better to burn out than to fade away." -Neil Young
If I didn't know any better, i'd think Neil wrote
that line after being subjected to the fifth and final season of Miami Vice.
Heck, i'm sure these twenty-one episodes helped finish off hammering whatever
nails were remaining in Vice's coffin. The utter contempt that everyone from
Michael Mann to Don Johnson to NBC had for the show was apparent on the screen.
And man, was it painful. Though the show was in a slow downward spiral since the
third season, by the time season five rolled around, it was a shell of its
former self - Mann was replaced by future Law & Order creator Dick Wolf, Jan
Hammer was replaced by someone named Tim Truman (not the comic book
artist) and Crockett and Tubbs were together as a team in just about a quarter
of the episodes.
That last thing was the most troubling for me.
Since this did prove to be the final season of Vice, it's a damn shame that
Crockett and Tubbs spent more time apart than they did together. For most of the
fifth season, they either had separate errands to run and would only "bookend"
the episode (making a brief appearance only at the beginning and the end) or one
would work a case while the other one had personal issues to tend to. I'm sure
it didn't bother Michael Talbott though, as his character, Stan Switek, was
called upon to fill the vacant shoes of whichever detective sat out that
particular episode. Edward James Olmos' Lieutenant Martin Castillo is thrown a
bone and given one episode to shine, before joining Saundra Santiago and Olivia
Brown, who are MIA for most of the season, only putting in brief
"blink-and-you'll-miss-'em" appearances (save for one episode, "Asian
Another signature element missing from this
season of Vice was the music. Jan Hammer scored nine episodes of season
four, before being replaced by Tim Truman for season five. In addition, the
usage of contemporary pop songs, to either heighten the tension or add some
atmosphere to a scene, was kept to bare minimum. Now that I think about it,
there wasn't much of either during this season - most of the episodes were
strangely silent. Though, to be fair, when Truman's music was used, it wasn't
that bad - but it definitely wasn't Jan Hammer.
As for the writing, well, James Brown doesn't
make a return appearance, but I found myself wishing he would, if only to take
away the crop of writers for this season. I have to admit that the season
started off strong (well, as strong as an episode of Vice could be), but I found
most of the episodes derivative of previous seasons. Each one seemed seemed to
feature some badly dressed, anonymous drug dealer whose downfall was to be
ignorant of Miami's worst-kept secret: Cooper and Burnett were actually cops.
The writers did, however, work in some slight "should we hang it up?/why
are we still doing this?" foreshadowing every-so-often, which kinda sorta helped
make the events in the season finale not totally come out of left
field...just poorly executed and deserving of so much more.
Here's the episode listing:
- Hostile Takeover - Johnson directs the season
opener where Crockett is working for gangster/thug/drug dealer Carrera. Jon
Polito, channeling Harvey Fierstein by way of Ricky Ricardo and Liberace,
guest-stars as Carrera's rival, El Gato. Matt Frewer (TV's "Max Headroom")
also puts in an appearance.
- Redemption In Blood - The conclusion to the
the season premiere sees Burnett dealing with his newly-acquired drug empire
while his life as Crockett flashes before his eyes.
- Heart Of Night - After bookending the
beginning and the end of the show, Crockett and Tubbs take the episode off
as Castillo helps protect his ex-wife from the perennial Vice villain - a
drug kingpin. Rosalind Chao guest stars.
- Bad Timing - Hey everybody! DJ's back! And
when he's not busy trying to clear his name and prove he actually did think
he was his vicious, drug-dealing ALTER-EGO Sonny Burnett, he's taking on a
trio of badass thugs who enjoy shooting helpless realty signs and kidnapping
future Homicide: Life On the Streets detective Melissa Leo before
Crockett has a chance to hook up with her! The nerve of those
- Borrasca - 80's movie villain Brion James
guest stars in an extremely boring, mind-numbing episode. It will leave you
wondering why Switek was wearing a three piece suit with matching trench
coat to the beach, though.
- Line Of Fire - Crockett and Tubbs are assigned
by FBI to protect a speed metal-lovin' witness set to testify against a drug
- Asian Cut - "Big Booty" Trudy helps Crockett
and Tubbs catch a serial killer whose victims are prostitutes. Shades of
Mann's flick "Manhunter" aside, this is quite possibly the first episode
that didn't have me rolling my eyes.
- Hard Knocks - Stan getting more airtime was
probably one of the only positives about Don & Phil bookending most of
the fifth season episode. Why they didn't utilize Trudy or Gina more is
beyond me, but Stan takes center stage in this episode about boozin', gamblin'
and high school football. It's not all good, though; besides a truly hilarious montage
set to Mike + the Mechanics' "Nobody's
Perfect", you'll scratch your head wondering how the bookies know
Stan's phone number, but have NO IDEA he was a cop!
Fruit Of the Poison Tree -
There's a reason that Amanda Plummer's mentor is defending drug dealers and
then stealing and reselling their drugs, but I was lulled into a state of
ambivalence by the inanity of this episode. Though, it was amusing to see
Tony "Paulie Walnuts" Sirico stretching his acting chops as....a mobster.
- To Have And To Hold - While Crockett is off
dealing with his troubled son, Tubbs gets personally and romantically caught
up with another drug dealer's moll. Guess the writers missed the season
premiere? Oh, and Miguel Ferrer guests.
- Miami Squeeze - Crocket sees a psychiatrist
to assess his
life. while Tubbs and Castillo help Congresswoman Rita Moreno
deal with a tricky situation. A character from the episode "Line Of Fire"
makes another appearance (more about him later).
- Jack Of All Trades - A more descriptive title
for this episode would've been "the Jack Crockett Show". As i've
mentioned, Sonny and Tubbs have been spending a lot of time apart this
season, but during this episode they're practically guest-stars.
- the Cell Within - Though he's been dealing
with the worst scumbags that Miami has to offer for four seasons, Tubbs
believes that a criminal he once locked up has reformed. Once he realizes he
was wrong, said criminal does his best to make Rico understand his point of view.
- the Lost Madonna - Michael "Vic
Mackey" Chicklis guest-stars as...get this...a NYC art detective. Yes,
that's right. A friggin' art detective. He spends the majority of the
episode attempting a faux white upper-class accent, as he slums around with
Crockett and Tubbs - who happens to be in the same episode! Together! At the
- Over the Line - Fed up with the way the
justice system works, a rogue squadron of police
officers go vigilante and enlist Crockett & Tubbs in their cause.
- Victim Of Circumstance - John Leguizamo, Paul
Guifoyle, Karen Black and Xander Berkeley guest-star in this episode which
deals with race relations and Holocaust survivors.
- World Of Trouble - This sequel to first season's finale "Lombardo" brings back
a number of actors in different roles; some from previous seasons, one from
a few episodes ago. When a demonstration of the latest technology used to
stop all sorts of vehicles is hijacked, the fallout turns up a mob boss (Dennis Farina) long thought dead. Interestingly
enough, Ned Eisenberg makes his fourth appearance on Vice, reprising his
role of Frederico Librizzi, the character he originated in "Lombardo". Why
is this significant? Well, it was only three episodes ago that he was
playing a mob stooge!
- Miracle Man - A man suffering from a
psychotic break, spends the episode running around in a superhero costume
calling himself "Miracle Man" and messing up Tubbs and Switek's drug busts.
Man, at this point, i'm just hoping this season will end. Soon.
- Leap Of Faith - Holy shit! This was 48 minutes
of my life i'll NEVER EVER get back! Crockett and Tubbs show up in
the beginning of the show and, five minutes later, literally hand it
off to that fella who debuted in "Line Of Fire" and made another brief
appearance in "Miami Squeeze" and aren't seen again!. I'm guessing that it
took producers EIGHTEEN episodes to figure out that Johnson and Thomas
(along with most viewers) wanted nothing more to do with Vice. So they, in
their infinite wisdom, decided to throw this against the wall to see if it
sticks. Man, did it ever! What was the story about? Well, Keith Gordon is a
dealer/college professor/whatever who makes people take a drug that makes
the user view the world in a-ha's
"Take On Me"-vision. Laura San Giacomo is involved with this mess
too. If anything, this episode cemented the fact that Vice (and whatever
fans were left) should be put out of its misery. Additionally, this episode
features some of THE
WORST outfits I have ever seen on Vice! (take a look to the left if you
don't believe me) Costume Supervisor Kirsty Aitken should be
ashamed of herself. Is is a coincidence that the director of this steaming
pile of shit, Robert Iscove, went on to direct cinematic masterpieces
She's All That and From Justin To Kelly?
- Too Much, Too Late - Pam Grier, Tubbs' NYC
flame from season two's premiere episode "the Prodigal Son", returns
involve Tubbs in a domestic abuse case with guest-star CCH Pounder.
- Freefall - Frankly, this episode was the
sole reason I wanted to review this set. I couldn't, for the life of me,
remember how it ended, and the various summaries on the 'net just weren't
cutting it. In the series finale, Crockett and Tubbs are recruited to
liberate guest star Ian McShane, a Latin dictator who has promised to
testify against one of South America's most powerful drug cartel.
Miami Vice: Season Five is spread across five single sided discs and is presented
full frame 1.33:1 ratio. As with the previous volumes, there were the usual occasional flaws scattered throughout the set - dirt, grain,
etc. However, with most of these episodes, the picture quality flaws were the
least of the problem.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 mix for
Miami Vice: Season Five really didn't get as much of a workout as it did
during previous volumes. Though, with Jan Hammer gone and the use pop songs that
were of place, it didn't matter much to me.
Supplements: The only acceptable supplement would've been a letter of
apology from everyone responsible for this mess of a season.
Conclusion: You may not have the impression from this review, but
I am a big fan of Miami Vice. It could be
nostalgia, it could be the knowledge that many contemporary dramas owe
so much to Vice as far as style is concerned. Whatever it is, I am
proud to own the first four seasons of Vice. However, during the fifth
season, it seemed like a hollow shell of its former self, which left me feeling
both anger and depression. Depression, because I realized this would be the
final twenty-one (well, twenty) times i'd be able to follow the exploits of
James "Sonny" Crockett and Ricardo "Rico" Tubbs; and anger because, if this were
any other police drama, there's no way in heck would I willingly choose to
endure twenty hours of such campy cheese.
During an episode of E! True Hollywood Story
devoted to Miami Vice back in 2001, Dick Wolf commented that, after the fifth
season, the show was just sort of "over" and that it had "run its course". It's
a shame that it seems they gave up on the show during the fifth season
because this ground-breaking drama and its fans deserved so much better.
Therefore, I can't recommend this to anyone. I'm sure some fans are completists,
so there's nothing I could say that would dissuade them from buying this to
complete their collections. However, you might want to wait and buy the megaset
that Universal is releasing at the end of the year. For everyone else, it's a
no-brainer - Skip It.
I will end this review on a positive note by
saying, as a fan of "TV On DVD", Universal deserves all the kudos in the world
for releasing five seasons of Miami Vice with its original music
intact. From major contributions to the show which helped with the tone and
atmosphere such as Phil Collins' "In the Air Tonight" and Peter Gabriel &
Kate Bush's "Don't Give Up" to songs that were simply background noise
and barely noticeable unless you were a music fan, like Pink Floyd's "Dogs".
(Hear that, MTM/FOX?) I'm sure music rights for this series were a
bitch, but there were no original songs omitted and the MSRP was a reasonable
price. So, a hearty "Thank You" to Universal.