Monday, January 23, 2006

In The Air Tonig....Er...About 20 Years Ago

Brian over at Terrible Swift Word has a photographic retrospective, along with some apt observations, on that 80's phenomena "Miami Vice."

I was a huge "Miami Vice" fan in the 80's. I knew a guy who had worked on the show as an extra in the fourth episode (he was about a decade older than me--I was just into high school at this point), and he told me all about it a few months before it ever premiered on NBC.

I still remember the conversation so vividly, because it makes me laugh.

"Who's in it? Anybody I'd know of?" I asked him.

His response, and I couldn't make this up, was:

"Well, it's got Gregory Sierra, the guy who played Chano on 'Barney Miller.' He's really nice."

Sierra, who if I recall correctly also appeared as Lamont's friend Julio on "Sanford and Son," played the lieutenant in the first few episodes of "Vice" (maybe the whole first season?) before Edward James Olmos came on the scene. That was their big star. Don Johnson and the other guy were total unknowns--a status to which the other guy has reverted. I honestly can't even come up with his name at the moment.

So I watched because I wanted to catch a glimpse of my friend (which I eventually did--he was a patron in a disco where they were playing "Jump" by the Pointer Sisters), and I got hooked on it from the start. It was so moody and hip and unlike anything else I'd seen on TV to that point.

So a couple of years ago, I tuned in with excitement when I saw that the Spike network was running "Miami Vice" reruns. I figured I'd relive the thrills. And mere words cannot capture how awful it was. Bad acting, ridiculous hair, silly outfits, lame dialogue....I mean, it was putrid. Unwatchable as anything other than camp. I'm willing to bet that there's never been a successful TV show that aged more poorly. The thought that kept running through my head as they chased around Bruce Willis (or whoever happened to be that week's villian) was "What were we thinking?"

Fortunately creator Michael Mann is currently working on a new movie version of it.

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