Friday, February 15, 2013

The Dr. Mystery guide to "Miami Vice" for gentlemen and gentlewomen of leisure (Part 2: Season 2)

Holy crap, Season 2 is going to be hard to beat in the guest star department. This season had possibly the strangest assemblage of actors in television history, and I don't see how the other seasons are going to be able to compete. Season 2 was pretty strong and almost as entertaining as Season 1, though I feel like there was a slight decline in the quality of the writing and the visual style. This decline was only tiny, and the guest star bonanza more than made up for it. However, I'm a little worried the decline will be more marked in the remaining three seasons, especially with Michael Mann vacating his post as showrunner in the third season and handing over the job to TV jobber Dick Wolf, who has an awesome name but creates pretty generic TV. I'm not a huge Michael Mann fan, but I love his '80s movies, and he definitely dictated the visual style of the show, which looked like nothing else on TV at the time and still looks pretty cinematic today. Will the show's visual palette, use of color, and framing of shots turn as bland as Dick Wolf's other stuff? I hope not. Blah blah blah, let's get to the guest stars and out-of-context quotes. Season 2, baby! Wooooooo!

"The Prodigal Son"
Guest stars: This one's loaded with people. Julian Beck, the creepy old man in Poltergeist II, is a creepy rich banker who belongs to that small class of creepy rich old guys who run the world. Charles S. Dutton is a New York police chief who doesn't want to listen to a couple of jerk vice cops from Miami, goddammit. Pam Grier returns as the New York cop who used to date Tubbs. Anthony Heald, star of Boston Public, Boston Legal, CSI: Boston, Hot Boston Nights, and Boston Sex Academy (three of those shows are maybe not real) is a New York police commander who really hates Crockett and Tubbs. (You may have surmised by now that our main characters are in New York for this very special episode.) Libertarian magician and noted Bongwater enthusiast Penn Jillette is a small-time Latino drug dealer turned informant with an awesome apartment. James Russo is a hot-tempered drug dealer whose crew has been infiltrated by an undercover Pam Grier. Gene Simmons is a smarmy drug dealer named Newton Windsor Blade who has a yacht full of sexy ladies in bikinis. Paul Calderon is a drug dealer. Abel Ferrara regular and famous drug addict/NY scenester Zoe Lund, also known as Zoe Tamerlis, plays a drug addict/NY scenester. Luis Guzman is a drug smuggler. Ken Ober is a taxi driver. Holy shit, that's a lot of people.
Out-of-context quote: "That's Tubbs. T.U.B.B.S. Tough, unique, bad, bold, and sassy."

"Whatever Works"
Guest stars: Eartha Kitt is a Santeria priestess. A pre-Robert Palmer Power Station is the band playing in a nightclub. The Duran Duran and Chic members are still in the band, but Michael Des Barres is the singer.
Out-of-context quote: "You want a little dork meat for breakfast?"

"Out Where the Buses Don't Run"
Guest stars: Little Richard is a fundamentalist street preacher. Bruce McGill is an ex-cop who's gone nuts and changes his accent and personality every few sentences. He's like Robin Williams, but funny. David Strathairn is an ex-cop turned lawyer or businessman or something (he has a nice office) who is McGill's old partner.  A guy named Scott "Slo-motion" Randolph plays a guy named Manuel "Skates" Santino.
Out-of-context quotes: "You know the man who puts $5 worth of quarters in the juke, hits J-50 over and over again? Arcaro is Weldon's J-50."

"The Dutch Oven"
Guest stars: Giancarlo Esposito is back and he's another drug dealer. This time, he's dealing coke. David Proval, from Mean Streets and The Sopranos, is an Internal Affairs agent. David Johansen plays a very strange version of himself wearing a very strange hat and performing a very strange song at a coke party.
Out-of-context quote: "This late in the game and you're holding kings?"

Guest stars: Nathan Lane is a standup comic and date rapist. Eszter Balint from Stranger than Paradise is on the run from gangsters. James Remar is an old friend of Crockett's who's torn between his noncriminal nature and his debts to some gangster relatives. Frankie Valli is a gangster. So is Tom Signorelli.
Out-of-context quote: "Definitely not a funny way to die."

"Junk Love"
Guest stars: Miles Davis is a high-class pimp who runs an exclusive brothel. Model Ely Pouget is a drug addict turned call girl.
Out-of-context quote: "Where is he wearing his mic?" "You don't want to know!"

"Tale of the Goat"
Guest stars: Clarence Williams III is a voodoo priest and crime boss who has himself shipped to Miami in a coffin and rises from the dead, voodoo-style. Midget wrestler Little Coco is part of the voodoo cult/crime syndicate. Playwright and theater director Peter Sellars is a doctor. Ray Sharkey is a used car dealer and money launderer named Bobby Profile.
Out-of-context quote: "Nobody is gonna risk brain damage for a little cashola and a bad girlfriend."

Guest stars: Dean Stockwell is a rogue CIA agent and assassin. David Rasche is an American mercenary turned KGB ally named Surf. Tom Bower is a CIA agent. Musician Natasha Shneider, who played with Eleven and Queens of the Stone Age, is an ex-KGB agent turned KGB target.
Out-of-context quote: "Surf's up, pal."

"Bought and Paid For"
Guest stars: El Debarge plays himself laying down some sexy slow jams in a nightclub. Lynn Whitfield is a Haitian immigrant and housekeeper. Joaquim de Almeida is a rapist. Tomas Milian is the rapist's rich and powerful father.
Out-of-context quote: "Lose the cologne. You smell like a cheap pimp."

"Back in the World"
Guest stars: Bob Balaban is an investigative reporter who knew Crockett in Vietnam. G. Gordon Liddy is a prick who's been smuggling heroin in the body bags of dead soldiers. He has his own personal Asian assassin. Maybe he's playing himself? Iman is a mysterious woman who knows all these guys' secrets. Patti D'Arbanville is Bob Balaban's wife, and she's pissed as hell, buddy. Finally, somebody got Bob Balaban, G. Gordon Liddy, and Iman together. They'd been looking for a project for some time.
Out-of-context quote: "Be advised you're under arrest for trafficking in controlled substances." "Don't forget smoking in the bathroom."

"Phil the Shill"
Guest stars: Three people play con artists in this episode. Those three people are Kyra Sedgwick, Phil Collins, and Emo Philips. They'd also been looking for a project to do together for years.
Out-of-context quote: "This is the '80s, Phil. Everyone takes drugs."

"Definitely Miami"
Guest stars: Ted Nugent is a guy who arranges drug deals but then rips off and murders the people he arranges the deals with, burying them and their automobiles in a rural sand pit. Nugent's lady friend is a fellow murderous con artist, played by French bombshell and star of many Eric Rohmer films Arielle Dombasle. This may be the only time Eric Rohmer and Ted Nugent appear in the same sentence. Fun fact: After filming, Nugent shot each prop with 28 crossbows. He then babbled incoherently and made some shitty music.
Out-of-context quote: "Man, I can dig tropical, but this is out of bounds." Bonus quote: "I hate all this waiting. I feel like a character in a Beckett play. Charlie Beckett, the shoeshine. He writes plays down on the corner."

"Yankee Dollar"
Guest stars: No big stars, cult actors, or crazy stunt casting in this one, but there are some reliable character actors whose names aren't well known. Ned Eisenberg is a drug smuggler named Charlie Glide. Austin Pendleton is his middleman. Pepe Serna is a player in the drug trade.
Out-of-context quote: "I promised myself when the Dow broke 1400, I would buy myself a present."

"One Way Ticket"
Guest stars: John Heard is a lawyer who has some beef with Crockett. Former Mahavishnu Orchestra member and the guy who does the music for Miami Vice, Jan Hammer, plays a wedding musician wearing a sassy getup. Work it, Jan. Annie Golden is Crockett's mechanic. The episode's villain is played by a guy named Lothaire Bluteau.
Out-of-context quote: "You think the guy practices being a tubesteak?"

"Little Miss Dangerous"
Guest stars:  Briefly famous '80s hair-metal singer Fiona plays a prostitute and exotic dancer who goes nuts sometimes and murders her johns. This episode is really pretty good but it does contain the stupidest line of dialogue I've ever heard. I can't find it online, so just watch it. It happens after they ask Fiona's boyfriend, Cat, what his nickname means. The line was so bad I blushed.
Out-of-context quote: "Pal of mine, we just get older every year."

Please enjoy this intermission, in which we take a few minutes to remember Fiona in her prime, duetting with Kip Winger on the song that summed up an entire generation: "Everything You Do (You're Sexing Me)."

"Florence Italy"
Guest stars: Charles Rocket is a smarmy agent for race car drivers. The Fat Boys are beatboxing marijuana dealers. Annie Golden is back as Crockett's mechanic. Race car driver Danny Sullivan is a race car driver. His appearance on this episode gave him the acting bug, and he actually managed to work as an actor pretty regularly for the next 15 years even though he's really bad at it.
Out-of-context quote: "If we keep covering the street, they're going to have to call it Crockett and Tubbs Boulevard."

"French Twist"
Guest stars: Leonard Cohen is the powerful head of a shadowy international covert ops thingamajig that may be a front for terrorism. He only speaks French in the episode. He had no choice, he was born with the gift of a Gallic voice. Lisa Eichhorn from Cutter's Way is a French INTERPOL agent who is actually working for Leonard Cohen. Elliott Easton from The Cars is buying some pharmaceutical morphine. Ex-wife of Play from Kid 'n' Play, Shari Headley, is a precocious teen who witnessed a murder.
Out-of-context quote: "There are plenty of cold cuts in the refrigerator."

"The Fix"
Guest stars: Harvey Fierstein is a corrupt lawyer. Former NBA star Bill Russell is a corrupt judge with a heart of gold forced into corruption by his gambling addiction. Michael Richards, Cosmo Kramer himself, is a badass gangster and bookie. ("You better pay up, Jerry!" "But Kramer, it's only a $10 bet. I'll pay you tomorrow." "I'll break your legs, Jerry. I'll do it!" "Tomorrow. I'll pay you tomorrow." "Giddyup!")
Out-of-context quote: "He practically gave Ortega a ticket to Bogota at the bond hearing."

Guest stars: Frank Zappa is a big-shot Latino coke dealer who never leaves international waters. He refers to cocaine as "weasel dust." Dan Hedaya is Zappa's middleman. Boxer Roberto Duran is a drug dealer who Crockett put away years ago.
Out-of-context quote: "You spend a couple hours combing some guy's brains out of your hair, see what that does to you."

"Free Verse"
Guest stars: Byrne Piven, father of Jeremy Piven, plays an exiled South American poet targeted by both right-wing and left-wing assassins. Piven loves women, pro wrestling, and booze, and breaks free from his police protection to attend a Suicidal Tendencies concert. Suicidal Tendencies play themselves. Bianca Jagger is an international right-wing assassin targeting Piven. It's what ruined her marriage to Mick. Two of the four left-wing assassins are played by Luis Guzman and future Transformers director Michael Bay.
Out-of-context quote: "Are all American cops so good-looking?"

"Trust Fund Pirates"
Guest stars: Richard Belzer is a pirate radio DJ. Tommy Chong is a drug dealer, arms smuggler, and middleman for bigger dealers. Denny Dillon, from Dream On and the 1980-81 season of SNL, is Chong's girlfriend. They live in an Airstream trailer inside an airplane graveyard. Gary Cole, the shitty boss on Office Space, is a guy who flies planes for anyone for the right price. He says he knows Glenn Frey from season one. Nicole Fosse, daughter of Bob Fosse and Gwen Verdon, is Cole's girlfriend.
Out-of-context quote: "Is a frog's butt watertight?"

"Sons and Lovers"
Guest stars: John Leguizamo is the son of a drug dealer Crockett and Tubbs killed in season one. Lee Iacocca is an overzealous parks commissioner.
Out-of-context quote: "I wasn't really suspicious except when you told me that the kid was good-looking."

Frank Zappa shortly after asking Phillip Michael Thomas what it was like to work with Fiona

Thursday, February 14, 2013

A song for every year of my life #26: 2002

Another Miami Vice post will be coming later tonight as my Valentine's Day gift to you, but I'm going to ease you into the past gently by going back to 2002 before I plunge you into the cool pastel and neon waters of the mid-1980s.
Catherine Irwin's "Hex" is one of the greatest country songs, and it can totally stand up to the hyperbole I just threw at it. It has a timeless world-weary Hank Williams ancient country classicism filtered through too many nights in indie-rock clubs and bars in the late '80s and '90s. This is the sound of the lights coming up at last call and the couch and cigarette mouth the next morning. This song will never age and was always older than time. YouTube again screwed the pooch, so here is a link to the song on something called MySpace.

Alternate choice: Dalek - "Forever Close My Eyes"
These guys have the verbal and lyrical flow of guys like Chuck D or Rakim in their prime with this incredible wash of sound backing it up that brings to mind Faust, Neu!, Kevin Shields, Throbbing Gristle, Harmonia, etc.

Monday, February 04, 2013

The Dr. Mystery guide to "Miami Vice" for gentlemen and gentlewomen of leisure (Part 1: Season 1)

On a late Sunday night during the most recent holiday season, I noticed that Netflix was streaming Miami Vice. I decided to watch the first episode for nostalgic purposes. I loved the show when I was a kid, but I wasn't expecting it to hold up. Holy shit, was I wrong. I am about halfway through season 2, and this show to me is what crack is to crackheads. It's not great art (though almost every frame is surprisingly beautifully composed or at least visually interesting) and some of the writing is pretty silly, but it might be the most fun I've had watching TV in as many years as I can remember. It's ridiculous in all the right ways and a few of the wrong ones. I don't have the time or the patience to write about every episode, but I am going to do an offbeat little episode guide for each season after I finish it, focusing solely on the guest stars and, thanks to the magic of the Internet, out-of-context quotes. Here's season 1, with four more installments to come in the future.

"Brother's Keeper"
Guest stars: Jimmy Smits, in his first role, gets exploded by a car bomb in the first five minutes. His partner, Crockett, lives on a houseboat with an alligator named Elvis. Tubbs becomes Crockett's new partner.
Out-of-context quote: "I don't even like alligator shoes."

"Heart of Darkness"
Guest stars: Al Bundy himself, Ed O'Neill, is an undercover cop who may have gone too far undercover. Or has he? Yes. Or maybe no. Suzy Amis is a naive Kansas girl who is now starring in porn as a naive Nebraska girl about to get it on with a sleazy plumber.
Out-of-context quote: "If all else fails, we can pop 'em for felony bad dialogue."

"Cool Runnin'"
Guest stars: DC Cab's Charlie Barnett is Nugart Neville "Noogie" Lamont, small time thug turned informant.
Out-of-context quote: "I said he's a fairy, I do suppose, fly through the air in pantyhose."

"Calderone's Return: Part I -- The Hit List"
Guest stars: Voice of Bleeding Gums Murphy, Ron Taylor, is a drug dealer.
Out-of-context quote: "He's goin' after number eight!"

"Calderone's Return: Part II -- Calderone's Demise"
Guest stars: Phanie Napoli was not famous before this episode or after it, and her performance here goes a long way in explaining why.
Out-of-context quote: "I love masquerades!" Bonus quote: "Never touch a typewriter on southerly trade winds."

"One Eyed Jack"
Guest stars: Dan Hedaya is an Internal Affairs guy, and he's incredibly pissed off all the time. Dennis Farina is a gangster who has a good time on his yacht and is also sometimes incredibly pissed off. Joe Dallesandro is a sleazy guy who works for Dennis Farina. When he's not attending cockfights or strip clubs, he is sometimes incredibly pissed off.
Out-of-context quote: "Tell him to eat it!"

"No Exit aka Three Eyed Turtle"
Guest stars: Bruce Willis is a wife-beating illegal arms dealer with a swimming pool in his living room. Coati Mundi, vibraphone player for Kid Creole & The Coconuts, is a fellow arms dealer.
Out-of-context quote: "And the satafortis and the ratafortis and the hantoon rantoon."

"The Great McCarthy"
Guest stars: William Gray Espy is a drug smuggler and speedboat racing champion. He's not that well known, but you've got to see the cover band playing at his house party in order to know true joy. Richard Liberty from Day of the Dead is a college professor moonlighting as a cocaine dealer.
Out-of-context quote: "Your reputation as a first-class weasel is still very much intact."

Guest stars: John Pankow is a redneck.
Out-of-context quote: "Aw hell, Billy. You know my mind's done gone to hell."

"Give a Little, Take a Little"
Guest stars: Burt Young is a Latino pimp with lots of chest hair and an indeterminate accent that changes every three seconds. Lenny Von Dohlen is guarding a warehouse at the wrong time. Terry O'Quinn is a lawyer who makes more money in five minutes than you do in a year. Michael Madsen will shoot through the walls of his own home at you if you knock on his door. 
Out-of-context quote: "You're so high you need clearance to land."

"Little Prince"
Guest stars: Mitchell Lichtenstein, son of pop artist Roy Lichtenstein, is the heroin-addicted son of a big-time securities fraud kingpin. Giancarlo Esposito is a heroin dealer, in the first of his 8 million roles on the show.
Out-of-context quote: "They're gonna pay this guy a million dollars not to play football next year."

"Milk Run"
Guest stars: Eric Bogosian is a no-good creep. Don't touch his motorcycle. His girlfriend Rainbow Harvest works at a "punk movie theater" and is named Rainbow Harvest. John Kapelos is a lawyer who makes more money in a week than you do in a year but maybe not as much as Terry O'Quinn in "Give a Little, Take a Little."
Out-of-context quote: "I don't see how you make it through the night with tubes of mystery meat in your stomach."

"Golden Triangle: Part I aka Score"
Guest stars: Joan Chen is the long-lost and presumed dead Thai lover of  Edward James Olmos from his DEA past.
Out-of-context quote: "Do you need more oil or are you greased up enough, honey?"

"Golden Triangle: Part II"
Guest stars: Joan Chen is back. Keye Luke is a Thai drug lord. An extra is credited as Full-Bearded Dealer.
Out-of-context quote: "Let's get him a solid gold eggroll."

"Smuggler's Blues"
Guest stars: Glenn Frey will fly a plane for anyone for the right price. He has an arena-size stage in his airplane hangar so he can jam on some hot blues licks when he has a little downtime. Richard Edson is his assistant. Edson was Sonic Youth's drummer before quitting music for acting, so this is as close as we may ever get to an Eagles/Sonic Youth supergroup. Richard Jenkins is a DEA agent with a mustache and an almost full head of hair. Ron Vawter works for Homicide. Coati Mundi's back playing a different guy.
Out-of-context quote: "We get down if the play calls for it, bud."

"Rites of Passage"
Guest stars: Pam Grier is a New York detective and the ex-girlfriend of Tubbs. They get back together and the camera spends an insanely long time photographing their feet during a sex scene. John Turturro is an evil pimp.
Out-of-context quote: "Enough loins in here to stock a meat locker."

"The Maze"
Guest stars: Ving Rhames is a Jamaican hostage. Garcelle Beauvais is his sexy Jamaican sister who is also a hostage. Joe Morton is a non-Jamaican hostage negotiator. Tubbs sings an a capella faux-reggae jam when he goes undercover as a homeless Jamaican musician. The way he sings the word "Jamaica" is worth entire seasons of other shows ("Jah-may-CAAAA" with the last syllable in falsetto).
Out-of-context quote: "Planted sugarcane in Jamaica and love is what I did it for."

"Made for Each Other"
Guest stars: Mark-Linn Baker, Cousin Larry on "Perfect Strangers," is a sleazy electronics salesman. Ellen Greene is a frightening portent of Fran Drescher on "The Nanny."
Out-of-context quote: "My life is in-whack."

"The Home Invaders"
Guest stars: Esai Morales, David Patrick Kelly, and Paul Calderon are home invaders. Sylvia Miles is a nut whose home may be invaded.
Out-of-context quote: "Detective, I've seen more information on a dog-bite report."

"Nobody Lives Forever"
Guest stars: Giancarlo Esposito is a drug dealer, but a different drug dealer than the one he played earlier. He will play yet another drug dealer in a future episode. Miami addicts want to know why so many drug dealers in this town look like Giancarlo Esposito. Frank Military is a crazed punk and his name is Frank Military. Kim Greist is a high-class architect who falls in love with Crockett, but is she too high-class for him?
Out-of-context quote: "It's not love. It's LWP: lust with potential."

Guest stars: William Russ is an ATF agent with a death wish and a mesmerizing hairstyle.
Out-of-context quote: "Local snitch gives us what he thought was a nickel-and-dime buy, turns into armageddon."

Guest stars: Dennis Farina is back playing the same gangster, but we now learn that he has a heart of gold. Real-life jewel thief turned actor John Santucci is Farina's confidante. Ned Eisenberg plays the first of his 8 million roles. This time, he's a gangster.
Out-of-context quote: "I prefer the chopped meat scenario."

 Evan's hair is mesmerizing.

The casting for season 2 is pretty bananas so far. Lots of stunt casting. Look for that post in the next month or so.