“Miami Division”, colors that entered history | The series changed the way we watched TV

According to Hollywood legend, Miami Division started with just three words written on a piece of paper by the executive of the NBC Brandon Tartikoff: “MTV Cops”. The television landscape had been revolutionized August 1, 1981 with the launch of MTV, which triggered an era of glamorous video clips with high concepts and big budgets. When Miami Division debuted in 1984, the show lived up to that initial idea with a rocking soundtrack, fast cars, and flashy costumes provided by Armani, Versace and Hugo Boss. But it was also darkest and most subversively cynical of what has been attached to it since then.

The show, which was a hugely popular hit in its six seasonswas redesigned in 2006 by executive producer Michael Mann in a movie starring Colin Farrell and Jamie Foxx, which became a cult favorite. Now that Mann is back on the small screen with Tokyo Vice -new series based on the memoirs about the Japanese criminal world written by the journalist Jake Adelstein-, it is worth remembering how revolutionary it really was Miami Vice.

Perhaps it was Tartikoff who came up with that hooky “MTV Cops” concept, actually the original idea was Anthony Yerkovichan Emmy-winning screenwriter while working on the notorious crime thriller Hill Street Blues. Yerkovich had been intrigued by a newspaper article that claimed that about one-third of the unreported income in the United States originated through South Florida. He soon realized how rich a Miami setting would be for a crime series.

“I thought of Miami as a kind of modern Casablanca,” Yerkovich told the magazine Time in 1985, pointing to the influence of refugees from Central America and Cuba, and the flourishing drug trade. “There are a fascinating number of service industries that revolve around the drug trafficking: money laundering, hired thugs, lawyers serving drug dealers,” he added. “Miami became a kind of liberated zone so that the illegal ventures would skyrocket.”

The idea of ​​Miami as an American response to the licentious port that provided the setting for the 1942 classic White House is planted from the front line uttered by the eighties heartthrob don johnson as the hero complex James “Sonny” Crockett. “Five hundred corners in Greater Miami and this Gumby is coming to pick ours,” she says, in a nod to the famous line from Humphrey Bogart about nightclubs.

Yerkovich’s script for the two-hour pilot set the tone for the entire series, in which Crockett’s partner, played by the Brooklyn-born actor Jimmy Smiths, was killed in only three scenes. This was a dark and dangerous world, full of violence and the omnipresence of deatheven if Crockett’s white linen suits remained immaculate.

More importantly, unlike other contemporary police such as CHIPs Y TJ Hooker, the policemen were by no means incorruptible. Before the end of the pilot, Crockett has accusatoryly asked his own lieutenant how he can afford to send his son to private school on his paycheck. As in later series like TheWire, the futility of the war on drugs is recognized in the way new cartels grow as fast as Crockett and his new partner Ricardo Tubbs (Philip Michael Thomas) They catch individual traffickers.

But it wasn’t just those rough stories that set Miami Division. There was also the issue of how he looked. With an unprecedented budget of $1.3 million per episode, the show could bring a glossy cinematic look to the television set. To a large extent, the visual identity of Miami Vice can be credited to Muchael Mann, who came to revive and rejuvenate the noir genre with his debut feature film My profession: thief in 1981. “The pilot script was lively, irreverent, bold,” Mann told the Washington Post in 1985. “It was something I had been interested in doing for a long time: inject a rock and roll sensibility into the crime thriller.”

Mann took a direct approach in creating the look of the series, personally selecting everything from the actors’ shoes (Italian loafers) to the soundtrack (Glenn Frey, Chaka Khan, Tina Turner, The Rolling Stones)going through the scheme of colors (pink, lime green, and a celebrated “no earthy colors” credo). The show forever transformed the way TV shows are viewed. as he told her David Chasecreator of The Sopranosto PBS in 2001: “I don’t think people cared much about the visuals in the ’70s. The first one-hour dramatic show that I remember dealing with that was Miami Division. It was a tidal change.”

The aesthetic style of Miami Vice It was present from the very beginning. In a prototypical sequence from the driver who became famous, Crockett and Tubbs go into a dangerous encounter, speeding down Miami’s Biscayne Boulevard, the reflection of streetlights dancing on Crockett’s black Ferrari. The soundtrack is “In The Air Tonight” by Phil Collins. It is something undeniably stylized, but that does not detract from the tension of the moment. Collins himself would appear in the second season, playing a con man in an episode titled “Phil The Shill”, notable for being one of the first people on American television to utter the word “wanker”.

The caliber of writing miami division, coupled with its ability to regularly attract million viewershelped the show feature an impressive roster of guest stars. Bruce Willis he embodied an arms dealer, Liam Neeson to a terrorist and Julia Roberts the girlfriend of a drug dealer. In keeping with the rock’n’roll aesthetic, the show also attracted a plethora of musicians making cameo appearances, including the aforementioned Collins, leonard cohen -who never actually went to Miami for his role as francophone Interpol agent Zolan- and willie nelson like a federal cop. By the time that James Brown appeared singing his classic “I Got You (I Feel Good)”, in the fourth season and as an expert on UFOs -and possible extraterrestrial- the show was perhaps becoming more earthy but no less fun for that.

Around 1985, a year after their debut, Miami Division it had become such a cultural phenomenon that it came full circle and actually ended up appearing on MTV. A video was produced for the Czech-American composer Jan Hammer and the “Miami Vice Theme”, starring Crockett and Tubbs. The song ended up winning a couple of awards grammys and entered the US charts, the last instrumental track to do so until US DJ and producer Baauer did it again with “Harlem Shake” in 2013.

The song’s success was emblematic of that vibrant style that defined an era, but Miami Division also had a real substance churning inside. As Yerkovich told the miami herald in 1989: “I wanted a city in which the American Dream had been distilled into something wicked… I wanted to place a hero living in a city based on greed.”

* Of The Independent From great britain. Special for Page 12.

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