No single television show defined the 1980’s as did Miami Vice. Did Vice influence the 80’s culture, or did the 80’s culture create Miami Vice? The line appears blurred. This much is unmistakable. Miami Vice dominated the pop culture of the time. The biggest names in music, from Joe Walsh to Phil Collins, have lent their music and (sometimes pitiful) acting skills. It was suddenly cool to walk around in pastel longboats. Don’t even get me started on the car. Were Ferraris ever not cool? Don Johnson was an overnight heartthrob to millions of teen girls across the nation. The show depicted a highly stylized Miami that is not quite recognizable to those of us who really live in Florida. At least the locations were often more real than in the current CSI: Miami, which uses only establishing shots of the Beach Metropolis.
Of course, buried somewhere in all of this style and sex appeal there was a fair share of crime fighting. Crocket and Tubbs were an 80’s retread of Starsky and Hutch. While the show sported far more action than the 70’s counterpart, the partner interaction was often amazingly familiar.
Season Two was quite a critically acclaimed year for the show. It was loaded with awards and accolades. It was probably the show’s best year. The season opener takes the duo out of their comfortable Miami environs and plays a great fish out of water scenario in New York City. I found this to be perhaps the best Vice episode of the entire series run. It showed that character chemistry and solid action played more of a key element in the show than it was ever given any credit for. Without the shows tired cultural trappings, we see real dynamic crime fighting. The political problem of being in someone else’s pond was also quite a dramatic element to the plot. Unfortunately, Vice returned to Miami where the surroundings and glitz once again dominated the series.
Don Johnson never quite found the film success he might have expected. Philip Michael Thomas has found more of a niche behind the camera these days.
I was quite impressed with this 1.33:1 full frame transfer. This was an 80’s show, and has been spruced up some for the DVD release. Colors are quite vibrant, which is essential to such bright and sunny settings. The typical pastels have just the right wash of color to make them quite realistic. Blacks are about as true and detailed as television video tape allows. Of course, there are a few specks and blemishes, but you’ll have to look hard to find them.
The audio is perhaps more of an upgrade than the video. All of the show’s rock tunes are intact, which has become rare. Music rights have become quite problematic for TV DVD releases. If you are hoping for the dynamic soundtrack you remember, you will be impressed. Universal has updated the sound to a truly lively Dolby Digital 5.1 track. Surrounds aren’t too aggressive, but the sound is very driven. The music is clear and bold. Dialogue is usually fine and well centered. Your sub will get the occasional workout beyond the music. Explosions and car chases will bring you some wonderful sub magic. Again… this soundtrack is about music music music…
Come on Universal, give us SOMETHING!
Michael Mann is producing a new film based on this 80’s television series. It is likely that production which has inspired Universal to put these shows out on DVD. The real problem is that most of this stuff is out there in reruns. The picture and sound are vastly improved, but I’m not sure the series warrants the money. The show is terribly dated and I’m not sure holds up well today. If it’s the music you want, get the CDs. If you’re a fan, you weren’t really looking for my opinion. You already bought it. If you’re curious, try TV Land. “Fine. Good. Done. Next…”