Monday, September 28, 2009

Vice Work If You Can Get It

It’s easy to forget that the NBC-TV cop drama Miami Vice--which debuted on this date back in 1984, 25 years ago--entered the American airwaves in the same season that welcomed Murder, She Wrote, Charles in Charge, Highway to Heaven, The Cosby Show, Who’s the Boss, and Hunter. With the possible exception of that last, Fred Dryer-Stepfanie Kramer crime drama, the rest of those shows seem ... well, significantly less than hip. Miami Vice, on the other hand, was considered--for its time--the coolest series to come down the pike since Peter Gunn.

Miami Vice earned its nickname of ‘MTV cops’ through its liberal use of popular rock songs and a pulsating, synthesized music track created by Jan Hammer,” writes Jeremy Butler at the Museum of Broadcast Communications site. “Segments of it closely resembled music videos--as quickly edited images, without dialogue, were often accompanied by contemporary hits such as Tina Turner’s ‘What’s Love Got to Do With It?’ As with music-oriented films such as Flashdance (1983) and Footloose (1984), Miami Vice was a program that could not have existed before MTV began popularizing the music video in 1981.”

However, it wasn’t the tunes alone that set Vice apart and made it a hit. It was the clothes, too. During its early years, American males all seemed to pick up on the dressing trends--Italian sport coats, T-shirts, white linen pants, and slip-on loafers (without socks)--established by Don Johnson, who played Miami-Dade Police Detective Sergeant Sonny Crockett on the show opposite Phillip Michael Thomas in the role of Detective Ricardo “Rico” Tubbs, a transplant from New York City. Combine all of that with sports cars, Sonny’s 40-foot sloop and pet alligator, myriad bikini-clad babes, drug-running scumbags and murderous gangsters, and it’s no wonder that People magazine heralded Miami Vice as “the first show to look really new and different since color TV was invented.”

Embedded above is the page from TV Guide’s 1984 Fall Preview edition that promoted Miami Vice in its original 10 p.m. on Friday timeslot. Just click on it to bring up a larger, readable version. And if this 25th anniversary of Vice makes you want to revisit executive producer Michael Mann’s fictionalized world of pink flamingos, machine-gun-toting South Florida baddies, and style-setting lawmen, then hop on over to Hulu where, at least for the time being, you can watch this show’s pilot and other episodes from its five-season run.


Scott Parker said...

As a teen in 1984, I really dug Miami Vice. It seemed very exotic. Now, I'm a big fan of CSI: Miami, a show that could never exist without Sonny and Rico.

le0pard13 said...

Never thought about it previously, but Scott makes a good point. Michael Mann's Miami Vice was so influential. I agree. CSI: Miami would never have come into being without MV (nor would have the series Burn Notice). Great post.