Elvis gets a job and makes a stop at SUN RECORDS while Sam takes drastic measures to deal with his anxiety in “Never Better.” This episode was a lot of slow moving filler that doesn’t seem to advance anybody’s story much. There is a fun piece where Elvis tries to work his way back to Trixie’s heart. We all think we know Elvis on some level so you’d think some effort would be made to illuminate Trixie. She isn’t exactly likable. Elvis apologizes to her father and promises not to mix with the colored’s anymore, but Trixie doesn’t care.
Elvis turns to his mama for help. She wants him to spend more time on his studies but she gives him three pieces of advice for dating. First, get a job so he has pocket money to spend on dates. Girls like to go out. Second, find or do something she likes, preferably something they both enjoy. Third, she doesn’t explain, but it seems self-evident. Elvis begins by singing with the jukebox when she shows up with her new boyfriend at a local burger stand. He grabs a girl to dance with to make Trixie jealous. Later, he gets a job making deliveries for Crown Electric which leads him to the Memphis Recording Studios on a day when they are recording radio jingles. This is a valid step in Elvis’ story but it isn’t the most compelling television.
Jerry Lee Lewis and Jimmy Swaggart discover pornography this week. They both like the magazines with all the pictures, but Jimmy takes a self-righteous position about the effect it has on the soul. They agree that Peggy is both worth their attention and make dating her a competition. Jimmy angles that he is a preacher in training and her father is his role model. Jerry Lee also signs up to be an associate preacher with her dad. Yawn. Again, Jerry Lee and Jimmy are interesting based on who they become, not what we see here. Peggy, we don’t know anything valid about her. Yes, Sun Records is telling a story but they are not presenting any interesting questions about these characters nor are they providing interesting answers. In this case, two guys like the same girl and…
We catch up with Johnny Cash in Berlin. He goes out with friends to find a famous East Berlin brothel and gets in a fight with Russian soldiers along the way. Okay, it’s a scene, but does it tell us anything important about Cash? We find out he’s a virgin when he gets to the brothel and his friends set him up with a special first-timer deal. Maybe this will be important in the weeks to come. He hasn’t given up on Vivian, he sits on his bunk rereading her letters, sniffing a lock of hair. It’s sweet but not exactly must see TV.
Col. Parker pushes Hank Snow up the charts while funding his gambling habits on the side. We’ve already seen this beat, Parker pisses off another promoter while making a little money on the side by reselling seats of people who have already showed up. It’s a little interesting but it doesn’t move the story forward. Remember Eddie Arnold? Exactly.
The real movement this week comes from the Sam Phillips, Becky Phillips, and Marion story. The movement can best be described as circular. Sam drives his car into someone’s yard and wrecks a child’s swing set. The other big threat in the 50’s were the Russians with their nukes yet Sam does more damage with his medium range angst and inter-neighborhood Buick. He drags his sorry ass home where Becky and Marion both wait on him. It isn’t clear why he deserves one of these women much less both of them. He’s condescending to Becky, and unappreciative of Marion. We see him cry and complain about his headache while Marion records a commercial for a local pork farmer. Sam bemoans the anxiety of having to run the studio single handedly. We haven’t seen any evidence that Sam can do much of anything alone accept piss away his resources.
Becky makes an appointment to see a doctor about his anxiety. In the past, they’ve prescribed pills, but this new doctor suggests electroconvulsive therapy. Sam is willing to give it a shot but Becky thinks it’s too risky; they opt for more pills. Sam goes out with Dewey who exchanges his meds for his own brand of blue narcotic. They get trashed and wake up the next morning as Marion brings in another group to record jingles. This isn’t the kind of music that lights Sam’s fire but it does pay the bills. Sam losses his temper unnecessarily during the session and Marion makes him leave. They can’t afford to lose a single client.
Sam knows he needs to get straight and goes in for the first of his ECT sessions. Meanwhile, Marion starts dating her new boss, Earle Hutchins. Earle is a gentleman and treats her well. Whatever she shares with Sam is a mystery. The Sun Records journey is unfolding slowly. You could easily miss an episode and not fall behind which is a terrible way to tell a story. The other mystery is the audience, who is this show for? After four episodes, there isn’t much to go on.
Season 1, Episode 4 (S01E04)
Sun Records airs Thursdays at 10PM on CMT
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Eric Rodriguez | Contributor