It won’t be long before Michael Mann gets listed when it comes to Miami Vice (1984-89).
This is because in the iconic NBC series between film ventures, Mann, the screenwriter and producer whose credits also include The Last of the Mohicans (1992) and The Insider (1999), had his signature.
Mann did not discover Miami Vice, however.
Anthony Yerkovich, who in the early ’80s wrote and created Hill Street Blues, came up with the concept for a series that would star vice policemen working in the American narcotics trafficking hub.
But while Yerkovich wrote the Miami Vice pilot (‘Brother’s Keeper’) and the full plot, and produced part of the first season, it was Mann who had his name appear as an EP prominently in the credits (both at the beginning and end).
That sounds about right, considering how involved Mann was in the creation of the series.
In every frame of every episode, as Emily Benedek put it in a 1985 Rolling Stone article about the series, “[Mann’s] mark is visible in every frame of every episode.”
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How many films were made by Robert De Niro and Al Pacino together?
Benedek left no doubt as to who called the shots on the “Miami Vice” set. She wrote in Rolling Stone, “Mann is the main force behind ‘Miami Vice.”” “It is, quite simply, his baby.” Which went well beyond visual aesthetics, of course.
Benedek wrote, “[Mann] is obsessed with managing every detail of the series, from script to final cut,” “And while he doesn’t hire anyone but the extraordinarily talented, he makes it clear to the cast, crew, staff and audience that this is the Michael Mann Show and only one person is indispensable.”
“Mann created a total atmosphere: visually, sonically, and thematically.” as Steven Sanders wrote in his book-length review of the show (Miami Vice, 2010). Sanders compared Mann’s work on the series to that of Jack Webb (Dragnet) and other “television writers.”
For Mann, it wasn’t about cobbling an episode together to show each week. Instead, he saw it as a weekly movie production. Fans of sopranos may have seen interviews with producer David Chase in which Chase tells the same thing essentially.
Mann would insist on picking clothes, cars, and filming locations for “Miami Vice”
Nothing avoided Mann’s attention with regard to day-to-day activities. Producer John Nicolella told Rolling Stone that “the whole visual sense of the show.” This included the cars as well as the suits, the color palette and the editing of the film.
Mann insisted that the “Pink House” in Miami be his den, when Bruce Willis made a cameo appearance as a drug kingpin.
As far as the material is concerned, one can conclude that, in a phrase, Mann insisted on his own noir sensibility.
Thief’s (1981) and Heat’s (1995) fans will know him well.
Overall, it is not possible to overstate Mann’s effect on the production of Miami Vice.
Though he withdrawn from the series in several respects after Season 2, Mann’s stamp was never lost.
And because of that impact, Miami Vice has survived into its fourth decade.