Why 80s TV Hit Miami Vice Blew Our Minds
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Miami Vice was a popular crime drama that aired on American television for five seasons during the mid 1980s to 1990. The series revolved around a pair of Metro-Dade undercover police detectives from Miami whose mission it was to take on the hazardous, seedy underworld of narcotics based crimes and trafficking.
James “Sonny” Crockett and Ricardo “Ricco” Tubbs defied many of the police drama stereotypes of the era simply by being clever, young, bold, trendy and always dressing impeccably. Their signature style of crisp tee shirts, Armani style jackets and slip on loafers without socks quickly became iconic and greatly influenced men’s fashion in the 1980s. Suddenly men everywhere were sporting pastel sport jackets with the sleeves rolled up to the elbow, Ray Ban sunglasses and day or two worth of stubble on their faces.
Stylistically, Miami Vice was also unique and in a way, ahead of its time. The theme music was upbeat and rhythmic as we watched a speed boat zip through the waters of Miami. The driver of the boat wasn’t shown, but we see brief snippets of expensive cars, bikini clad women, fit jai alai players, flamingos, parrots and beach front high rises, all of which implored viewers to imagine that they were on that speed boat and experiencing all of those things through the eyes of the boat driver.
Bright colors, beauty, fast living, luxury and wealth are explicitly implied to intrigue those watching. The stunning cinematography of the show was primarily shot in the South Beach neighborhood of Miami and featured creative camera angles, intriguing action shots and stunning images of everything from vintage deco buildings to boats, prisons, tropical islands and more. Unlike many police dramas of the day that featured dark, grim or dismal street scenes, Miami Vice showed almost exclusively bright, vibrant and colorful settings.
Every week viewers tuned in, not only to to see their favorite characters try to rid Miami of drug dealers and criminals, but also to enjoy the scenery, the beautiful people, the cutting edge fashion and to hear trendy new music. When it came to Miami Vice, something showy and innovative always seemed to be going on, and there was almost always something to talk about the next day at school or at the water cooler at work.
Over the years many celebrities and musicians appeared on the show, including Bruce Willis, Kyra Sedgwick, Stanley Tucci, Julia Roberts and Miles Davis. Popular pop music was often integrated into the show, including songs by Phil Collins, Mike and the Mechanics, Billy Idol and Tina Turner among others. Several young stars began their careers on the show, and existing celebrities helped to bolster ratings.
During the five year run, the show received many prominent accolades, including an Emmy, Grammy, People’s Choice and Golden Globe Awards. In 2005 a movie based on the television series was released and starred Jamie Foxx and Collin Farrell.
Miami Vice lives on in syndication and can also be viewed on Starz, iTunes, Amazon Prime and NBC as well as on DVD.