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Friday, April 12, 2013

Miami Vice


Well, here we are at the cusp of another weekend, which means that it is time to talk television.

And, in order to set the stage for today's show discussion, I'll be sharing a story from my early childhood...and I'll warn you ahead of time, it is a rather embarrassing tale...which likely means that you will all find it absolutely hilarious!

I'm not exactly sure how old I was when I had this memory...I want to say that I was four or five. It was just before I started school anyway as I skipped preschool (and junior kindergarten for that matter).

I'll tell you though...having a childhood that spanned almost the entire decade of the 1980s was an interesting experience to say the least. Back then, the cartoons were fantastic, the music was awesome, and the fashions were...well, awful, to put it frankly. Whenever my mom and I would walk downtown, the entire population seemed to be decked out in their Sunday best...which at the time included gigantic bangles on arms, earrings as big as donuts, and hair that was so teased and permed that it looked like everyone in town decided to stick kitchen utensils into their toasters at exactly the same time.

(In some cases, people still dress like this even in 2013, but we won't go there today.)

Anyway, for some unknown reason, my older sister and her friend decided that I needed a makeover for whatever reason. Keep in mind that I was four or five at the time, and my style was limited to striped sweaters and overalls. But apparently both of them were inspired after watching an episode of the show that we'll be discussing today.

They grabbed all of the hair spray, hair gel, and other hair care supplies that were stashed around the house, called me upstairs to the bathroom, and slathered the goop all over my head. Needless to say the whole experience was somewhat traumatizing for me, I ended up crying when I saw how bad I looked, and the horrible experience left me avoiding all hair products for at least ten years. It was not a pleasant experience at all. Thank goodness my family's camera was out of film at the time, because if they had snapped a picture, I would have not been very happy at all.



Of course, my sister and her friend were laughing up a storm over the whole thing, and they seemed very upset when my parents grabbed a bunch of towels to wipe all of the product out of my hair. All they wanted to do was style my hair in a way that it looked like Don Johnson's.

(Keep in mind that at the time, I didn't know who this Don Johnson was.)

Turns out that he was one of the stars of a show that used to air on NBC back in the 1980s. Because of the fact that the show contained violence, crime, and other adult themes, I was forbidden to watch it. In all honesty, I was likely in bed by then anyway. But, Don Johnson certainly had a unique style back in the day, and it was so influential that by the end of the 1980s, almost every man emulated his style in some fashion.

(Well, except my father, who has been rocking the “Urban Cowboy” look prior to “Urban Cowboy” coming out in the movie theatres.)

And, here are the opening credits of the show.



Yes, we're going to be talking about the show that inspired my “break-over”. “Miami Vice” was a show that aired on NBC from September 28, 1984 until May 21, 1989. Created by Anthony Yerkovich, the show focused on criminal activity in Miami, Florida, and the two pastel-coloured detectives who worked together to keep crime off of the city streets.



Don Johnson assumed the role of Detective James Crockett (better known as “Sonny”), a former football player and Vietnam War veteran who joined the Metro-Dade police force and at the time of the series worked as an undercover detective of the vice unit. He would also respond to the name of his undercover alias, Sonny Burnett, who would infiltrate gang activity by posing as a drug runner.



His partner was Ricardo Tubbs (Philip Michael Thomas), a New York transplant who relocated to Miami to get revenge on his brother's killer. His alter ego name is “Rico Cooper”, who often poses as a wealthy buyer from out of town in order to catch the bad guys.



Initially, the vice squad was headed by Lieutenant Lou Rodriguez (Gregory Sierra) for the first few episodes of the first season...but unfortunately his tenure didn't last as he was killed off in episode four. He was replaced by Lieutenant Martin Castillo (Edward James Olmos), whose personality often clashed with the free and easy philosophy that Crockett and Tubbs lived by. He stayed on the series for the remainder of the show's run.



The rest of the cast was rounded out by Saundra Santiago (Gina Navarro Calabrese), Olivia Brown (Trudy Joplin), John Diehl (Larry Zito), and Michael Talbott (Stan Switek).

All of the cast members stayed on the show the entire run with the exception of Diehl, who departed the series in 1987 to pursue other opportunities. His character was subsequently killed off.

Initially when the show was being created, the show was originally to be called “Gold Coast”, but was originally changed to “Miami Vice”. And, the show was rather revolutionary in many ways.

It was one of the first shows to broadcast in stereophonic sound, which was considered a good thing given how the show relied on musical cues and songs to progress the story along. The instrumental music that played between scenes in each episode was composed by Czech Republic native Jan Hammer for the first four seasons of the show's five year run. He even composed the theme song for the show, which you can hear in its entirety below.



ARTIST: Jan Hammer
SONG: Miami Vice Theme
ALBUM: Miami Vice Soundtrack
DATE RELEASED: October 11, 1985
PEAK POSITION ON THE BILLBOARD CHARTS: #1 for 1 week

Not only was the track a number one hit (and the last instrumental to top the Billboard charts as of April 2013), but it earned Hammer two Grammy Awards. The song also helped the Miami Vice soundtrack to become the most-successful television soundtrack for a twenty-one year run, bested by the soundtrack for “High School Musical” in 2006.

Of course, Hammer's song wasn't the only one featured in the show and the soundtrack. Glenn Frey contributed two songs to the soundtrack, and he even guest starred in an episode of Miami Vice at the same time. But, it wasn't unusual for musical artists to be lured to Miami Vice. Miami Vice would often pay as much as $10,000 per episode to buy the rights to the songs that they wished to play. The gimmick not only helped increase ratings for the show, but it also provided the artists with some ingenious publicity for their record sales. Is it any wonder that Little Richard, The Power Station, Phil Collins, Willie Nelson, Ted Nugent, James Brown, and Gene Simmons would make cameos in the show?




Another famous singer to have a recurring role in the fourth season was 1980s pop starlet, Sheena Easton, who portayed pop singer Caitlin Davies. Crockett was assigned as her own personal bodyguard, and they ended up falling in love and getting married. Tragically, Caitlin was killed off following a performance of “Follow Your Rainbow” by one of Crockett's foes, and to add to Crockett's pain, Caitlin was pregnant when she was murdered. And, this senseless death lead to one of the most talked about moments of the series. Watch the scene closely, as you'll see what I mean by how music enhanced the show.



Okay, so forget the fact that the guy's hand appeared to be moving after Sonny shot him. The song playing in the background is the one that Caitlin was singing before she died. Talk about irony!



The music wasn't the only thing that Miami Vice was famous for. The fashion that Crockett and Tubbs wore in each episode became the go-to look for many men who lived through the 1980s. Suddenly, they were buying Italian sportsjackets in banana yellow, bubblegum pink, turquoise blue, and lavender, wearing slacks that were whiter than the average person's teeth, Ray-Ban sunglasses, and shoes without socks. The look became so popular that department store chain Macy's devoted an entire section of their store to Miami Vice inspired fashions! I would imagine that had Miami Vice continued into the 1990s, we'd have seen Crockett and Tubbs in fluorescent colours!

And, of course no episode of Miami Vice would be complete without Crockett's vehicle of choice, which was a 1972 Ferrari Daytona Spider 365 GTS/4. But, here's a bit of a shocker. The car used in the show was a fake! The car was actually a 1980 Chevrolet Corvette C3 chassis that was fitted with Ferrari-shaped body panels! The car lasted until season three, due to Enzo Ferrari launching a lawsuit telling the manufacturers of the fake Ferraris to cease production. So, at the beginning of the 1986/87 season, the producers got rid of Crockett's Ferrari the best way that they knew how.



Crockett's new car? A white 1986 Ferrari Testarossa! The pair of cars were donated by Ferrari following the destruction of the other car!

NOTE: I don't recommend you blowing up your cars in order to get a car company to replace it with a newer model!

To close this article off on Miami Vice, I thought I'd give you some additional trivia facts about what the actors of Miami Vice are up to now, as well as generic trivia about the show itself.

01 – One of the most loved episodes of the series was the season two episode “Out Where The Buses Don't Run”. It was ranked at #90 on TV Guide's 100 Greatest Episodes of All-Time.

02 – The show ranked near the top of the ratings when it originally aired Friday nights at 10:00pm. But when a time slot change caused the show to go head-to-head against “Dallas”, ratings fell...which is astonishing when you consider that this was the season that followed the infamous “it was all a dream season” on Dallas.

03 – Edward James Olmos actually has an asteroid named after him...Asteroid 5608 Olmos.

04 – Olivia Jones' brother was once a hockey player who played for the Edmonton Oilers.



05 – Saundra Santiago may have fought for good on “Miami Vice”, but a decade after the show wrapped, she took on the role of Carmen Santos on the soap opera “Guiding Light”. Santos was the matriarch of a powerful crime family!

06 – John Diehl portrayed G. Gordon Liddy in the 1995 film, “Nixon”. In a strange twist, Liddy actually appeared on “Miami Vice” in a recurring role!

07 – Some famous faces got their first taste of acting on “Miami Vice”. These faces included Laurence Fishburne, Viggo Mortensen, Jimmy Smits, Bill Paxton, and Don Johnson's own two-time love interest Melanie Griffith!

08 – Philip Michael Thomas has moved onto a career in voicing video game characters, and you can hear his voice in the Grand Theft Auto series.

09 – Don Johnson had a one-hit-wonder during the filming of “Miami Vice”. Can you believe that it actually hit the Top 5? To end this blog off, I'll play the song in its entirety. You're welcome.


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