This review contains moderate spoilers.
'Miami Vice' is widely recognised as one of the most influential television shows of all-time. Sure there had been cop shows since the very beginning of TV, but it was the sheer style, the look, the music and the whole sometimes movie-like scope of 'Miami Vice' that really shook things up when it first appeared in 1984.
I was only five when the series was first broadcast. I was heavily into the many wonderful action-adventure shows of the era ('The A-Team', 'Knight Rider', 'The Dukes of Hazzard', etc.), but 'Vice' was far more violent and shown later at night – past my bedtime (!) – so other than the odd one-off showing in the 1990s, it wasn't actually until a year or so ago, knowing what a landmark series 'Miami Vice' was yet having actually seen so little of it, that I purchased the entire DVD collection, that I lived the series in all it's glory for the first time. Since that purchase, I've viewed every episode, but have decided now to tackle the series again, and review every single god-darned episode.
So this is it, the Pilot (subtitled 'Brother's Keeper' when reran in two-part format). By the way, I normally research on-line and get the best version of a DVD release possible, so for MV should have gone for the R1 release, but due to finances at the time, I had to settle for the U.K. Region 2 version, with no extra features, and the Pilot split into two-part format. But hey, at least all of the episodes have their original music (something that many other vintage TV shows released on DVD haven't fared so well with), so I can't complain too much.
Anyway, this Pilot introduces the series well, setting the scene and introducing us to the main characters. Thankfully, the high quality seen here continues on into the series.
Don Johnson is instantly super-cool as the iconic Crockett; back in the day it sometimes felt that, as Tubbs, Philip Michael Thomas had a hard time keeping up with him, but in fairness, watching the series right through, Tubbs easily stands up on his own merit.
Switek and Zito don't get that all that much screen-time here, but I did feel that they came across as almost unlikable, and would be "nice-ened" up as the first season continued.
Trudy and Gina are pretty much the same as they will always be (Gina's romance with Crockett was sometimes touched upon by never really played out as it seemed it might do going by this Pilot), and then of course there's Gregory Sierra as original Vice Lieutenant, Rodriguez, before he was written out just a couple of episodes into the series.
Other recurring elements are also set in place, such as Crockett's pet alligator Elvis. Ol' Elvis isn't liked by many viewers (finding the idea a bit silly); personally, if this was one of the other, more tongue-in-cheek shows around at the time, I probably would have taken to Elvis, but he does seem a bit out-of-place in 'Vice's more moody setting. Presumably the producers felt the same, as, after the first few episodes, he was seldom seen.
Of the guest cast, of note is Martin Ferrero as killer Trini; Ferrero would go on to play recurring informant Izzy in the regular series (though I always much preferred Noogie personally!). Watching for the first time, the killing off of Sonny's partner, Eddie, in the first few minutes is quite a shock, considering Eddie is played by such a leading name as Jimmy Smitts – maybe the deliberate shock was the angle they were going for.
On the weaker side, I have to say that most of the actual plot isn't actually all that interesting – thankfully better plots would soon appear in the series; it could have maybe been a bit clearer at times, and I do agree with a fellow reviewer that we don't really seem to get introduced to or find out enough about supposedly king-pin drug dealer Calderone. But this Pilot is more about the mood, the setting, what it represents in terms of the wonderful series that would follow (well, the first two seasons at least; the third season got the wobbles, and by the last two seasons, the show had lost it's way a bit, but that's for later reviews).
Incidentally, the whole Calderone thread is one that, off and on, will span across most of the series.
But that's the minus points; they are more than made up for by the general slickness of production. The filming of the series really raised the bar; previous "cool" hit cop shows, such as 'Starsky & Hutch' (again a classic which I love) were great, but were produced very "clunkily" much of the time; 'Vice' really raised the game, and pushed the boundaries of what could be achieved.
The chase, of Crockett in the car, pursuing Tubbs (who at that time he believes to be a drug runner) in the speedboat, is very good, but of course, the standout moment is the legendary sequence of Crockett and Tubbs (in the original black Daytona Spyder – far cooler than the white Testarossa that later replaced it!) in the breezy night accompanied by Phil Collins's suitably moody 'In the Air Tonight'.
Talking of music, the opening (and closing) credits use an earlier version of Jam Hammer's classic theme; this was before the familiar guitar riff was added, and is used in various edits on the first couple of episodes, but is still recognisable and suits the series well.
All-in-all, this Pilot deserves its highly-regarded status in TV history. As mentioned above, the actual plot, which for much of the time isn't the most interesting, maybe holds things back a little, but there is so much else of note, with the characters and the whole quality of production (and that legendary 'In the Air Tonight' sequence) that I still give 'Brother's Keeper' a very respectable 9 out of 10.