This was a big year for me. It featured one of the biggest most influential moves of my life, as well as helping to define the person I would become. I became more and more immersed in pop culture.
When Miami Vice came along, it was getting into pop music in a big way, and was dazzled by the style – combining visuals with music to tell and further a story. And I bought the soundtrack just weeks after I saw the first episode… which made the rounds in my neighbourhood via videotape as not everyone had access to satellite dishes to watch it.
At the time, and arguably still, there was a grittiness to the series despite its vibrant setting and trappings, that had never been seen on air before.
The series premiere, simply known as Pilot, but later rechristened Brother’s Keeper first aired on 16 September, 1984 and was written by series creator Anthony Yerkovich.
The story follow a pair of cops, Sonny Crockett (Don Johnson) and Ricardo Tubbs (Philip Micheal Thomas) as they air paired up to work undercover in the glamorous, but deadly underworld of Miami.
Tubbs is a New York cop who has come to Florida in pursuit of a drug dealer, Calderone (Miguel Pinero) who killed Tubbs’ brother, also an undercover cop.
He and Crockett butt heads, especially as Tubbs keeps his identity seret for the first portion of the pilot, but soon the pair find themselves working together efficiently all backed by an iconic 80s soundtrack and an incredible sense of style.
The lines between good and bad are blurred right from the beginning as the lifestyle can get to those in the life. There are corrupt cops, likeable baddies, and engaging stories.
Both characters have baggage, Tubbs is on a course of vengeance because of his dead brother, Crockett has an ex-wife and a son that he can’t let go of. Yerkovich tried to layer as much into the characters as he could, making them as realistic as they could before immersing them in the glitzy world of fast cars, boats, nightclubs, and all that money.
The series opener was iconic, if for nothing more than one of the greatest moments in television history, the use of Phil Collins’ In the Air Tonight as Crockett and Tubbs drive the Daytona Spyder (which it really wasn’t to begin with) to a final confrontation.
The season opener introduces us to a number of supporting characters on the force including Switek (Micheal Talbott), Zito (John Diehl), Gina (Saundra Santiago), Trudy (Olivia Brown) and their lieutenant, Rodriguez (Gregory Sierra).
It also features an appearance by Jimmy Smits, Mykelti Williamson and Martin Ferrero (who plays a hitman in this episode but later returns as a semi-regular informant).
Along with Collins’ brilliant tune, and Jan Hammer’s synth score, there is music by Rockwell, Cyndi Lauper, The Deele, and The Rolling Stones.
This series wowed from the start, and rewatching it now, it still holds up, and I cannot wait to see how it plays out today. As a pilot, it’s a great introduction to the series, and also establishes the characters and the look of the series very nicely.
I remember being completely caught up in the show, and trying to get my hands on as many episodes as I could via friends with connections, I had the soundtracks, I read the novelisations, and I had the making of book… and since I lived in a tropical environment, I could get away with a lot of the flashy colours as well, though they never worked as well for me as they should have.
Next week, the series continues…