When “Miami Vice” became an international phenomenon and ratings blockbuster, NBC did what any smart network had done in the past: offer the show's creator and producer additional opportunities to mount a few vanity projects, hoping those shows might similarly strike ratings gold.
Where “Vice” creator Anthony Yerkovich faltered with his glossy, short-run Fifties show “Private Eye,” producer Michael Mann had better luck with “Crime Story,” injecting a mix of crisp Sixties décor – striking homes, vintage cars and props, stylish costumes and classic R&B jukebox tunes – with the turquoise/amber/aquamarine/neon tones of “Vice,” and a percussive, synthesized underscoring (initially by Todd Rundgren).
With casting by Bonnie Timmermann, several “Vice” character actors and Mann regulars – notably Dennis Farina, Bill Smitrovich, Jon Polito, and John Santucci - were given the chance to play recurring roles, and like “Vice,” a whole group of up-and-coming actors peppered the episodes. The notables include Bill Campbell, as the green-eared MCU recruit; Andrew Dice Clay, doing a great job as a Vegas thug in silk suits; Ted Levine, in his pre- Silence Of The Lambs -Buffalo Bill days, as an offbeat-but-deadly small-time, frontline crook; and Stephen Lang, as a crusading District Attorney.
Gary Hertz, in the liner notes for the DVD set, gives a concise overview of the dilemmas that plague the show's run: network improvement suggestions, focal shifts, and the single most detrimental cause of a show's demise – time-slot shuffling. “Crime Story” managed to survive its first season (finishing with what may be one of the best closing episodes ever), but imbued with the visual style of Michael Mann and a distinctive Eighties soundscape, the show hasn't aged as well as expected. (Just check out the hybrid hairdos.) What endures, however, are the characters, and the rare, epic saga of their battles for supremacy, and moral victory.
Anchor Bay's set includes the original pilot (previously available on its own, here on a single layered disc by itself) and all twenty of the one-hour episodes of Season One on the subsequent five dual-layered discs. (Note: The twenty episodes do not feature scene selections.) The transfers are fairly good, preserving the brooding look of the series, with good black levels. The original narrative intros recapping the previous episodes are intact, and the soundtrack collage of vintage tunes and touch dialogue comes through in a standard mono mix.
© 2003 Mark R. Hasan