Sensor Scan: Miami Vice

Among the many, many ways Kei and Yuri shifted this blog’s course and changed its mark was forcing me to drastically alter the structure of this essay. I was always planning to cover Miami Vice in some fashion here: It was an important enough show at the time, I watched enough of it and it left enough of an impact on me such that it’s a not-insignificant part of my television viewing career and there’s considerably more creative overlap between it Star Trek then I think a lot of people realise or understand.

But before I made the decision to cover Dirty Pair episode by episode I had planned to go into a great more detail here, anticipating a rather lengthy critique of the show’s basic ethical premises and assumptions. But I don’t need to do that anymore, because Dirty Pair already did that for me in the frankly stunning “No Way! 463 People Disappeared?!”/”We Did It! 463 People Found!” two-parter. Not only that, it tossed it out as an afterthought; one small fraction of a much grander and more splendid tale of love, healing, intrigue and hope because Kei and Yuri are better than all of us. So really, there’s not a whole lot more I can say about Miami Vice‘s basic conceit and its depiction of life in the Miami/Dade county vice department that wouldn’t be repeating what either I or Dirty Pair said in the context of the “463” episodes.

There’s always going to be ethical questions about TV shows whose protagonists are police officers, and rightly so. This kind of genre is always one of the easiest with which to slip unto unabashedly brutal hegemony, especially given what’s happened to the United States’ police departments in recent decades and given the sorts of atrocities we now regularly see them committing in the news. It can be very challenging, especially for someone subscribing to the political persuasion of the average reader of, oh, let’s say this blog, to warm up to a show like Miami Vice, and this is understandable and to be expected. One thing that is worth stressing, however, is that Miami Vice was nothing if not a show that committed to itself and its ethical claims and seemed to internalize every critique leveled against it over the course of its five seasons: The much-parodied colourful pastels of the first two seasons eventually gave way to darker Earth tones in later years, which better reflected the show’s basic outlook. The whole thing even ultimately ends by having Crockett and Tubbs resign the force in bitter rage and disgust, feeling that everything they’ve done since becoming vice cops has made life provably and catastrophically worse for themselves and everyone around them.

Because that’s the thing about Miami Vice-People think this show was all about bright colours, tropical scenery, glitzy high-rollers and girls in bikinis and it wasn’t. In fact, this couldn’t be any further from the truth of the matter: This is a deeply, deeply cynical show whose opinion on the human condition could be charitably called “nihilistic” and uncharitably called “hopeless”.…

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