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.


  1. I can remember wanting to watch this at the time, perhaps because I had the Spectrum game released to cash-in, but my mother naturally wasn't going to let a seven/eight year old watch something with drugs and violence in it!

    I've never actually watched more than very brief clips, though it did inspire the very enjoyable "Grand Theft Auto: Vice City", which starred Philip Michael Thomas.

    I had always assumed the flash cars were given to them by the department (presumably along with the suits) to hold up their cover as successful drug dealers? Quite how they managed to keep it up after numerous stings I never understood - you'd think word would have gotten out to the criminal fraternity.

  2. A bit like Huggy Bear's unfeasibly long career as a snitch in Starsky and Hutch.