Title: Miami Vice
Genre: 80s Cop Drama
Watched: pilot 1984 and Nov 13, 2010
Summary: Holds up great.
Dexter (one of my 2-3 favorite currently running shows) had me thinking about Miami so I found a copy of the Miami Vice complete series boxset on Amazon Marketplace for dirt cheap. I’d watched the show 26 years ago, but this is really just a review of the pilot which just I re-watched.
For early 80’s television, the show holds up amazingly well. Sure the picture quality of the DVD transfer is mediocre, and it would’ve benefited from wide screen shooting, but it’s still better than most TV today. Some of the acting, particularly reaction shots, still retains that 70s/80s cheese factor. Cut to cheesy Tubbs facial expression. But the 2 hour pilot plays more like a movie, a Michael Mann movie, in fact. The writing is great, and starting off the protagonists separately, with Tubbs a bit of a mystery, works well. The music is still fantastic, and the evocative much-touted MTV style shots of car hoods and wheels racing along night streets still work. When “In the Air Tonight” kicked in, I got goosebumps.
For me the real star of the show is 1984 Miami. This now forgotten world of no cel phones, no computers, teased hair, and leisure suits. Since it’s a 1984 show, this is real 80s, or at least how Hollywood wanted us to see it then. One tends to forget that styling black guys dressed like Michael Jackson (2 belts!), Don Johnson sported a cheesy mustache, or that sleeveless vests were ever in. And the close up shots of the seedy Colombian drug lord’s sleeve, gaudy bracelet, and rings were priceless. Maybe it’s just because my High School years were in the early/mid 80s, but there’s certainly a deep nostalgia factor.
I liked the pacing too. Nowadays, particularly on network TV, the editing is all rushed. Everything happens piled up on top of itself, and oftentimes there’s no setup or character development. The computer and the cel phone have also become crutches for easy writing solutions. Need to know something? Look it up on the computer. Someone needs to warn someone? phone call comes in. Before that, each of these information exchanges required an actual character.
In some ways Miami Vice might represent one of the first TV dramas that IS still watchable. Every time I’ve tried to watch some old late 70s or early 80s favorite the pre-cinematic / pre-Miami Vice TV cheese factor just punchs me in the face. We’ll see how I feel a couple more episodes in.