Combustible Celluloid

Miami Vice: Season One (1984-85)

3 Stars (out of 4)

White Hot

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Buy Miami Vice: Season One on DVD.

If anything is true about Michael Mann, it's that he's the epitome of style over substance. But what style! Back in the mid-1980s, Mann had already directed two feature films, Thief (1981) and The Keep (1983), before producing this groundbreaking television show. It soon became obvious that his slick style worked great in the more immediate television forum. The drawback is that, while Mann's films were all cutting edge in their day, they age far more rapidly than other films, and that goes double for shows like "Miami Vice."

I loved this show when it was new, and it still has a lot going for it. Mann and creator Anthony Yerkovich developed a pale, pastel color scheme, emphasizing whites, pinks, yellows and pale grays against Florida's bright sun, blue skies and neon nights. They also included for the first time pop music as moody backdrop, notably Phil Collins' "In the Air Tonight" in the pilot episode and Jan Hammer's throbbing title score. The dialogue and performances were often pared down to make room for more atmospheric music and visuals. On top of this the show kicked off a whole new fashion style. And, even if nobody would be caught dead wearing it today, it still has a great look and feel to it.

Still, the plots and writing were straight out of any other cop show, including the pilot, which has "Sonny" Crockett (Don Johnson) losing his partner during an undercover drug bust, and reluctantly teaming up with an out-of-town cop, Ricardo Tubbs (Philip Michael Thomas).

The creators hired top talent to fill in the 22 episodes that make up the first season. Poet Miguel Piñero (recently immortalized in a biopic starring Benjamin Bratt) wrote the teleplay for "Smuggler's Blues," and up-and-coming director Abel Ferrara helmed "The Home Invaders." Another director was David Anspaugh, who went on to make the classic Hoosiers.

Guest stars for the first season included Bruce Willis (just before "Moonlighting"), Pam Grier, Joan Chen, Ed O'Neill, Suzy Amis, Dennis Farina, Dan Hedaya, Burt Young, Giancarlo Esposito, Eric Bogosian, Richard Edson, Glenn Frey, Richard Jenkins, John Turturro, Joe Morton, Ving Rhames, Ellen Greene, Esai Morales, Kim Greist and Martin Ferrero.

DVD Details: Universal has packaged the 22 episodes on three, 2-sided discs. Extras include five brief featurettes about the creation of the show.

Starring: Don Johnson, Philip Michael Thomas, Edward James Olmos, Saundra Santiago, Olivia Brown, Michael Talbott, John Diehl
Written by: Anthony Yerkovich, Daniel Pyne, Michael Mann, Miguel Pinero, Chuck Adamson, etc.
Directed by: Thomas Carter, David Anspaugh, Rob Cohen, Abel Ferrara, etc.
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Running Time: 1105 minutes
Date: February 12, 2005

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