"There is always a philosophy for lack of courage."—Albert Camus

Friday, April 29, 2005

Miami Vice, DVD Baby, Yeah

David Skinner of the Weekly Standard takes the occasion of the DVD release of Miami Vice's first 22 episodes to review the virtues and . . .um . . .vices (sorry) of the former star of NBC's Friday nights.

Before quoting Skinner, I have to say that Miami Vice was one of my favorite television programs ever. Right up there with St. Elsewhere, Hill St. Blues, and the totally forgotten Crime Story. I was a teenager who was usually out on Friday evenings, but my father faithfully taped Vice for my viewing on late Saturday mornings after I'd slept off the effects of juvenile Death Wish, pizza and basketball fests. The perfect combination of music, fashion, cool, and gravity made the show hypnotically watchable.

But David Skinner actually took the time to re-watch and write about it, so here's something from him:

IN JANUARY, Universal Studios told Variety that it was going to be a while before the DVDs for the first season of Miami Vice would go on sale. Licensing the soundtrack--with music by U2, Eric Clapton, Phil Collins, and Tina Turner, among others--was proving very expensive. What then explains the sudden appearance of said DVDs only weeks later? What could have sent the permissions process into overdrive? This is just a guess, but it may have something to do with final casting and the beginning of film production for Miami Vice the movie starring Collin Farrell and Jamie Foxx, due out next year. Michael Mann, the TV show's executive producer, is directing the movie, while the TV show's director and creator Anthony Yerkovich, is executive-producing the movie.

Not a bad excuse for rolling out the first 22 episodes of the Friday night drama that made sockless boat shoes, sleeveless Ts, and five o'clock shadows fashionable. The $59.98, 3-disc set also includes a handful of mini features from which Crockett and Tubbs admirers will learn that Don Johnson had appeared in six failed pilots before Miami Vice producers fought to cast him in the lead. Also that the show's unprecedented costuming budget was in the six figures; that Friday night was not actually a desirable slot, because Dallas and Falcon Crest had the schedule all sewn up; that city officials, whose cooperation the producers definitely needed, worried the show's title would hurt Miami's image; and that while legend has it that the show
was inspired by a note from a studio executive stating the formula "MTV cops," it was, though influenced by music videos, actually inspired by a newspaper article estimating the size of Miami's underground economy.


But the real question is, Was the show any good? Yes, it was, in a couple of obvious ways. One, it was beautiful; and two, the plots always kept a snappy pace. These two strengths--and some attendant ones--more than make up for the cheesiness of a show whose entire appeal depended on selling the notion of cops as figures of unequaled glamour.

9 comments:

Jack. said...

Sounds like something I just can't pass up, but I'm tempted to wait until they come out with a Miami Vice / Nash Bridges combo set. Crockett & Tubbs are hard to beat, but Nash & Cheech sure do come in a close second...

Tlaloc said...

A guilty pleasure but a pleasure all the same. Now where are the Equalizer DVDs?

S. T. Karnick said...

Hunter, thanks for posting reference to David Skinner's fine review. Now, we must persuade some producer to make a movie of BANECEK.

A smart actor (alas, usually a contradiction in terms) should jump at the chance to play the lead role.

I'm ready to write the screenplay immediately.—STK

Hunter Baker said...

Karnick, I am appalled that you misspelled BANACEK! Jack, I can't believe you would pair Miami Vice with second rate crap like Nash Bridges. Tlaloc, we've astonishingly discovered another point of agreement. The Equalizer was a fantastic television program.

Tlaloc said...

I didn't expect to like it but it had a definite cheesy-cool flavor.

Speaking of cheesy-cool I wish the Stingray show had gone more than a season. An equalizer-stingray crossover would have been golden.

Steve Sailer said...

Miami Vice's first season, which is now out on DVD, was iffy. It started off with a lot of comic relief at odds with the essentially somber tone of the stories. (The standard Miami Vice plot is about how much risk of death the cops can morally pile upon a witness or stooge in the interests of getting the goods on a Mr. Big.) The moral centerpiece of the show, Edward James Olmos' formidable yet emotionally tortured Lt. Castillo, wasn't added until midway through the first season.

The second season was much better, and the show probably peaked in its third season when its pop-tragic approach was at its height. But that hurt ratings, which cut the budget, and Miami Vice was more dependent upon a big budget than just about any previous TV show. So, the fourth and fifth seasons were forgettable as the series quickly went into a death spiral.

The weakness of the show was its regular cast: Olmos was tremendous (in small doses), and Don Johnson was quite adequate, but the supporting cast was below average (have you seen any of them in the last 15 years?)

During its middle years apogee, the guest villains (e.g., Stanley Tucci) were terrific, perhaps as good as any show ever up to that point.

Very few TV shows have much appeal for more than 10 or 15 years after they go off the air, especially dramas, and Miami Vice is as good an example of this sad fact as any. But for about 2.5 seasons, it was as exciting an of-the-moment show as there ever was.

S. T. Karnick said...

Steve, also note that at the time MV was being produced, hour-long dramas had very little syndication appeal (local stations overwhelmingly preferred half-hour sitcoms for their prime slots), as opposed to today when a show can go immediately to reruns on cable stations, then local syndication (which now does rerun hour-long dramas), and then DVD, etc. In the '80s, a drama show could not take a big loss in its network run and expect to recoup it in syndication. That was why the budget was so critical a matter for MV.

Hunter, OK, you're right about the spelling. Mea maxima culpa. But how about the idea of doing the BANACEK movie? I have TWO impossible crimes planned for it already, and will probably add another.

Plus, to capture the full power of '70s TV, every ten minutes (every ten script pages), I'm going to have a car go off a pier into the ocean--a different type of vehicle going off a different pier. We'll have a limo, a sports car, a taxi, a horse trailer, a semi filled with explosives, etc. It will be a smash.

Of course, I'm flexible on this last item.

Steve, you have plenty of contacts in the entertainment industry. Would you be so kind as to make this happen for us and, yes, for America? Truly, the world needs more BANACEK.—STK

S. T. Karnick said...

Jack, I've never seen NASH BRIDGES, so I cannot comment on its quality, but I certainly hope that you won't be put off by Hunter's rather tart comment. Feel free to zing him right back. He can take it.

All: THE EQUALIZER was great, especially the first year. Edward Wooodward was perfect in the role. He was also terrific in GALLIPOLI and THE WICKER MAN. Kind of a one-note Johnny as an actor, but he could do great things with that one note.—STK

Hunter Baker said...

If Jack is who I think he is, he can take it. The guy is tough, I tell you.

I'm extremely pleased to see the great Steve Sailer here in the comments section. We'd happily make room for Steve as a poster whenever his heart desires, wouldn't we, Mr. Karnick?

To you, Mr. Karnick, possibly the only man in the world who possesses the full run of Banacek on videotape, I think the Banacek film remake is an awesome idea. We may have to gin up some fake news story about George Peppard's life as a celebrity in order to get traction. Perhaps we'll claim he and Mr. T were having an affair.

Finally, I have to respond to Tlaloc and say that Stingray was alright with me, too. Clearly, your taste is only in your mouth when it comes to the nexus of religion-history-politics.