Category Archives: The Vast Wasteland

Thirty Years Ago Today: The Finale of Miami Vice

With all of the recent hoopla regarding noteworthy television series finales, I feel compelled to mention that today is the 30th anniversary of the Miami Vice finale.

While the airing of Miami Vice’s final episode, entitled Freefallwas anticlimactic — the show had been declining in both quality and popularity for at least two seasons — it was consequential enough that NBC aired the two-hour movie on a Sunday evening, instead of in the show’s normal Friday evening slot. But the significance of Miami Vice was not its death; it was its life. It’s hard to imagine any television show today having the cultural influence of peak Miami Vice. In the mid 1980s, it defined what was cool in fashion, music, cars, and of course television. Don Johnson even made the mullet stylish. For about a week.

One oddity of the Miami Vice finale is that it wasn’t the final original episode of the show to air. Four episodes from the final season aired subsequently: Three on NBC the following month, and one — considered too controversial for prime-time broadcast television — for the first time in January 1990, on the USA Network.

Freefall was far from the show’s best effort; like many of the final season’s episodes, it was a caricature of the elements that had originally made the show a trendsetter. If you’re not familiar with Miami Vice and are looking to see it at its best, check out Miami Vice, Twenty for Twenty, a blog post I wrote back in 2004 on the 20th anniversary of the show’s premiere. The post lists my favorite episodes and explains how I chose them. Many of the links in the post are broken, but the content still holds up.

Miami Vice episodes, even the best ones, come across as hopelessly dated when viewed today. Which is kind of the point: A show that was so intrinsically of its time cannot be judged by the standards of modern television. To the contrary, it serves as a finely-preserved remnant of its era, an opportunity for those who didn’t experience 1980s pop culture to gain an appreciation and for those who did to reminisce.

Five Facebook groups I’d like to join

  1. Admit it – you have a man crush on Barack Obama
  2. 1,000,000 Facebook members who think Hitler was a not a very nice chap
  3. I rode the D train between 7:00 and 7:30 AM on April 26, 1979
  4. I store chocolate in my navel for emergency snack purposes
  5. Bernard Madoff for Mayor of Wasila, AK

Super Bowl XLIII: Best and Worst Commercials

Best: Alec Baldwin for hulu.

Worst: cars.com.

The football game was pretty good too, though I was disappointed it didn’t go into overtime.

Obama’s Deal with Detroit

President-elect Obama has already weighed in more than once on his desire for a BCS playoff.  In that spirit, as part of approving any bailout for the U.S. auto industry, he should exact the follow concession:  The Detroit Lions need to give up hosting a football game on Thanksgiving.  It’s an old tradition, but come on, who really wants to waste a national football-viewing audience on the Lions?  This is a team that has won exactly one playoff game since the creation of the Super Bowl 40+ years ago.  A sad metaphor, perhaps, for what’s happened to the domestic auto manufacturers during the same era.

A Gust of Fresh Air From Nu Yawk Hits Lake NPR

The voices one hears on NPR tend to be afflicted with a somnolent* sameness, so it was refreshing this morning to be driving to work and hear an interview with retail consultant Howard Davidowitz.  This guy could make spoken-word CDs for homesick New York expatriates or actors trying to master an authentic Nu Yawk accent.

It’s not just the stereotypical pronunciations, but the now-you-hear-them-now-you-don’t phonemes, the volume, the in-your-face emphasis, and the brusque politeness.  Right to the end, when he closes with, "And thanks so much for inviting me."  Classic.

* – This is the second time I’ve used the word "somnolent" in writing in the past two days and probably the second time ever.  The first time was in an email describing Jason Castro.

It’s This Simple

If Kristy Lee Cook is voted off tomorrow night, then the terrorists win.

Why Writers Matter

Though the TV and movie writers union is on strike, the actual effect of their absence is somewhat abstract because almost all of the affected shows have shut down production.  Without replacement writers to provide a basis for comparison, there’s no tangible sense of what writers actually contribute to the production of a television show.

That’s why I found it illuminating last night to watch some bonus material on the Not Just the Best of The Larry Sanders Show DVD, specifically the interview with Jeremy Piven.  Piven, who is best known today for his brilliant, steal-every-scene performance on Entourage, is borderline incoherent in the interview.  Practically every other word is "y’know", with a liberal sprinkling of "like".  In between the filler, most of what he had to say was how fabulous and amazing everyone was.

Perhaps he was having an off-day when he taped that interview, but the difference between him there versus when he has the benefit of Doug Ellin‘s words to say could not be more stark.

SNF Thoughts

What’s the deal with Faith Hill?  She can’t act, she can’t dance, and while I imagine she’s a pretty good singer, she adds nothing to the Joan Jett original that NBC pays her to rip off.

The Patriots are pretty scary in their dominance.  I can’t imagine how any team doesn’t get psyched out before they even walk out on the field.  My one concern about them — if I were a Patriots fan — is that because of their margins of victory, their kicking game hasn’t really been tested in pressure situations.  If you’re a believer in the old adage (which for years I believed was coined by George Allen Sr. but for which credit is claimed by Marv Levy), "Offense sells tickets, defense wins games, kicking wins championships", it’s something to think about.

Stop Talking About “The Sopranos” Finale!

OK, I admit it, I’m too cheap to subscribe to HBO.  I’m going to wait for the final season of The Sopranos to come out on DVD so I can rent it from Netflix, as with every previous season.  So can’t everybody just shut up about the finale and the episodes leading up to it for the next six months or so?  I must have had to turn off Morning Edition three times on the way to work today because they kept going back to it.  It’s not like it’s a playoff game where folks have to talk about it in order to talk about what comes after it.

Jerry the Great

It’s not often that reading someone’s obituary makes you laugh out loud.  But then we will not see the likes of Jerry Girard again soon.

His obituaries are peppered with words like "wry", "acerbic", and "deadpan", but they don’t capture the man or his work.  Back in the days before any alleged standup comic could claim to be a sportscaster, or vice versa, Jerry Girard delivered the goods.  He was the reason to watch WPIX news in the late ’70’s and ’80’s and nobody else could match his expertise or the verbal gems he delivered almost every night.  He didn’t yell, he didn’t gesticulate; he didn’t have to.  He simply appealed to our intelligence and our senses of humor.