falling down in "hilarious" fashion. Not so bad it's good; just bad, bad, bad.
ESPN and ABC, daily 6 a.m.-3 p.m.-ish.
I know little about soccer, but love watching. Even with the vuvuzelas, the tiny plastic horns that seemingly everyone in the stadium blows that sound like a giant swarm of bees, I find it super lulling, exactly the kind of respite from the summer heat I often look for my TV to provide. And, of course, occasionally, it's the most exciting thing ever. But since I'm mostly ignorant, I called the Times world sports correspondent, Stephen "The Finger" Boyd, a man so wrapped up in soccer he has a fantasy team in Italian league soccer, for what-to-watch tidbits. Here's what I got: The best match on Thursday should be Greece vs. Nigeria (9 a.m.). The Nigerians have a defender named Danny Shittu, a name that, when pronounced by a British commentator, should definitely be sampled by some enterprising, juvenile-minded DJ. Friday, the big game is obviously USA vs. Slovenia (9 a.m.). Because Slovenia beat Algeria in game one, the Central European country is atop the group, so it will be looking to defend and play the USA to a nil-nil draw, while the US, in rare form, will be constantly moving forward trying to score as much as possible. Considering that England is likely to beat Algeria and Slovenia, the US really needs to win this game, ideally by a large margin. Saturday, Finger says Netherlands versus Japan (6:30 a.m.) is the game to watch and suggests that we keep an eye on Dirk Kuyt, of the Netherlands, who he says looks like "surfer Quasimodo." Sunday, in the so-called Group of Death, powerhouse Brazil takes on Ivory Coast, who our man thinks is Africa's one shot at glory in the World Cup. The team features bad haircuts and the world's best goal scorer Didier Drogba, who'll play despite breaking his arm last week.