Friday, 2 June 2017
699 Miami Vice
First viewed : February 1985
One of the most iconic TV shows of the eighties began halfway through the decade.
Miami Vice was something of a successor to Starsky and Hutch. Both creator Anthony Yerkovich and executive producer Michael Mann had written for the earlier show and both David Soul and Paul Michael Glaser would direct episodes. Their equivalents were Crockett and Tubbs played by Don Johnson and Philip Michael Thomas two thirtysomething actors whose careers hadn't reached the heights once expected.
However the series didn't make its impact through being just another buddy cop show. Yerkovich's starting concept was "MTV cops" and he won a larger budget to purchase the rights to use contemporary pop tunes alongside the original electronic music supplied by Jan Hammer and inspired by the film scores of Tangerine Dream. Phil Collins was a particular favourite and showed his appreciation for the boost to his bank balance by becoming a guest star on the show Both stars attempted to launch their own musical careers on the back of the show; Johnson's was more successful.
Just as important was the look of the show. Mann stipulated "no earth tones " so everyone was in pastel colours. Jacket and T-shirt combos, rolled up sleeves and wearing shoes without socks became instant eighties fashion statements. The coastal setting provided a good excuse for a regular parade of well-toned bikini-clad flesh in the background /Crockett drove a car he couldn't possibly have afforded without being as bent as a nine bob note but nobody minded.
In contrast to the glitzy presentation the storylines were quite dark. Miami was one of the drug capitals of the US and the duo's adversaries were ruthless gangsters who mowed down anyone in their way. The guys' boss was played by the sinister Edward Olmos from Blade Runner adding a further neo-noir dimension to the show.
When these two aspects to the programme blended well the results could be quite impressive but often they didn't . The endless parade of pop stars of dubious acting talent including Sheena Easton ( who married Crockett ) and Glenn Frey as well as Collins was a distraction and the need to incorporate a montage while a popular song played in place of dialogue meant that exposition was often sketchy.
For those reasons, it never became compulsive viewing for me and only two atypical episodes stand out. One was an episode where Tubbs was kidnapped by a religious maniac who was killing prostitutes and the other was called "Stone's War " where the titular character ( surely a playful pop at Mann's contemporary. Oliver Stone ) had to be protected because he had explosive film of American activities in Central America. That episode featured the most bizarre guest star of all. Nixon's unrepentant aide G. Gordon Liddy as a black ops chief.
The series was cancelled in 1989 after a slow decline in ratings following Mann's departure at the end of season two. He directed a feature film version in 2005.