It’s 1985… Got a problem? Odds against you? Can Miami Vice help?

Posted: September 2, 2011 in FILM REVIEWS/COMMENTS
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Ah nostalgia, oh the 80s. Although Miami Vice was aired in the US in 1984 as Friday night viewing here in the UK Season 1 wasn’t aired until 1985 and oddly on a Monday! The first episode Feb 4th, 1985 – 9.25pm to be exact.
Tubbsequently (see what I did there) a Tuesday thereafter. Maybe not to conflict with Crossroads or Dads Army, who knows eh. That said, being Welsh we got it much later… 11pm, usually on a Thursday. Bikinis, drugs and guns were too shocking for us Welsh people see mun.
In addition to Crockett and Tubbs for a generation most associated the great Edward Woodward with Callan or the Wicker Man, for me he’ll always be Robert McCall – that nice old man, carrying a gun, helping people while removing his Deirdre Barlow glasses as The Equaliser. (Incidently Stewart Copland drummer for The Police did the excellent theme tune.)

1985 was my year, He-Man, Knight Rider, The A-Team and my Star Wars figure collection were at their peak, it was just after that time when I would have a bath, watch Fraggle Rock and get ready for bed in wait for Santa. VHS, singles, Atari, ZX-, Billy Ocean, McEnroe and Paul Hogan also spring to mind. One persons great year is anothers nightmare.
Thinking about it 1985 made me, ’85 was more important than my birth, for me it may very well be the centre of time, with every other date orbiting around it everything being an influence in those 80’s years. Leg-warms are still a hot favioute of mine even though I never donned on a pair, er-hum. Film wise although Scorsese’s After Hours is now one of my faviourate films I didn’t see it at the time as with Day of the Dead, Commando, Rambo 2 and Rocky 4 to name a few. Of course I did see Teen Wolf and Back to the Future. You know, looking back it’s as if my future had something to do with it.
Don’t ask me if I saw some of the adult things mentioned or question if I was up I at 11pm, I doubt it. I’d like to think my parents protected me, shielding me from 80’s fashion, Jan Hammer and that I only watch re-runs. I must have. Lately I wish my father had sheltered from Phil Collins, the Fagin of music, yes he had hair once too. Nevertheless, the Equaliser and Miami Vice were ingrained in my mind more so than others. Slightly ahead of the openings of TV shows, Manimal, Columbo, Murder She Wrote, Street Hawk, Air Wolf and boring Cheers, Dallas and Dynasty.
I recently set out on a quest, one funnier than The Young Ones, as crazy as Todd ‘Tucker’ Carty in Krull and as cheesey as Red Sonja. I’m doing this so by the power of the internet your kids and their grand kids will get to see a glimpse of circa 1985. So I sat down and watched the first series of The Equaliser and Miami Vice or as the cool kids call it MV. Not as punishment or as an experiment but as entertainment. Painful I think not… I, think, not…

Miami Vice (1984–1990)
This classic ground breaking series followed two very different Police Department detectives working undercover in Miami.
It holds up, the characters are still as endearing as they were back then. The first season has its faults mainly the abrupt cutting between scenes (due to planned adverts) but also at times the writers or directors don’t seem to know how to finish a scene before the next as with many of the shows of the time. New comers may find this a little jarring and frustrating as this has been finely tuned in modern quality TV shows.
The first season has some rough episodes but of the 22 they are the few and far between. The characters are great and the acting is decent for the most part. The meeting of the both leads is great, Ricardo Tubbs (Philip Michael Thomas), a New York street cop collides with James “Sonny” Crockett (Don Johnson) Former football star and ‘Nam vet’ now undercover detective. It’s good to watch their friendship grow through good and bad times. The supporting cast are on fine form, notably Det. Gina Calabrese (Saundra Santiago) and Lt. Castillo (Edward James Olmos) who becomes their new boss a few episodes in.
Its fitting that the exposition isn’t forced and you need to take note to what the characters are saying. Many of the cast are while not major stars are veteran bit part actors who have familiar faces. In addition, as well as the many guest stars including Bruce Willis it’s surprising how many of the supporting cast are stars now, for example Ving Rhames.
Even after being viewed through 80’s rose tinted glasses and overlooking some cheese – it encapsulates a fanciful nostalgia, the clothes, the cars, the boats, soundtrack and even Miami itself. The style and panache of Crockett and Tubbs sums it up, but that’s not to say the locations, story lines and character are not without a dark side, prostitution, kidnapping, murder and drugs (mainly heroin) to name a few. These maybe sanitized slightly due to censorship of the time but there’s enough to give it an edge especially for the time.
Restrictions and the unkindness of time aside, like the Equalizer, from its motion picture shooting style and production/wardrobe design, to the landmark music Miami Vice is as entertaining today as it was back then.
The Equalizer (1985 – 1989)
Robert McCall, a former secret agent offers his expertise and services to people in need. He can be found through a newspaper ad that reads: “Got a problem? Odds against you? Call the Equalizer. 212 555 4200”. In the process of helping desperate New Yorkers he inflicts justice upon hoodlums, murderers, kidnappers and drug dealers to name a few.
Tamely choreographed fights aside and despite a lack of blood when some one is shot The Equalizer stands the test of time. Edward Woodward is perfectly cast as the quintessential English gentleman, at times teaching the bad guys some manners. There are debatably few actors that would have pulled off the dangerous character as well. His age makes the retired character more believable and he has a look and edge that makes him a credible killer. While each episode is entertaining some fair better than others. It’s always engaging whether McCall is using a his wits and some psychology or a ballistic knife, Uzi or Walther PPK. The episodes that are set in the thick of a conspiracy or that give hints of Macall’s background are the more memorable. The supporting cast are more than adequate and usually feature a familiar face or an up and coming star of the time.
Its New York setting elevates the realism with its gritty look. The writing, especially for much of the first season is of feature film quality. All episodes are competently directed and capture the trends and style of the time, making it great nostalgia for some. The soundtrack usually contains the chart toppers of the time and while some of the music score has dated the Equalizer theme is still as good as it was back in the 80’s.
Between 1985 and 1989 it was perfect TV entertainment. Disregarding pleasant remembrances The Equalizer is as relevant as it was then and still holds up on viewing now.


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