Miami Vice Complete Series
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Miami Vice Complete Series

While it is not uncommon for a television series to achieve such a level of popularity that it makes an impression on popular culture, few have permeated the zeitgeist as deeply as ‘Miami Vice.' Ostensibly, the series was intended to be a police procedural centered on a team of undercover detectives working out of Miami interested primarily targeting the drug trade. This series proceeded to implement significant changes in traditional music, pushing artists such as Phil Collins and Gloria Estefan to the top of the charts. The Cuban culture in Miami centered in the spotlight and men’s fashion, typically unchanging by embracing the precursor to business casual featuring muted colors and the sleeves of the jacket pushed up to the elbows. The influence of this television series extended to alter the popular of choices in interior design. Suddenly pastel colors were all the rage. During the latter half of the eighties, Miami Vice was the trend setter for a generation.

Up until this show detective series were typically straightforward, differentiated by some readily discernable quirk or affectation. Kojack, with his bald head, pride in Hellenic heritage and usually depicted with a lollypop in his mouth or Barnaby Jones proving advanced age could not deter a determined private detective. In this series, the first assortment of characters carefully planned by the showrunner, Michael Mann. Tapping an extremely familiar premise, the pair of lead detectives followed the buddy cop format. Initially, the partners were forced together, opposites. Detective Sergeant James "Sonny" Crockett (Don Johnson) represented the homegrown member of the new partnership. During his glory days, Sonny was a college football star.

Sonny experienced an injury that dashed his hopes of playing football professionally. Leaving him unprepared for a now uncertain future, Sonny served a couple of tours in Vietnam. When first introduced in the series Sonny was deep undercover targeting a Columbian drug lord, Esteban Calderone (Miguel Piñero), a vicious man responsible for the murder of Sonny’s new partner, Detective Sergeant Ricardo Tubbs (Philip Michael Thomas). Tubbs is an undercover detective on the trail of Calderone from New York City where both he and his brother Rafael were detectives on the NYPD. Tubbs lived the role he assumed for his undercover persona so well that he began to enjoy its affectations too well.

The rest of the squad made substantial contributions to the overall success of the show. Leading the way in this regard was Edward James Olmos. He had been a busy journeyman actor for years and only two years before was featured in the classic cult treatment of a Philip K. Dick story, ‘Blade Runner.' It was Miami Vice that served as his breakout role turning him into a familiar face to the audience. Mr. Olmos placed his unique spin on the role of Detective Lieutenant Martin Castillo. The standard function of a commanding officer was reduced to handing out assignments and angrily chastising the detectives when they inevitable toss standard procedure off to the side. Olmos imbued his character with a distinctive personality and looked. Soft spoken almost to a grunting whisper he brought thin ties back in the public eye. He replaced the former head of the Vice Unit, Detective Lieutenant Lou Rodriguez (Gregory Sierra) after his murder in the fourth episode of the first season. Castillo proved to be a more versatile character with a full backstory. Castillo had been a DEA agent a job that exposed him to the very worse a law enforcement agency could endure. Always dealing with such powerful criminal overlords Castillo was constantly witness to their savagely sadistic methods. Castillo turned into a taciturn individual, a soft-spoken person who exudes a sense of command with his demeanor. There were two additional sets of partners in the unit the first of which, Detective Stanley "Stan" Switek (Michael Talbott) and his best friend, Detective Lawrence "Larry" Zito (John Diehl).they frequently worked behind the scenes conducting surveillance from a nondescript van. A show such as this heavily depended on sexually charged situations. For this to work successfully there heads to be a strong female presence. Obliging this requisite is the team of Detective Gina Navarro Calabrese (Saundra Santiago), former paramour of Crockett who remained close friends after the romance ended. Partnered with Detective Trudy Joplin (Olivia Brown), a character with one of the more unusual character arcs in the series. Trudy is emotionally upset after killing a man in the line of duty and is further disoriented by her encounter with UFOs that contains an alien portrayed by James Brown. For a series ostensibly based in the gritty underworld controlled by the drug cartels deviations from reality are too surreal and decidedly out of place. Many die-hard fans prefer to overlook such X-Files influences entirely.

The first season was excellent in how it introduced the public to a novel spin on one of the most venerable genres on TV.t was capable of breaking free of most of the expected tropes and archetypes by deconstructing the traditional format for one relevant to the popular culture that dominated the eighties. As a decade where the nightlife centered on glitzy dance clubs where men strutted like peacocks, and the women were in greater control of their sexuality than ever before. This decade witnessed the change from the laid-back sixties and seventies where pot smoking was prevalent to the edgier, intense high induced by cocaine. What had been a rich man’s indulgence experienced a major increase in importation resulting in a price many could regularly afford. With Nixon’s war on drugs and the creation of the DEA, drugs became the driving force behind organized criminal syndicates. The tactics often employed were significant more inhuman than anything regularly used by the gangs of the Prohibition era. Newspaper heads that had dominated headlines of the reports of the war in Vietnam and the constant anti-war protests gave way to sensationalistic coverage of Central and South American drug cartels.

Over its five years run, the series endured some significant changes, many of which were beyond the control of the network. In the third season, it broadcast opposite one of the most popular prime-time soaps, Dallas, a juggernaut that rolled over its competition with relative ease. In response to the fifth season, the series became noticeably dark and foreboding. it moves back to its original 10 pm time slot of Friday, but audiences craved for less grave and intense entertain when they wanted to unwind after a long week at work. There were behind the scenes changes that collectively push the show over the proverbial shark. By the fourth season, most of the writing staff had left for other projects. Michael Mann had left to give his new series, ‘Crime Story’ his undivided attention. By necessitated the handing the job of showrunner over to Dick Wolf, long before he would create the most prolific franchise in television history, ‘Law & Order.' As a harbinger of things too, Mr. Wolf altered the underlying foundation of the series from violent criminal enterprises operating in a typical paradise to the human interest driven, ripped from the headlines approach. At least now loyal fans can enjoy the complete series remastered in high definition. You can relive the heavy beats of the music and be thankful the fashions went out of style on a journey back in time over thirty years.

Posted 10/07/2016

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