❉ The ‘MTV Cops’ come to Blu-ray, fully restored and in high definition.
‘MTV Cops’, a phrase that has dogged ‘Miami Vice’ since its inception is apt, but also inaccurate. Yes, it is true that the show was a deliberate vessel for the fashionable and stylish – the suits, the European sports cars, the soundtrack. However, the show is never afraid to go beneath the surface, the lives ruined, or worse ended, by the drugs, prostitution and money that drive crime. It’s no surprise that the series’ first episode features a couple of nightclub scenes, the place where music, sex, money and naroctics all interact.
I’d never watched the series of ‘Miami Vice’, though was aware of it being on television. Michael Mann first came to my attention as the director of the crime flick ‘Heat’, another stylish voyage into cops and robbers, overshadowed by a shouty Al Pacino and De Niro on autopilot. When the film of ‘Miami Vice’ arrived in 2006, I was intrigued to watch it. Clearly while movies like ‘Charlie’s Angels’ and ‘Starsky and Hutch’ were comedy remakes of popular detective shows, ‘Miami Vice’ was a different beast. With few pauses for explanatory dialogue, stormy skies, Colin Farrell and Jamie Foxx looking moody as hell and a few key actors drafted in from ‘The Wire’ for good measure, ‘Miami Vice’ the movie was a magnificent art house flick masquerading as a blockbuster. It remains my favourite of Mann’s films and so I jumped at the chance to look at ‘Miami Vice’ the TV series properly.
Watching the pilot episode ‘Brother’s Keeper’ I was surprised to see how much of the movie was first there from the TV series. NYPD detective Ricardo Tubbs (Phillip Michael Thomas) is on the trail of Columbian drug dealers that leads him to Miami. In his attempt to get closer to the cartel he masquerades as a dealer on the make, which places him in contact with James ‘Sonny’ Crockett (Don Johnson) himself undercover as transportation specialist for the Miami drug dealers. Crockett is after the people that killed his partner, played by Jimmy Smits. It’s a brave show that kills Jimmy Smits in its first ten minutes.
After some confusion, the two realise they’re both cops and reluctantly agree to join forces. A television legend is born. The pilot is mainly remarkable for the trademark moment in which Crockett and Tubbs decide to go after the bad guys. Their sports car slides through the night time streets of Miami as Phil Collins’ In the Air Tonight plays in the background. The time that is dedicated to this sequence is longer than anything seen before that was similar. It is more like a music video – ‘MTV Cops’.
The standout thing for me though with the pilot was the dialogue. Written by Antony Yerkovich, a veteran of ‘Hill Street Blues’ there is enough pathos and realism in what the characters say to make you wholeheartedly believe the flashy, neon world they inhabit is legitimate. An added element is that no one is ‘quirky’. A failure of the current crop of US crime drama including the buddy format (‘Castle, ‘Elementary’, ‘Hawaii 5-0’, ‘NCIS: Los Angeles’ etc) is the insistence on the Joss Whedon school of writing where everyone talks to fast, but actually says very little. To revisit the world of ‘Miami Vice’ is to luxuriate in gritty yet heartfelt and mature conversation.
The transfer to Blu-ray looks great. The show is presented in its original 4:3 aspect ratio with a transfer over to 1080p. Perhaps lacking some of the grading work done to other ‘80s US shows (such as ‘Star Trek: The Next Generation’) the picture quality does add to the programme’s already impressive style. The cars look slick, the skies look brooding and the suits are whiter than the sands on the beach. All five series are present here, spread over twenty-five discs. So there’s more than enough content to keep you occupied, however the presentation is otherwise lacking. There are zero extras to speak of on these discs.
I suspect that only the most ardent ‘Miami Vice’ fan will pick up the Blu-ray set of this series, but if you do get a copy of this series you will be in for a treat. This is a series that runs far deeper than just bikinis and speedboat chases. The violence has consequences, our heroes are flawed and partying too hard has a price. ‘MTV Cops’: it’s exactly that, but better than that.
❉ ‘Miami Vice Complete Collection’ (Blu-Ray) was released on 12 December 2016 by Fabulous Films Ltd./Fremantle Media Enterprises, RRP £174.99