Facts of the Case
Just like Season One, the episodes are spread out over three flipper discs.
They appear as follows:
• The Prodigal Son
Directed by Starsky and Hutch
co-star Paul Michael Glaser, the story follows Crocket (Don Johnson, Guilty
as Sin) and Tubbs (Philip Michael Thomas, Grand Theft Auto: Vice
City) to New York, where they are hot on the heels of a player in a major
Columbian drug ring who are killing federal agents. Notable guest stars on this
episode include musician Gene Simmons (KISS Meets the Phantom of the
Park, Runaway), actors Charles S. Dutton
(Roc, Against the Ropes) and Pam Grier (Jackie Brown, The L Word).
• "Whatever Works"
Things start to get a little
weird here, as Crockett and Tubbs help in investigating the murder of two local
police officers, who had ties to a Santeria (a mystical religion). The only
guest star of note is Eartha Kitt (Boomerang, Holes), but the episode is notable for Crockett
temporarily losing his car, his prized Ferrari Spyder, which is probably where
the show was at its peak.
• "Out Where The Buses Don't Run"
In a show that
includes a very young David Straithairn (Good Night and Good Luck, Eight Men Out), it's the performance of
Bruce McGill (The Insider, Cinderella Man) as a former cop
trailing a noted drug dealer who disappeared years before, that I've enjoyed
through the years. And it got me into understanding why the Dire Straits album
"Brothers in Arms" was liked so much by so many people then.
• "The Dutch Oven"
I guess you know when a show
is losing its appeal when they focus on supporting characters that aren't too
good. And like Season One's "Give a Little, Take a Little," this
episode focuses on some internal conflict with Trudy (Olivia Brown, Throw Momma From the Train,
Moesha) after killing someone during a drug deal. Blah.
Wow, Nathan Lane (The Birdcage, The Producers) appears in this episode?
Cool. Either way, Crockett has to make a choice between his friend (this time,
played by James Remar, 48 Hours) and his job as a cop. He did this in
previous episodes, and would do it again in future episodes. You would think
that with all the shady friends that Crockett had that weren't cops, that
someone would say something to him, but oh well.
• "Junk Love"
Tubbs always manages to fall in
love with daughters of drug dealers, first it was the daughter of a dealer who
killed his brother, now this! There is a pimp in this episode who is played by
Miles Davis, which became another of several "what the?" moments on
• "Tale of the Goat"
This one is a guilty
pleasure for me, in that the cops play around with voodoo, and encounter a
chieftain who they thought was dead. Menacingly played by Clarence Williams (Reindeer Games, The General's Daughter) and including a young
Mykelti Williamson (Ali, Heat), this one spooked me for awhile
afterwards growing up, and I remember it fondly.
This one may be another moment that
fans disapprove of, as Castillo (Edward James Olmos, Battlestar
Galactica, Selena) becomes a Japanese warrior to find and capture a
friend of his who started working for the KGB (Dean Stockwell, Blue Velvet, Quantum Leap). The
Castillo character could only be handled in spurts I guess, but this one was a
little bit recycled from the first season.
• "Bought and Paid For"
Aside from bringing you
the magic that is Motown artist El Debarge, this episode, about Gina helping a
friend of hers from sexual abuse at the hands of a third world General's son,
can largely be skipped.
• "Back in the World"
Quite possibly the best
episode of the season, as an old friend of Crockett's from the Vietnam War (Bob
Balaban, Best in Show, Capote) helps Crockett to discover a drug
smuggling ring involving the bodies of dead veterans from the war and a crazed
former officer, played by G. Gordon Liddy. Want to know why Liddy ate a rat
growing up? Here's why. The interaction between Balaban and Johnson is
• "Phil the Shill"
OK, maybe here is where the
show got a little bit too kitschy for its own good. Genesis drummer/frontman
Phil Collins, who was experiencing a popularity surge with albums and some music
that was used in the show, appeared as a con man in cahoots with a drug dealer.
But if this episode doesn't illustrate the point of why musicians should stick
to music, I don't know what will.
• "Definitely Miami"
Ted Nugent plays a man who
uses his wife as bait for a trap, where he murders unsuspecting men for their
money. The less there's said about this, the better, other than I'm sure that
Ted was using proper firearm safety at all times.
• "Yankee Dollar"
Remember what I said about
friends of Crockett's blurring the lines of right and wrong? Well, here's
another case in point. A girlfriend dies after a mission where she's a mule for
a drug runner, and he tries to get to the dealer, with the help of her little
brother. Anyone noticing a pattern here?
• "One Way Ticket"
The plotline where Crockett
and Tubbs deal with a former crook who lives in witness protection (or fakes his
own death) wasn't used too much, but it was pretty good regardless. Here, a
defense lawyer (played by John Heard, Home Alone) refuses to defend a crime
boss, and Sonny, knowing the lawyer helped acquit the man who killed a former
partner, doesn't care, but reconsiders. This one's a little better than
• "Little Miss Dangerous"
Aside from a couple of
catchy songs in this one, this is about a prostitute who is apparently murdering
customers and leaving disturbing drawings at the crime scenes. In terms of
story, there wasn't a lot going on here, but it looked good.
• "Florence Italy"
Ready for the guest appearance
that dated the show? Well, the Fat Boys, live and in color, show up in a cameo.
Plus race car driver Danny Sullivan appears as guess what, a race car driver.
Good thing he drove a car better than he could act.
• "French Twist"
Hey, ready for another obscure
musician in a guest starring role? Yep, Leonard Cohen. Leonard Cohen! Despite
that weird occurrence, this episode isn't too bad, about an Interpol agent who
doesn't know who her friends are anymore.
• "The Fix"
This one was probably the heart
attack that sent hard core fans of the show away in droves. You've got NBA
basketball legend Bill Russell playing a judge, and then-basketball star Bernard
King as his 30 year old college son. The judge takes money to cover gambling
debts, and the two accomplices are a squirrelly lawyer (Harvey Fierstein, Mrs. Doubtfire, Death to Smoochy) and his boss, a crime
boss played by a young Michael Richards. Kramer goes to the mafia, indeed.
Alright, another athlete who thinks
he can act! This time, it's boxer Roberto Duran, who poses as a jailed drug
lord. With the help of another boss on the outside, they frame Crockett as the
subject of investigations of corruption. If for nothing else, you should watch
this episode to see how the great one (guitarist Frank Zappa) shows off his
• "Free Verse"
OK, so Luis Guzman (Out of Sight, Boogie Nights) returns for the second
time this season as a thug of a different name. You've got ex-Suicidal
Tendencies vocalist Mike Muir in an uncredited cameo. You've even got Bianca
Jagger in this one. But nothing can prepare you for seeing 21-year-old Michael
Bay (Armageddon, Pearl Harbor) in his first appearance
on screen, as a goon. The mind reels, the senses wonder! The heart says,
"what the hell is going on up there?"
• "Trust Fund Pirates"
One of the show's favorite
recurring characters was small-time criminal Noogie Lamont (Charlie Barnett,
D.C. Cab), and he comes back to help the boys battle a group of pirates
who are robbing from drug dealers. Noted drug enthusiasts Richard Belzer (Law
and Order, Homicide) and Tommy Chong (Up in Smoke) come along for the ride, while
they're at it.
• "Sons and Lovers"
Tubbs' white elephant
Calderone (who killed his brother) has long since been killed, but his son Ivan
(John Leguizamo, Moulin Rouge!, Carlito's Way) has sworn revenge, and
will do whatever he can to avenge his father's death, even if it means killing
his sister, whom Tubbs was friendly with. Annoying cameo of this show?
Ex-Chrysler boss Lee Iacocca. Despite that, it's a decent end to the season, all
Miami Vice was the reason to stay at home on Friday nights, as the
first season was full of a lot of electric moments of drama and great
performances. But as bright as the show's star shined, it shined half as long as
some other established cop shows, because it was, quite frankly, a lot of style
with rapidly disappearing substance. In Season One's outstanding episode
"Evan," the show's storyline dealt with Crockett's friend, who seemed
to be a homophobe. That kind of subject matter in 1984 was pretty new and quite
surprising. But the thing that made the show unique was also detracting from it
in one aspect.
It was clear by now to a lot of people that if you were famous and wanted to
be seen doing something different, you appeared as a criminal on Miami
Vice. Honestly, read over some of those names again, and realize I left even
more names out of it! Consequently, with all the guest stars, there was very
little room for advancing of storylines over a season, as each episode was
pretty self-contained. Perhaps that's a larger metaphor for the '80s as a whole,
with very little in terms of promise or depth.
The show was weekend entertainment for fans of cop shows; the real fans
tuned in to see Hill Street Blues. The characters weren't superficial,
the stories were equal parts suspenseful and touching, and the actors were
simply of a higher caliber. It's really not a slap in the face to Miami
Vice, as the show was one of my favorites, and both had Anthony Yerkovich
producing them. But the quality of an average Hill Street Blues episode
exceeded that of Miami Vice, with nowhere close to the production values.
In terms of acting, the stories are at times retreads, and other times, they are
shows whose dialogue borders on pretentious and silly, even more so two decades
after the fact.
The big bragging point for Universal in these seasons of the show is that
they managed to keep the old music for most, if not all of the episodes, and in
Dolby 5.1 at that. The downside was that the video treatment the show received
was almost nonexistent in the first season. With the second season, the video
quality seems to have improved, albeit marginally. The print still looks pretty
dirty, like Crockett's Lucky Strike cigarette ashes were dumped all over the
original tapes. The audio does the job, with songs from The Who, Glenn Frey,
Blondie and others, covering an eclectic taste of music. And in the first
season, where there was barely any supplemental material, this season has
nothing at all with it.