Season 2 of Miami Vice was a Doozy.
Television being what it is now I’ve taken to revisiting old Top Gear. When I say old… did you know this show existed since 1977??? Furthermore it started out as a regional motoring programme, in Birmingham?
There’s a reason why things get good. They take time to evolve.
Time is the one thing we don’t have now, but luckily I have a time machine, so I’ve gone back to 1985 and season 2 of Vice.
Now I figure everyone who like television (I mean really likes television) has seen season 1 of Miami Vice by now, or maybe at least you played GTA Vice City, which actually had Philip Michael Thomas amongst the voice cast and robbed liberally from the show. But did you know this show actually had 4 seasons, and that by the end Don Johnson was the best paid actor in TV and had turned down Die Hard and The Untouchables for it? These days he’s perhaps most famous as Dakota “50 Shades” Johnson’s Dad. Bruce Willis also got started playing a bad bad villain in an episode of Vice.
Season 2 picks up where season 1 left off, only our two leads are in New York, instead of Miami. It was the 80s, where there were “concepts” like this flying around in every episode of TV and a good many films: You had to start with a good idea, instead of just stealing someone else’s, and you had to start with a new one every week. Not to say that many of the best ideas weren’t stolen – they just did it with so much style.
The 80s was a decade as at home with big hair and the colour purple as it was with black and white furniture accessorised with day-glo clothes and a Lamborghini – at least on television. In real life your mum probably had a Rover Metro. This stuff was impossibly glamourous, and you never stopped to question whether Don Johnson’s Sonny Crocket could really afford a Ferrari Daytona soft-top on a policeman’s salary unless he was selling a little blow himself, huh? (Possibly, as he did live on a boat instead of having a house, and it was at least a 10 year old car at that time, but I prefer to imagine that he was as crooked as the actor Johnson definitely was in real life).
Every time I watch this episode (“The Prodigal Son”) I pick up different things: the landscape shots of New York, (all genuine 2nd unit stuff shot for the show), the performances of the women in the support cast (including Pam Grier and Saundra Santiago, by the way. Susan Hess also has to do some of the heavier lifting by way of the plot, as a femme fatale who might be entrapping Crocket). This was a simpler time, where you were allowed to have a conventional love story on TV (when was the last time you saw one?). Vice never had nudity, but it did have convincing gay and racial storylines before that was cliched. I mean, it also had a man dressed up as the least convincing drag queen ever going round killing people, but it tried really hard at representation when that wasn’t a thing.
Like many shows of this time, Vice rarely if ever had a story arc that lasted more than a couple of episodes, so you could dip in at any time. If you happen across it now, while surfing the web or who knows on what physical media that is still out there, you could do worse than stop and check it out.
I mean, it inspired an entire Grand Theft Auto game.
“Prodigal Son” even has one of the greatest ever endings to a Miami Vice episode of all time, where a suspiciously Illuminati-like banker essentially tells Crocket & Tubbs to go F themselves and sends them packing back to the Everglades, after which Don Johnson shoots down a helicopter for some reason, which I still clearly don’t know why he does that after 3 times through watching the episode, and the special effects budget clearly runs out. I don’t even know who was in that helicopter, man. I’m not sure if we ever found out. Everything just sort of needs to happen because it’s cool and entertaining.
The clothes and hair are just as big as the performances and the action. It’s great stuff.