SUN RECORDS Review: “Outta the Groove”

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SUN RECORDS adds two more music legends to “Outta the Groove,” but runs low on meaningful conflict and dilemma. This week we travel to Ferriday, LA to get our first look at young Jerry Lee Lewis and his faithful friend Jimmy Swaggart. Jerry Lee is full of energy and hungry for the music he hears coming from his uncle’s club, “Haney’s.” Swaggart helps Jerry Lee find that sound on his piano. Jerry Lee has a wingman, but he doesn’t have much else going on besides his raging libido. Hopefully, we’ll see his story evolve a little more in the future.

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Sun Records is currently juggling three stories that happen outside of Sam’s world. Besides Jerry Lee, we catch up with Elvis. Trixie is still embarrassed by his choice in church and the other boys at school tease his about his style. This week, Trixie’s dad phones Vernon and tells him he wants Elvis to leave Trixie alone. He lets Vernon know Elvis was spotted outside the “colored’s” church which upsets Vernon even more. So far, Vernon is the angry, racist, drunk, of the family but Gladys is a different story. She just wants Elvis to apply himself more at school. Elvis chooses music. He goes back to his favorite church but this time he moves up to the second row.

Johnny Cash has much less story movement this week. He leaves to join the Air Force, then he shows up in uniform at a skating rink in San Antonio, TX. A group of friends take him to the rink to meet young women before they ship out to Germany. This is during heavy deployments to Korea, but Cash knows he’s headed for the safety of Europe. The same can’t be said for the roller rink. It’s his first time on wheels and he crashes into a young local, Vivian Liberto. She’s bright and they hit it off. After a few weeks, he asks her to wait for him, three years, until he returns from Germany and she agrees. What? It’s hard to believe that sort of thing happened.

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Cash isn’t the only one making mistakes. Sam Phillips wakes up at the studio wrapped in Marion, then rushes home to fake like he came in late and slept on the sofa. Becky appears to believe him. It’s difficult to tell with Becky, what she knows and doesn’t know. Later, she corners Marion at the office and tells her she knows what she’s been doing, then thanks her for all the hard work she puts into Becky and Sam’s dream. This is the best sequence of “Outta the Groove,” and the only suspense in the episode.

Sam runs a recording session for B.B. King and helps him craft a track. King’s manager, Joe Bihari, likes what he hears and forges an agreement with Sam for a point of the record. That’s a whopping 89 cents for every hundred records sold. Sam plays the Be-Bop Boy record in hopes Bihari will want to sign him too, but Bihari doesn’t like Be-Bop’s sound. Sam doesn’t respond to the rejection well. Though they owe bills for the studio, Sam and Dewey Phillips go out and drink themselves into doubling down on Be-Bop Boy. Sam runs 300 records and ships them out to distributors, but they all get returned. He needs to make real money soon. To make matters worse, Becky finds him in a pill induced stupor, burning his work shirts on the ironing board.

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Bills are stressful, we all get that, but do they add up to meaningful conflict? I would call them life conflict and say they aren’t enough to drive dramatic television. Sam has a wife that loves him, a loyal assistant that loves him, and a popular DJ in his corner. That’s a lot of pluses. B. B. King on the other hand… when Bihari offers King his new contract, he tells him to sign without reading it. That can’t be good. Speaking of The Management; Col. Parker is doing his , going around town, paying DJ’s to play Eddie Albert’s new record, “Anytime” at precisely 2:10PM all week. This is part of his ploy to renegotiate Eddie’s royalties with RCA, and it works. Col. Parker is shady but the guy puts in the work and scores meaningful results. Eddie gets a raise, a bonus, and a new 21-inch console television.

Next week, Ike Turner hits the show and that must mean conflict, right? Sun Records needs to connect these orbiting stories quick. At the very least, we need to see more movement than boys meeting girls. Got it, it’s done. Sam, Becky, and Marion are a strong core but they need to collide more. “Outta the Groove” sidestepped this drama twice; once between Marion and Becky and again with Marion and Sam. Episode three of eight lands next week; I want to see Elvis in the studio and Jerry Lee or Johnny Cash in trouble.

Season 1, Episode 2 (S01E02)
Sun Records airs Thursdays at 10PM on CMT

Read all of our reviews of Sun Records here.
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Eric lives in a world where the television is great, the smiles are warm, the pizza is hot, the puppies are playful, and the zombies are slow and meander while he reloads.
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