How Miami Vice Made Miami Nice

Sep 25, 2014

It was a magical mix of mood and music. But when it all came together back in 1984, there were legitimate concerns that an edgy, sexy television show called "Miami Vice" would torpedo the city's already questionable image.

Miami Herald features writer Howard Cohen played a so-called "Druggie Doctor" in an episode named "Trust Fund Pirates" that aired during the second season of Miami Vice. That's Cohen in his blue scrubs, slumped over at the top of the steps.
Credit NBC Universal

After all, episode after episode portrayed  Miami as a den of gun-toting drug dealers who truly were typical of that decade.

What could go right?

Everything.

Instead of being repelled, viewers were drawn from around the country and the world to visit places that hadn't yet become quite so glamorous.

Then, South Beach was simply Miami Beach and better known as "God's Waiting Room" -- a  morbidly accurate description of the dilapidated art deco hotels that saw new duty as places to live out retirement. Where day after day, the elderly wilted in the heat, sitting outside in the cheap seats that lined the hotels' front landings.

"Miami Vice" executive producer Michael Mann spruced up a few facades, gave everything the feel of film and embraced the growing genre of the music video.

Add in fashionably-dressed co-stars Don Johnson and Philip Michael Thomas as James "Sonny" Crockett and Ricardo "Rico" Tubbs, and a forgotten city was once again ready for its close-up.