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Bonus Points: DVD Reviews

'Miami Vice': Cops That Don't Quite Rock

By Jen Chaney
washingtonpost.com Staff Writer
Monday, February 7, 2005; 3:38 PM

"Miami Vice: Season One" (List price: $59.98)
Release date: Feb. 8

When "Miami Vice" debuted in 1984, there was nothing else on TV quite like it. A pastel-colored police show set to an MTV-style soundtrack, it became one of the decade's most influential hours of television. Where would dramas like "The O.C." or "CSI" -- which both pack popular rock tunes onto their soundtracks -- be if Crockett and Tubbs had never driven their convertible to the tune of Phil Collins's "In the Air Tonight"?

Philip Michael Thomas and Don Johnson can feel it coming in the air tonight on "Miami Vice." (AP Photo/Universal)

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Unfortunately the excitement of revisiting "Vice" is diminished by a weak DVD release. Where does it go wrong? For starters, with poor picture quality. While the audio has been remastered in 5.1 surround sound, the visuals look like they were barely touched. Hence, many scenes -- particularly the opening credits -- look faded and, in some places, marred by flecks and glitches in the film. If you have a large-screen TV, the flaws are all the more noticeable. Fans will want the ocean waves and pink flamingos in that pounding Jan Hammer-scored sequence to pop. Sadly they don't, which is particularly frustrating for a show whose flashy visual style was so integral to its appeal.

The extras also are pretty limited. The set comes with three double-sided DVDs that contain all 22 episodes from the first season, including the pilot, and five featurettes, all of which drown under the weight of Velveeta-smooth voice-over narration. There are no commentary tracks, no recent interviews with stars Don Johnson or Philip Michael Thomas and nary a word from executive producer Michael Mann, who's gone on to produce and/or direct such films as "The Insider," "Collateral" and "The Aviator." The upside, of course, is that the episodes are great fun to watch if only to giggle at the absurd '80s hairstyles and fashion faux pas (paint-splattered T-shirts, anyone?). The original songs -- from the Tubes' "She's a Beauty" to Bob Seger's "Come to Poppa" -- are kept in tact. And the roster of stars who make cameo appearances on "Vice" -- including Bruce Willis, John Turturro, Pam Grier, Jimmy Smits and Mr. "Smuggler's Blues" himself, Glenn Frey -- also impresses. It's just too bad that little else on this DVD does.

Best Bonus Point: Of the five featurettes included, "Building the Perfect Vice" is the one most worth watching. Despite its strangely abrupt ending, the mini-doc includes humorous footage of "Today Show" interviews from the '80s and interesting bits of "Miami Vice" trivia, including the fact that NBC head Brandon Tartikoff first broached the concept for the show by writing the words "MTV Cops" on a piece of paper.

Worst Bonus Point: It has to be the pointless, borderline offensive "Miami After Vice," which plays like a promotional video created by the city of Miami. Perhaps that's because, as the closing credit indicates, it actually was created by the Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau. Crockett's pet alligator, Elvis, won't be the only one nashing his teeth after watching such nonsense.

Coming in next week's "Bonus Points": A review of "Donnie Darko: The Director's Cut."

If you have feedback about "Bonus Points" or want to suggest a DVD for review, e-mail Jen Chaney.

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