"Miami Vice" ... A Greater Show Than I Remembered.
When I was a kid, I used to plan my Friday nights around this show. Every Friday, I'd get a taste of the Wild West, 1980s-style ... fancy cars, transition scenes that relied on the use of MTV/modern music, guns, drugs, questions of right and wrong ... it was a world farthest from and hardly like the one I lived, which was mainly why I loved it.
I loved Don Johnson's Sonny Crockett. I begged my parents to get me a white suit for some formal function, and was denied, to much internal dejection over those next months (thank you mom and dad for not getting it for me ... I mean I could never understand how kids + white suits = ripe for messes and ruin ... I forgive you :D). Since I couldn't get the suit, I bought Don Johnson's album, "Heartbeat," on cassette (that album is so terrible, lol). If Philip Michael Thomas (Tubbs)'s stuff was pimped as much as Don's, I woulda probably fell in love with it, too. I was a freak for Crockett and Tubbs.
The show remains in reruns, but over the years, I've generally avoided it since its cancellation at the end of the 1980s. Every now and then, I'd see about a minute of "Miami Vice," and I'd turn the other channel. I feared that the show wouldn't age well, and I didn't want to ruin my pleasant memories. It made sense, to me ... after all, a lot of the 80s stuff stayed in the 80s. Neons and loud colors lingered for urban attire, but that was out by the late 90s, and white culture whole-heartedly dumped neons for flannel and grunge by 1992 ... I mean, some 80s pop stars survived ... Madonna and Janet Jackson kept making hits, but the never-ending supply of synth and Frankie Goes to Hollywoods ... ended. Anyway, when I pulled up old episodes of "Miami Vice" on Netflix, I totally expected to have this love affair dashed by the time machine of fads and their stale air.
That didn't happen.
Michael Mann helped to create 48-minute movies every week. For the first two seasons, these shows dazzled me. I'm slowly going through the seasons again, and with adult eyes, I appreciate the episodes much, much, much more.
I remember not understanding why Crockett and his wife had to be separated, as a kid. I just knew that they were, and that sucked. Going back now ... there was an episode 2-parter, "Calderone's Return," in which Crockett becomes a target for assassination by a criminal kingpin ... they arc'd the show into making you believe Sonny and his wife were going to get back together, only to have traumatic events follow to cement the reason why they broke up in the first place. It's episodes like this where the gravity of what was going on ... completely escaped me. Amid the glitz, the guns, and the gangsters, now there exists the struggle of life and the human condition. With such themes in the background, I see it for what it is ... an amazing network show.
Mann had created a cultural monster. By 1985, it was super-dominant. Everyone seemed to watch this show. By the end of the second season, the ratings had the show placed at 8th overall. Unfortunately, Mann didn't stay for the whole series ... he left after the 2nd season to produce "Crime Story," which was another movie-in-a-TV-show of its time. The show's signature musician, Jan Hammer, also left after the 4th season. Ratings would decline in the later years, and by the end, the show was rated 61st overall, down from it's peak. At the close of the 1980s, the show's grip on the collective conscious was dashed by attention to new frontiers, such as the fall of the Berlin Wall, among other things ... the wild freshness of the Miami scene was ... not there anymore. Also ... what happened to Löwenbräu? This ad was on all the time, and I've seen Crockett and other characters drinking it in the shows. Anyway, as I'm going through, I will enjoy every last morsel ... this was the show that took a major part in the definition the 1980s. If you want to understand some of 1980s American culture ... there aren't many better ways.
In case you develop a similar "Miami Vice" fix, I suggest for you to search for some of the tunes, in addition to the shows. The show was famous for being a pop culture musical showcase ... some TV Guides would print what songs were going to be used on the episode, in addition to Jan Hammer's solid accompaniment. To me, Jan Hammer rules. One of his songs, "Crockett's Theme" has been featured on a number of compilations, including an appearance in the game Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, of which the show was a large inspiration. Philip Michael Thomas even did voice work for it! There's also various Jan Hammer collections out there that you can find on the cheap (lol 200 dollars).