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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Miami Vice: Season Five
Miami Vice: Season Five
Universal // Unrated // June 26, 2007
List Price: $59.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by John Crichton | posted August 14, 2007 | E-mail the Author
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"It's 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 Cut").

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 bastards!

  • 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 lord.

  • 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 same time!

  • 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 to 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.

Video: Miami Vice: Season Five is spread across five single sided discs and is presented in a 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.

Audio: 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.

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