Florida cops chase cocaine cowboys in cool cars!
Miami Vice is an iconic 1980s television program that became one of the defining influences on the decade’s fashion and made a superstar out of Don Johnson. Starring Don Johnson as Detective James Crocket and Philip Michael Thomas as his partner, Ricardo Tubbs. The show typically followed their antics as vice officers in the dangerous drug underworld of 1980s Miami Florida.
Most of the episodes were loosely based on actual crimes. Many involving the intense gang war going on in Florida at the time, over control of the lucrative Columbian drug trade. The show also dealt with other hot button issues like IRA terrorism, gangs and gun violence.
Miami Vice was a phenomenon when it aired. The show is a perfect time capsule of what was cool in the 1980’s. super cars and cigarette boats, Miami architecture, pastel colors, cell phones the size of milk cartons, Italian suits over t-shirts, big hair and aviator glasses, many 80s fashions were defined or greatly popularized by this show. You can see these styles introduced and change as you go through its 5 seasons.
Another defining aspect of the show is the extensive use of then current pop and rock music and the frequent guest starring of famous performers such as Glenn Frey and Sheena Easton. In many TV shows, soundtrack is a filler at best and treated as a distraction. In this show it defines entire scenes. Most of the episodes were beautifully mixed in stereo and incorporated color schemes, musical cues and camera work in tightly controlled harmony.
The best example in the pilot episode when the Phil Collins track “Something in the air tonight” glides through the speakers, accompanying a night driving scene. The song’s lyrics turning what would normally be a filler scene into an ominous tension builder. In my opinion one of the most effective and beautiful combinations of music and film ever.
Despite the beautiful photography and 80s glitz, the show could have a really dark film noir vibe at times, especially in later seasons. Major supporting characters can and do die, almost unheard of on TV shows at the time. Crocket and Tubbs frequently do battle with corruption and enemies within their own department. Throughout the show you can see the cynicism of the main characters and the feeling that they’re barely doing anything to stem the tide of crime. This dark tone in later seasons, plus an unwise programming shift to opposite 80s megahit Dallas, proved too much and the show ended in season 5.
Verdict 3.5 gavels out of 5
Iconic and definitive police show from the 1980s. Crazy, funny, edgy and even poignant at times. Later seasons lost some of the lighter madcap feel but made up for it with a dark nihilism familiar to film noir fans.