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Series: Miami Vice

I can feel it, coming in the air tonight...Oh lord...

"Hey, Tubbs, you ever consider a career in Southern law enforcement?"
[chuckles] "Maybe. Maybe..."

Miami Vice is a crime drama Buddy Cop Show which ran on NBC from 1984-1989. Created by former Hill Street Blues writer and producer Anthony Yerkovich, 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 cops.

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.
  • Affectionate Parody: Sesame Street's "Miami Mice", in which the Count gets to count the main character's suits. It takes him a while.
  • 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.
    • Zito also grows a massive beard during the second season.
  • 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? " 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).
  • Being Good Sucks: Several instances in the later seasons (which contributes to Crockett and Tubbs eventually quitting the force) show that, for all their attempts to do the right thing, it often results in the villains getting off on technicalities and innocent people being caught in the crossfire.
  • 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 machineguns... 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.
  • Book Ends: The pilot and series finale both end with Tubbs asking Crockett if he's ever considered a career in Southern law enforcement as they walk off.
  • Cartwright Curse: Crockett's second wife Caitlin.
  • Clip Show: "A Bullet for Crockett" has most of the characters reminiscing about past missions when Crockett is shot during a drug bust gone bad.
  • Continuity Nod:
    • The Testarossa that is given to Crockett in "Stone's War" is hinted to be the same one owned by Irish mobster Bunny Berrigan in the preceding episode, "When Irish Eyes Are Smiling" (as Crockett comments that it has "new paint" when he first sees it).
    • In "Stone's War", Crockett says that he can't play Stone's recording of the massacre in Nicaragua because he doesn't own a television. Ten episodes later, in "Forgive Us Our Debts", Crockett finally buys a small television for the bedroom on his boat.
    • "A Bullet for Crockett" begins with a scene reminiscent of the pilot, where (in both instances) Crockett and Tubbs drive to an undercover drug deal as Phil Collins' "In The Air Tonight" plays in the background.
    • In "Deliver Us From Evil", Crockett's locker has a photograph with him and his college friend Robbie, who appeared in the second-season episode "Buddies".
  • 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: Worn by Crockett and many other characters - justified because of the intense Florida sun, of course.
  • Corrupt Bureaucrat: See Dirty Cop.
  • Creator Cameo: Jan Hammer (the show's composer) appears as a wedding musician in the episodes "One Way Ticket" and the fourth-season episode "Like a Hurricane".
  • 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 series finale.
  • Da Chief: Castillo, played by Edward James Olmos.
  • Damn, It Feels Good to Be a Gangster : Played straight and deconstructed. The show explores the glamourous side of the Miami underworld, and part of the reason Crockett and Tubbs are so cool is that they play along in this world. On the other hand, we often see the less glamorous consequences of a criminal lifestyle and how cruel and ruthless the underworld is.
  • Darker and Edgier: After Dick Wolf replaced Michael Mann as show runner, the show traded in the bright colors and pastels for darker clothing (and darker stories).
  • A Day in the Limelight: Switek and Zito in "Made For Each Other".
  • 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 often impersonate prostitutes.
  • Drugs Are Bad: A persistent theme of the series is that not only does the drug trade have a lot of death and destruction in its wake, but the individual drug users are led to a criminal lifestyle by their addiction.
  • Early Installment Weirdness:
    • The first few episodes form a conventional Five-Episode Pilot, and had a large number of elements (like the character of Lieutenant Lou Rodriguez, who was killed off after his actor expressed displeasure living in Miami and wanted out) that seem odd in comparison to later episodes. Especially the musical montages, which used to take up extended airtime and would occur for the duration of the song instead of a short clip in later episodes and seasons.
    • Zito and Switek's schemes used to take up entire segments during certain episodes in the first season, but this was eventually minimalized and removed altogether in later seasons.
    • Several of the early episodes had scenes where the team planned their operations together - later episodes skipped this setup and went directly to the execution of the plan.
  • The Eighties: Arguably the most influential TV of said decade. Many people's ideas of the 80's come straight from the series (which explains why many people tend to have a rather exaggerated idea of the period — not everybody dressed like the pimps and drug dealers of the series).
  • '80s Hair: Most of the women who appeared on the show, notably guest star Pam Grier as seen in this photo.
  • Fanservice: Quite a lot of it.
    • Given that many episodes take part in night clubs and among prostitutes there are lots of women in Stripperific outfits.
    • Miami's hot and humid climate also means that the women will be wearing rather skimpy clothing, or swimsuits.
    • Bras were optional in The Eighties, so we see a lot of bouncy breasts and nipples showing through T-shirts.
  • Fashion Dissonance: A textbook example. But many of the fashions in the show were over the top even then; normal people didn't dress like pimps or gangsters even in the 80's.
  • 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.
  • 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.
    • William Maynard (played by G. Gordon Liddy) kills Ira Stone and flees Miami - despite Crockett pledging to stop him, he never appears again.
  • 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 fourth-season episode "Missing Hours", which has Trudy trying to figure out if she's hallucinating UFO's and aliens in the guise of humans.
  • Moment Killer: In a deleted scene from the pilot, Gina tells Crockett that he whispered "Caroline" (his soon-to-be-ex-wife's name) into her ear during their night together on the boat.
  • Music Video Syndrome: Especially in the pilot.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Crockett's investigation of the circumstances behind the death of his former partner in "Forgive Us Our Sins" results in a convicted and scheduled-for-execution killer to be mistakenly freed from Death Row. This comes back to bite him a season when the killer comes back and shoots Crockett's wife, Caitlin, leading to Crockett's breakdown and slide into his alter ego, Burnett.
  • Only In Miami: Some episodes were loosely based on some of the crazier things that happened in South Florida.
  • 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 clothes and sunglasses throughout the series.
    • The Ferraris driven by Crocket and Tubbs. The first one was a replica; when the Ferrari company found this out, they offered to lend a real one if the fake was disposed of. It was, in a spectacular case of External Combustion.
    • 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.
  • Rape as Drama: Several episodes dealt with associates of the Vice team being raped by the villain(s), prompting Crockett, Tubbs, Gina and/or Trudy to go after them in revenge.
  • Real Men Wear Pink: Crockett.
  • Recycled Set has been moved to the Trivia tab.
  • 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: Crocket and Tubbs, though the trope is downplayed a bit in that they have rather similar personalities.
  • Scenery Porn: filming on location in South Florida helps.
  • Series Continuity Error:
    • Due to the network switching up the order of certain episodes throughout the series, characters and/or props change their appearance radically from one episode to another.
    • Infamously, Crockett is driving around in his Ferrari Daytona (and using it for cover in a shootout) in the third-season episode "El Viejo", seven episodes after it was destroyed by an arms dealer and replaced with the Testarossa. This was due to the fact that "El Viejo" was originally planned to be the third-season premiere, but was pushed farther into the season and replaced with a more action-packed opener.
    • Zito's beard disappears and reappears at random throughout the second season, due to the running order of the episodes being changed.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Several episodes of the show "borrowed" plots from various movies, such as High Noon or The Trouble with Harry. Season 3's "Shadow in the Dark" was pretty much one giant allusion to Manhunter, which Michael Mann himself directed.
    • In Season 2's "Out Where the Buses Don't Run", Weldon's computer is named after his ex-wife, Lorraine. It also happened to be the name of the Amiga prototype that appeared at the 1984 Consumer Electronics Show. The Amiga prototype took its name from the motherboard, which was named Lorraine, after the company president's wife.
  • Special Guest:
  • The Stoic: Lieutenant Castillo.
  • Take My Hand: In the Burnett arc, Sonny redeems himself to Tubbs by showing up in time to do this.
  • 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.
  • Vapor Wear:
    • Trudy usually wears thin tops without a bra.
    • Gina sometimes sports the same look, especially when doing a Dirty Harriet, though she usually seems to wear a bra.
    • In general, bras seem to have been in short supply in 1980's Miami.
  • Vice City: half-Trope Namer
  • 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.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?:
    • Elvis the alligator stops appearing by the fourth season, and is never referenced or seen again, with his fate left unanswered after Crockett quits the force at the end of the series.
    • Zito's goldfish disappears from the series after his death in "Down for the Count" and never reappears again, despite Crockett and others searching his apartment for clues in the episode after his death occurs.
  • X Meets Y: The "MTV Cops" conception.
  • You Look Familiar:
    • Bill Smitrovich plays the turncoat detective Scottie Wheeler in the pilot episode and DEA Commander Burr in "The Prodigal Son". Likewise, Martin Ferrero played the assassin Trini Desoto in the pilot and informant Izzy Moreno for the rest of the series.
    • Miguel Pinero played the druglord (and first Big Bad of the series) Esteban Calderone in the first season, and a member of the Revilla drug cartel in the second-season opener "The Prodigal Son".
    • Dan Hedaya played an Internal Affairs officer in the first season, and a villain in the second-season episode "Payback".

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