The influence of Miami Vice can still be felt today. It is no exaggeration to say that it quite literally changed the way television was made. For the first time, a TV show effectively had no budgetary constraints -this was no shoestring affair, but a massive, revolutionary approach, and you could tell. It even resonated in the film industry, and it made Michael Mann. Without Miami Vice, there would have been no Manhunter, Heat or Collateral, to name but a few.
So what was Miami Vice? Well it was, first and foremost, a cop show, set in 1980s Miami, based around the Vice squad, with the leads usually as undercover operatives, dealing with drugs, gambling, prostitution etc. Let us clear one thing up straight away: despite many comments about Miami Vice not being serious, and, say the new 2006 film being 'harder hitting', the reality was that the original series was as grim as it gets. This is not a tongue in cheek series, and it hit very hard indeed; no punches are pulled here. There are occasional jabs of witty dialoge, and the first appearance of Elvis the alligator is deeply amusing, but it's generally about as much of a comedy as The Sweeney. It may be set in the hedonistic atmosphere of 1980s Miami, but the first couple of series of Miami Vice were dark, violent, and laced with tragedy, personal and wider.
The acting was always good, particularly in these eary series, and the leads were fluid, natural and worked well together. The same goes for the rest of the cast, who all knew just what they were about. Don Johnson will always be remembered as epitomising 1980s style, and to be fair, he looked annoyingly sensational in a selection of white, peach, blue and darker suits, with lots of other jackets, trousers etc making appearances. They had a huge clothing budget, and made full use of it. I dislike the 1980s generally, but the sheer style of Miami Vice was breathtaking. Ignore fashion, and appreciate aesthetics, and the men's clothing at least was great -the women's less so unfortunately, but you can't have it all the time. I stress the style, because it was integral to Miami Vice; loose the style and clothes, and you loose some of the atmosphere. THat's not to suggest it was shallow, because it wasn't; just to say that it added a new and glamourous, exotic feel to television that was very refreshing.
Direction was always good -cinematic, but with heavy use of slow-motion, abrupt cuts and dramatic endings that were almost always unpleasent. Perhaps the endings were a little too swift on occasion -clumsily so, the credits can sometimes pop up as a bit of a surprise, leaving you a bit shell-shocked, but we have to remember that this was all new; it had never been done before on TV. And, 9 times out of 10, it worked. Not bad statistics.
So, we have Crockett and Tubbs, with their department, battling a huge selection of unpleasent types, ranging from the filthy rich to street-gangs. There is often a real element of sympathy to the proceedings, and most of the episodes are actually pretty sad, for all the apparantly hedonistic trappings of clothes and convertable Ferraris, with more beautiful women, gorgeous weather and chrome-plated guns than you could shake an elephant at. Real highlights include the 2 parters Calderone's Return and Golden Triangle, and the single episodes Evan and The Maze. This is well-written material, hugely evocative, with Jan Hammer's sensational music and a vast selection of well-chose contemporary tracks adding still more to the unique flavour of the series.
The DVDs are passable. They've remixed the sound into 5.1, which is nice, though the picture could do with cleaning up a little in some epsodes. It's still pretty good though. No extras to speak of, which is a shame, and the packaging isn't as good as the earlier UK series 1 release done last year. Not sure what's happened there -I own both (I was given this one). Still, it does the job necessary, and it's just great to have it back -Miami Vice has stayed away from our screens for far too long in the UK since it's original broadcast. It's worth every penny of the asking price. Get it, sit back with a glass of something chilled, and loose ourself in a bit of very slick,(grim) 1980s glamour. Wonderful stuff.