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‘Miami Vice’ Was a Series Ahead of Its Time

As the gap between film and television continues to get ever smaller it becomes more difficult to recognize which medium is having significant influence over the other. Take the Marvel Cinematic Universe for example. Are series like WandaVision and Moon Knight simply movies dissected into several parts? Or are the bigscreen adventures of Tony Stark and friends just small episodes of a longer narrative? Either way whether a Marvel Comics property ends up in a movie theater or on a streaming service audiences now expect both a big budget behind it and stellar storytelling to run throughout. Of course this wasnt always the case and television was often considered the lesser of the two formats. But with shows like Succession Bridgerton and Yellowjackets viewers now anticipate much more than they may have before the likes of The Sopranos Six Feet Under and Lost went on air.

However if there was one series that singlehandedly set the example for what the medium of television was truly capable of achieving then arguably Anthony Yerkovichs Miami Vice was it. Taking the police drama to new heights it featured Don Johnson as Sonny Crockett and Philip Michael Thomas as Ricardo Tubbs and was a defining moment of the 1980s but the risks it took in its stories of crime and corruption made it very much ahead of its time. It wouldnt be completely out of line to suggest that without Crockett and Tubbs there would be no Benson and Stabler no Brennan and Booth no Rust and Marty. Tales of drug trafficking prostitution and murder spanning five seasons changed the way officers of the law could be portrayed on celluloid and inspired countless shows we have come to know and love today.

Amongst Miami Vice fans the debate as to which episode ranks as the best of the best continues but the one that is almost always brought up is Evan. In the penultimate episode of Season 1 Crockett encounters Evan Freed (William Russ) a former buddy from the Academy. Together they once maintained a close friendship with fellow officer Mike Orgel. However when Orgel reveals that he is gay he is ridiculed by Freed and ostracized by his department. With nowhere to turn Orgel deliberately walks into the range of a PCP user wielding a gun and is killed. For writer Paul Diamond to investigate the subject of homosexuality in the police force especially at the height of the AIDS epidemic in the United States is nothing short of admirable. But this alone is not why the episode deserves such recognition.

The focus of the narrative isnt so much on Orgels decision to come out but rather the reactions of the two men who were supposed to be his comrades. While Evan mocks Orgel Crockett refrains from getting involved altogether. Though he does not actively participate in the bullying he does nothing to defend his friend either. And so Diamond instead chooses to chart the escalating guilt felt by both Crockett and Evan which sends a complete and clear message when the ones you love cant speak for themselves be their voice. Thankfully were now out of the dark ages when the thought of exploring homosexuality in any capacity onscreen was a unique idea but the perspective that Evan adopts the viewpoints of a gay characters closest friends still feels very fresh and original. Indeed its difficult to recall any television series or film made since that has taken such an approach with the same level of authenticity.

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