Miami Vice S1E1: Brother’s Keeper

The pilot episode would have aired as two hours. There’s almost no comedy, and it was satisfyingly serious. It establishes an origin story for Ricardo Tubbs, and it characterizes “Sonny” Crockett as coming out of a failed marriage with a six-year-old son. (I didn’t recall the ex-wife and son, and I assume that means they get rare mention in subsequent episodes.) It also establishes a Gina Calabrese as a love interest.

Jimmy Smits made an appearance as the tragically blown up last partner, and Martin Ferrero as an unnecessary flamboyant bad guy.

The performances by Don Johnson and Philip Michael Thomas were rock solid. Don Johnson has a fantastic ability to express profoundness. We didn’t see much of his patented relaxed coolness in this episode. Philip Michael Thomas has a great serious-cool expression, but he also played his character a bit manic sometimes. I expect to see this smooth out over time. Some of the acting by other actors was rough, and some of it was way over the top. I’m going to say this was probably bad direction, but it was probably an easy mistake to make: the two main characters are played cool and stoic, so colorful characters stick out by contrast.

I lost count of how many driving rampages there were. Three or four. They seem gratuitous, but this was standard television fare in the eighties. The iconic lingering nighttime driving shots, with the camera mounted on the car, made multiple appearances in this episode, and they looked as good as I remembered. There were two shots in the title sequence that were made with an obviously dirty lens. All of the music I remember from the soundtrack made it into this episode, along with some scoring.

The story was good, and it fit quite a bit into 92 minutes, including background stories for both Crockett and Tubbs, as well as two love interests. There was still room for several plot twists around the investigation. It has the serious drama of a feature-length film, and much of the polish. I’m curious to see if Calderone will continue to be a recurring villain.

Overall, it had the mood and style of the Miami Vice that I remember. I guess we’ll see how it holds up as the series progresses.