Still more lazy thoughts from this one…

Miami Vice: Definitely Miami and ‘Cry’

miami-vice-cast-2

Note: I’m re-tasking this old song post for the Weekly Writing Challenge: Moved by Music over at The Daily Post.


Miami Vice
Episode Title: Definitely Miami
Episode #: 12
Season: Two
Series #: 34
Original Airdate: January 10, 1986
Written by: Michael Ahnemann & Daniel Pyne
Directed by: Rob Cohen
Song of note: Cry (written by Godley & Creme)
Performed by: Godley & Creme

The groundbreaking, and thoroughly American, Miami Vice was the epitome of the 80s in a television series. For me, anyways. It may seem almost quaint by today’s standards (particularly, if you compare to something as dark and critically acclaimed as Breaking Bad). But back then, it was cutting-edge. The fact that it was produced by Michael Mann and Anthony Yerkovich meant it was no surprise I became hooked on this show when it debuted on NBC in 1984. Mann had hit my radar after I caught his absorbing, gritty, and underrated ABC-TV film, The Jericho Mile, in ’79 (which is, sadly, still not available in the U.S.).

His feature début, Thief (which I highlighted on its 30th anniversary earlier this year) all but guaranteed he’d be one I’d follow in any future film releases afterwards. Plus Yerkovich, as a writer and producer of another of my favorites during this same decade, Hill Street Blues, was going to get my attention, no matter what. Thus, the show Miami Vice impacted like few others on network television. It would go on to exhibit all the touches of both the influential filmmaker and the writer/producer would become known for.

Unlike the police procedurals to that point, nothing like it had come down the pike beforehand. From its very first scene, Miami Vice was in tune with that distinct Florida metro city, its multi-cultural nature (which remains very Casablanca-like), and the reverberation of that decade’s music had on it all. The swagger of style and bravado that became a trait of its cast, and the stories it had to tell (many speaking to the effects and day-to-day ins and outs of the drug-trade back then in that part of the Caribbean), was eye-opening to television viewers.

Between the cars, the people and money, and even the fashion statement this program had on full display, it exhibited a flair no other series could match for years. And its sway ranged far and wide once it landed on to Miami’s shores and TV sets. The echos of which are still being felt — fans can see proof of that in such offerings like Burn Notice, Nip/Tuck, and hell… even CSI: Miami (I’m sorry to say).

Nevertheless, as good as Miami Vice was when it began in the mid-80s, especially for its initial two seasons, sustaining that level quality wasn’t to be. While there were always some good episodes in the subsequent later years, it lost momentum as its uniqueness faded and the quality of other shows caught up. Still, when the show hit on all those notable touchstones that made it uncommon, it could be great actually. And the second season episode, Definitely Miami, was one of those.

This was one of the infrequent installments where Sonny Crockett and Ricardo Tubbs were split up into separate narratives: Crockett becoming involved with a pair of deadly grifters (Arielle Dombasle and Ted Nugent) while Tubbs worked with Lt. Castillo to organize the surrender of a certain crime boss. Obsession complicates both ventures. For Sonny, it’s his emotional involvement with the beautiful femme fatale (understandable as Arielle had one of the best entrances and appearances ever on network TV), and the federal agent (Albert Hall) working with Castillo wants the criminal leader so badly that he’s willing to risk a government-protected witness to get him.

Giving credit to the writers, the character development and superb writing in this went a long way for a short one-hour program. But, when you added the gorgeous scenery, hauntingly shot by Tom Priestly and directed by Rob Cohen (way before his film career started with the likes of Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story, Daylight, The Fast and The Furious, etc.), it separated the show from the standard, less sophisticated fare of the time by a mile. Yet, what really made this episode rise to the top was its proven use of music (key at the beginning and at the end) and how well it was all spliced together.

While Gato Barbieri’s Europa and Nugent’s appropriate Angry Young Man tracks were also featured, ask any fan of the show why this one chapter in the series stands out. They’ll tell you it is due to its singular, tuneful finale. Incorporating Godley & Creme’s 1985 hit, Cry, the episode put that song to its best use ever story-wise, outside of its distinctive and very 80s music video. Nicely re-cut (credit I reckon goes to Jan Hammer and Jerry Cohen) to fit the final sequence, the song does all the talking needed to close both story threads like nothing ever could. When I give thought of the use of music on TV, this is the one I happily recall.

If you’re interested, you can stream this entire episode on NBC.com.

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16 Responses to “Miami Vice: Definitely Miami and ‘Cry’”

  1. ruth

    Oooh I LOVE this show! You’re right Michael, it’s definitely the epitome of 80s greatness, the clothes, the hair, the vibe, everything. I watched this religiously when I was a teen, it was what every action series should be, campy but fun! 😀 I love Jan Hammer’s theme song too, I think it won a Grammy? Great post!

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    • le0pard13

      Certainly, Jan Hammer’s theme song set the tone for this and that decade. And yes, you’re correct about that Grammy (it also hit #1 on the charts, too). Thanks so much, Ruth.

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  2. The Sci-Fi Fanatic

    I really look forward to watching Breaking Bad.

    I also wanted to mention I LOVE that Godley & Creme track. What a song!

    Funny enough my friend, I never watched Miami Vice. I don’t think I’ve seen a sinngle episode and based on your thoughts I must have missed out.

    All the best,
    sff

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    • le0pard13

      Yes, ‘Breaking Bad’ is one the great shows in the last few years. Catch it from the beginning and I think you’ll enjoy it. Great to learn you’re another fan of that Godley & Creme track. Sends me right back to that time when I hear it.

      The first two seasons, for sure, of Miami Vice shouldn’t be missed. It got a little inconsistent in later season, but it did finish strong with a great finale. Thanks, Gordon.

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  3. Herb

    Nice post. Having lived in Miami 15 yrs 87-02 this show was always a fav. I had the soundtrack on cassette and would pop it in for effect. We were so cooooool. And young 30 somethings. Whew, those were the days. Its funny about the test of time. The amnesia 2 parter, where Crockett goes bad, somehow I couldn’t get to the tv to see the second part. That bugged me for years until Netflix came along and I rented it. It was so bad, in a really bad kinda way. Hey you know, you can’t go back, for sure. LOL

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    • le0pard13

      I thought I remember you mentioned you lived in Florida for a while. Miami, huh? I was only there for a short bit (went there for a cruise with the Mrs. before we had kids), but everywhere I looked, it reminded me of this TV show. And yeah, I think I remember that two-parter (and for the same reason, unfortunately). Thanks so much, Herb.

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  4. Kevin (Col. Mortimer)

    I watched Miami Vice a lot as a kid, I think it was on right after the A-Team, if memory serves. I probably was too young to really get it, but I loved the music, atmosphere and, yes, outfits. I need to check it out again, or at least the first two seasons, especially now that I am more familiar with Michael Mann and a more mature viewer than I was at the age of nine.

    It’s use of music in television is immeasurable, and it predates such other great shows that combined images and pop songs like The Sopranos and Breaking Bad. Speaking of which, glad to hear you’re a fan, just got into it this year, and devoured the first three seasons in record time so I could be caught up for season four. Cannot wait for Sunday’s finale!

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    • le0pard13

      Thanks, Kevin. Miami Vice really was a classic 80s series. It’s use of music was influential and Michael Mann packed a lot in episodes.

      You and I both for Sunday’s Breaking Bad finale! It’s been a great cable series. My wife and I have been watching since it debuted in ’08 and loved it from the start. Catch Walt’s declaration in the last episode that it’s all happened in only a one year period? I’m sure I’ll go into immediate withdrawal once tomorrow’s show ends. Its final season should be somethin’!

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  5. Paul V. Smith

    I have never followed blogs before but I found yours very interesting. We seemed to have followed the same life-line; 50’s, 60’s and survived the 70’s. I really found it interesting you picked out the one Miami Vice that my friends and I loved. We called it the “The White Vice”. This was due to the use of Whiting-in and Whiting -out used. Cool show. I’ll be following you from now on.

    Paul.

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    • le0pard13

      Welcome, Paul :-). Always great to meet those who’ve had similar experiences online. I remember when this episode played and it was topic one come Monday morning at work. Well, at least among the guys when mentioning Arielle’s guest appearance ;-). That’s a great retitle of the show, btw. Many thanks very much for the read, comment, and follow.

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