Miami Vice: Season One

Miami Vice: Season One

***

Reviewed by: Stephen Carty

Yes, looking back its not as good as age-distorted memories would have you believe, but Miami Vice is still ridiculously cool. Full of neon blues, sexy sports cars and the best TV theme tune this side of Hasselhoff’s slow-mo jogging-assisted Baywatch number, there’s plenty of iconography going on.

The plot is pretty straightforward stuff; after his partner is killed during an undercover narcotics operation, Detective James 'Sonny' Crockett (Don Johnson) gets help from a New York cop called Ricardo 'Rico' Tubbs (Philip Michael Thomas) who is also after the drugs kingpin responsible. Deciding to work together permanently, Tubbs transfers and they form a partnership under strict new Lieutenant Martin Castillo (Edward James Olmos).

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So why isn’t it as impressive as memory serves? Well, quite simply, the substance doesn’t match the over-abundance of style. A great chase in the pilot where Crockett speeds along in his Ferrari Daytona Spyder pursuing Tubbs sets the tone - this is a show about fast-moving vehicles and good-looking people. Living up to the initial brainstorming memo from execs who wanted “MTV Cops”, showrunner Michael Mann is more concerned with images, emotions and energy than he is with plot, words or character.

Sure, there’s pathos from the former’s broken home (aided beautifully by Sonny's personal score, Crockett’s Theme) and the latter’s odd romance, but Miami Vice isn’t held as one of the most significant cop shows on the box for its emotion. What it is remembered for is its unparalleled association with the countless trends that it set…

Musically, we get Jan Hammer's synthesized score and countless montages accompanied by Eighties pop hits (such as Foreigner’s I Want To Know What Love Is playing over a moving death). Design-wise, we see art deco locations, pastel colours and a stylistic agenda. As for the influential fashions, the show practically invented Italo-casual wear, such as T-shirts under suit jackets, slip-on loafers and designer stubble (an electric razor was even released in '86 called The Miami Device).

In the lead roles, the ridiculously-handsome Johnson balances some cheesy lines with being the coolest guy ever (as well as calling everyone "pal"), walking designer-label Thomas oozes wet-perm intensity and the brooding Olmos is a scene-stealer extraordinaire, boasting an incredible intesity. Michael Talbott and John Diehl might get the odd opportunity to blossom beyond background characters (including the poor decision to give them their own filler episode), but your average viewer will be more concerned with the huge list of pre-fame cameos; Jimmy Smits, Mykelti Williamson, Dean Stockwell, Dennis Farina, Bruce Willis, Burt Young, Pam Grier, John Turturro, Joe Morton, and so on.

Hell, it might not be what you remembered every episode, given the amount of fluff, but this is guilty-pleasure television at its best and the purest window into the Eighties that exists.

Reviewed on: 24 Mar 2009
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Groundbreaking detective show which proved it was cool for cops.
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Director: Thomas Carter, Paul Michael Glaser, Lee H Katzin, David Soul, Georg Stanford Brown, Rob Cohen, Abel Ferrara, John Llewellyn Moxey, Richard Colla, Stan Lathan, Bobby Roth, Alan J Levi, John Nicolella, David Anspaugh, Tim Zinnemann, Jim Johnston

Writer: Anthony Yerkovich, AJ Edison, Joel Surnow, Alfonse Ruggiero Jr, Maurice Hurley, Charles R Leinenweber, Philip Reed, Rex Weiner, Chuck Adamson, Daniel Pyne, Wendy Cozen, Allison Hock, Dennis Cooper, Maurice Hurley, Joseph Gunn, Miguel Pinero

Starring: Don Johnson, Edward James Olmos, Olivia Brown, Philip Michael Thomas, Saundra Santiago, Michael Talbott, Martin Ferrero, Jimmy Smits, Ed O'Neill, Suzy Amis, Gregory Sierra, Dennis Farina, Dan Hedaya, Bruce Willis, Michael Madsen

Year: 1984

Runtime: 1100 minutes

BBFC: 18 - Age Restricted

Country: US

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Miami Vice: Season Two