Confessions of a Miami Vice Addict

By Andre Mayer | March 2, 2005 |

People who know me well know that I have a thing for Miami Vice. I’ve always been a bit sheepish about this fixation, for fear of being seen as shamelessly nostalgic or worse, deluded. But with the first season of Miami Vice having just been released on DVD, and (some) critics speaking wistfully of its cultural impact, I feel strong enough to talk about it.

During its five-season run (1984-89), Miami Vice changed the network crime drama forever, bringing a visual vibrancy to a genre that had become drab. (Much of it had to do with the location.) The quintessentially ’80s show about a pair of undercover cops – who were also, let’s face it, proto-metrosexuals – inspired any number of fleeting affectations: two-day stubble; wearing a white T-shirt under a pastel suit; adopting a hostile attitude toward socks. I grant that these elements added a cool sheen to the show’s look. But it was the music that drew me.

As a pre-teen obsessed with Top 40 radio, my entry point was producer Michael Mann’s aggressive use of au courant pop hits. (His recent film Collateral reaffirms that he’s scrupulous in his choice of tunes.) With an alleged budget of $50,000 US per episode for prerecorded music (an unprecedented figure at the time), the series showcased everyone from Peter Gabriel to the Pointer Sisters to Tina Turner to Glenn Frey. Neither the artists nor their songs have aged particularly well, but looking back on the show, there are scenes – amplified by music – that are indelible. Take the series pilot: having reconciled their initial differences, Sonny Crockett (Don Johnson) and Rico Tubbs (Philip Michael Thomas) unite to ambush Calderon, a Columbian gangster. As they cruise through Miami in Crockett’s jet-black Ferrari, Mann removes all ambient noise, leaving only the opening pulse of Phil Collins’s In the Air Tonight. Johnson is now slouching towards retirement and Collins has sold his soul to Disney, but 21 years later, the montage remains spine-tingling. I have vivid memories of a later episode, in which Godley & Creme’s eerie Cry is the soundtrack to a hostage swap gone horribly awry. It haunts me still.

Read the full article: Hammer Time: Confessions of a Miami Vice addict

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