"Hey, Tubbs, you ever consider a career in Southern law enforcement?" Miami Vice
[chuckles] "Maybe. Maybe..."
is a crime drama Buddy Cop Show
which ran on NBC from 1984-1989. Conceived by Brandon Tartikoff as a two-word memo to the network ("MTV Cops
)," the series drew much of its premise from real-life laws allowing property seized from drug dealers to be used in drug enforcement. In other words, if a drug dealer has a Cool Car
or Cool Boat
, and that drug dealer is jailed, the police can use his stuff. These laws gave the producers a perfectly valid excuse for putting their public-servant characters in Ferraris and Armani suits.
The series stars Don Johnson and Philip Michael Thomas as James "Sonny" Crockett and Ricardo "Rico" Tubbs, two pastel-colored officers of Miami-Dade
PD's vice squad, as they chase down drug lords, pimps, renegade FBI agents, weapon smugglers, militia members, and other badly-dressed criminals whose downfall is to be ignorant of Miami's worst-kept secret
: psst, these two are actually
Crockett's the muscle
, a former wide receiver with a personality not unlike his namesake
(He even owns an alligator). Tubbs is a New York
transplant who arrives in Miami to avenge his brother's murder
; he specializes in...well, posing as an out-of-towner and getting it on with a parade of beautiful ladies. Together, They Fight Crime
The series was notable for its use of contemporary popular music, and for being one of the first shows regularly broadcast in stereo. By design, the show often resembled a music video rather than a standard Police Procedural
. Extended musical sequences were common, often featuring little or no dialogue and numerous images of cars, boats, guns, nightlife, and scenery
. The show was filmed on location in Miami, and made use of a distinctive color palette, mostly white and pastels.
Crockett's white-suit-over-t-shirt style, Perma Stubble
, and Ray-Ban sunglasses all became fashion trends. His lack of socks did not.
A film of the series
was released in 2006
starring Colin Farrell as Crockett and Jamie Foxx as Tubbs.
Miami Vice features examples of:
- Affably Evil: Some of the bad guys are polite enough... until it comes time to pull the weapons out...
- Anyone Can Die: Rodriguez and Zito.
- Badass Beard: Tubbs occasionally grows one of these as a disguise. Might possibly qualify as Beard of Evil since he does it to pose as a drug dealer.
- Badass Boast: From the episode "Glades". A drug dealer has a shotgun to the head of an innocent young girl, taunting Crockett that all he needs to do is twitch and the girl is dead. Crockett's response? "Maybe...you won't even...twitch..." Then he shoots the drug dealer in the head. He doesn't twitch.
- This scene was recreated note for note in The Movie.
- Battle Couple: Of the few times they're paired together, Tubbs and Valerie are this.
- Becoming the Mask: Crockett, while amnesiac (see Criminal Amnesiac below).
- Beleaguered Childhood Friend/Broken Pedestal: The repeated moments when one of the heroes would find out an old friend, love interest, or a colleague they trusted had gone bad.
- The ending of the acclaimed episode "Out Where The Buses Don't Run."
- Berserk Button: Tubbs hates machine guns... especially when they are being fired directly at him. Kind of ironic since he himself keeps an arsenal that would make the NRA squeal with delight.
- Also Crockett and men who abuse women. Taking an ugly turn if he's drunk.
- Don't ever touch Tubbs' Cadillac... just don't.
- BFG: Tubbs carries various shortened shotguns as his standard sidearm. Commonly an Ithaca 37 Stakeout or a sawed-off double barrel.
- Bittersweet Ending/Downer Ending: Many, many of both. This was one of the first cop shows where the good guys didn't always win, or if they did there was a high price to pay.
- Bloodless Carnage: For all the shootouts that took place on the show, they rarely used squibs or showed blood. When they did, it would be driblets, not gaping wounds.
- Cartwright Curse: Crockett's second wife Caitlin.
- Contemplate Our Navels: Tubbs.
- Cool Boat: For the first two seasons, Sonny Crockett lived on an Endeavour 40 sailboat, which was replaced by a Endeavour 42 sailboat for the rest of the series run. He also piloted a Chris Craft Stinger 390 in the first season and a Wellcraft 38 Scarab KV afterwards.
- Cool Car
- Crockett drove a Ferrari Daytona Spyder 365 GTS/4 replica during the first two seasons and a white 1986 Ferrari Testarossa later.
- Ricardo Tubbs drove a 1964 Cadillac Coupe de Ville Convertible.
- Cool Guns: Given that Michael Mann was a producer, this is a given. Special mention should be given to Crockett's 10mm Bren Ten pistol from the first two seasons, two of which were custom built (and rechambered in .45 since there were no 10mm blanks in 1984) for the show. Despite the Bren Ten being an indesputable failure, it still has a cult following due to its presence on Miami Vice, and the custom finish job used on the Bren Tens in the show (Mann had the slide of both guns given a hard chrome finish to make them more visible on camera during night-time scenes) has even come to be known as "Miami Vicing".
- Cool Pet: Crockett has a pet alligator, Elvis.
- Cool Shades
- Corrupt Bureaucrat: see Dirty Cop
- Cowboy Cop: Willie Nelson shows up as a Texas Ranger.
- Criminal Amnesiac: Crockett loses his memory while undercover as a drug dealer. As a result, he becomes the drug dealer and proceeds to take over much of the Miami market. But in the process he shoots Tubbs when his ex-partner tries to force his memories back. When Crockett does regain his memory and tries to return to the vice squad, he's arrested. It takes a convoluted plot of defeating an Ax-Crazy criminal and saving Tubbs' life to return Crockett to the force.
- Cuffs Off, Rub Wrists: Done by both Crockett and Tubbs early in the episode Freefall
- Da Chief: Castillo, played by Edward James Olmos.
- Damn It Feels Good to Be a Gangster
- Darker and Edgier: Later seasons traded in the bright colors and pastels for darker clothing (and darker stories).
- Death Glare: Lieutenant Castillo. Edward James Olmos just pulls this off like nobody else.
- Death Seeker: The title character of "Evan" is implied to be this.
- Dirty Cop: One of the show's themes was how the "lure of easy money" surrounding the drug traffic could turn even your closest friends on the police force into backstabbing criminals.
- Dirty Harriet: Gina and Trudy.
- Dramatic Gun Cock
- Drugs Are Bad
- The Eighties: Arguably the most influential TV of said decade. Many people's ideas of the '80s come straight from Miami Vice
- Fake Defector
- Fashion Dissonance: Textbook example.
- Friends with Benefits: Sonny and Gina, for a little while.
- Go-to Alias: "Burnett" and "Cooper".
- Gray and Grey Morality: Crockett and Tubbs on occasion mingle with people who are doing what they can just to get by. Not everyone's a criminal, and not everyone's a saint.
- Heroic BSOD: What happens to some of the good cops who don't go crooked: they go mad instead.
- Partly explains what happens to Crockett when he gets hit with amnesia: his second wife had just been killed by a Serial Killer seeking revenge on Crockett, and the aftershock of what happened made it easy for him to forget when the time came.
- Heterosexual Life-Partners: Crockett and Tubbs
- Hey, It's That Guy!: Bobby Simone was Crockett's partner for about thirty seconds in the pilot. Then his car blew up.
- Hooker with a Heart of Gold: If the crew isn't bringing down drug dealers, they're investigating sex crimes usually involving prostitutes. Some of their informants on the drug cases are call girls and streetwalkers.
- The Informant: Crockett and Tubbs regularly called upon Izzy "The Snitch" Moreno and Neville "Noogie" Lamont to get information on whatever big plot was going down. The two cops treated the latter like some unpleasant form of fungus, while the former was treated like a favored pet. Izzy once even helped the two cops out while Izzy was in the middle of committing another crime (the crime was straight burglary... they're vice cops... they cut him a break).
- Instrumental Theme Tune: "Crockett's Theme".
- Karma Houdini: Some villains (and some heroes) never answer for the crimes they commit.
- Magical Computer: The crazed ex-cop Hank in "Out Where The Buses Don't Run" works with a computer to track the "missing" drug lord that Hank is obsessed with catching. The computer "Lorraine" (named for Hank's ex-wife) operates with a mind and personality of its own, and does things that computers in 1985 really didn't do.
- Mind Screw: The UFO episode
- Music Video Syndrome: Especially in the pilot.
- Only In Miami: Some episodes were loosely based on some of the crazier things that happened in South Florida.
- Perma Stubble
- Plucky Comic Relief: Switek and Zito.
- Poorly Disguised Pilot: A proposed spinoff featuring younger vice detectives, which never came to fruition.
- Product Placement: The Cool Car and cool clothes throughout the series.
- Also applies to Crockett's handguns in the the television series, namely the Bren Ten for the first two seasons, and the Smith & Wesson 645 for the rest of the series.
- Professional Killer
- Real Men Wear Pink: Crockett
- Ripped from the Headlines: Started being integrated into the plot more once Dick Wolf became executive producer. Considering the number of crazy things that happen in Florida, it was easy.
- Roaring Rampage of Revenge: How Tubbs ends up in Miami as Crockett's partner. It pops up as motivation for some of the more Ax-Crazy villains that would guest-star every other week.
- Sacrificial Lamb: The department's original boss, Lieutenant Rodriguez.
- Samurai: Castillo. His martial arts training made him into a stealthy katana-wielding Badass, but his code of honor was pure Bushido. Highlighted in the second season episode aptly titled "Bushido".
- Salt and Pepper
- Scenery Porn: filming on location in South Florida helps.
- Shoot Your Mate
- Special Guest: Many now-famous actors (Ed O'Neill, Bruce Willis, Julia Roberts), musicians (James Brown, Phil Collins, Sheena Easton) and other notable people (G. Gordon Liddy) appeared in bit parts throughout the series, regardless if they fit the role or not.
- Pam Grier deserves a special mention as Valerie... Tubbs' on again, off again true love. One of the few guests to reappear in several episodes, including a feature length.
- Take My Hand: In the Burnett arc, Sonny redeems himself to Tubbs by showing up in time to do this.
- The Stoic: Lieutenant Castillo.
- Titled After the Song: In the middle of the show's first season, former Eagles guitarist Glenn Frey released "Smuggler's Blues", a song about cocaine trafficking. The producers of the show immediately jumped on it, and not only titled the resultant episode "Smuggler's Blues", but they based the storyline on the lyrics of the song and cast Glenn Frey as Jimmy the Bush Pilot.
- Trauma-Induced Amnesia: Crockett loses his memory after an explosion. Probably compounded by Heroic BSOD (see above).
- True Companions: One of the reasons why none of the Miami Vice crew turn corrupt except for when Crockett loses his identity. And even then, the bond of friendship is what brings him back into the fold.
- Unintentional Period Piece
- Vapor Wear: Trudy (always), Gina (sometimes), most other female characters.
- Vietnam War: Crockett was a veteran. Castillo was working overseas CIA/DEA cases in Southeast Asia during the same period. Old friends (and enemies) from their pasts would show up for a few episodes.
- Viewer Stock Phrases: Folks who watched this show might say.....
- If you were born before 1982 - "Oh man! I remember that song!"
- "Where can I get that suit/car/boat/gun?"
- "Do the good guys ever win??"
- Wham Episode:
- "Golden Triangle, Part 1": What starts out as a typical episode involving a jewellery theft takes a sharp turn and becomes a showcase for Castillo's Hidden Depths, culminating in the most cinematic fight of the series (between Castillo and a suspect) up to that point.
- "Sons And Lovers": Tubbs' former love interest, Angelina Calderone, returns - with a baby in tow, and one she says belongs to him. Angelica's brother, also of the Calderone family, comes to Miami looking for revenge...and ends up rigging Angelina to a car bomb that kills her and makes Tubbs think his child has died as well.
- "Down For The Count, Part 1": An undercover operation involving a corrupt boxing manager turns horribly tragic when Zito is killed and made to look like he overdosed on drugs.
- "Mirror Image", Sonny is caught in a massive explosion that leads to him developing amnesia and slipping into the role of his alter-ego, Sonny Burnett. He turns traitor on the Vice team and begins working for a drug cartel, finally culminating in him shooting Tubbs after the latter tries to reason with him.
- X Meets Y: The "MTV Cops" conception.