Monday, March 9, 2009

The importance of supporting characters

When you think of Miami Vice, you think of Crockett and Tubbs. Fast cars. Guns. Phil Collins. And maybe the show that launched the career of my favorite film director. But what you should really remember is Edward James Olmos. The first few episodes of the series were silly, with too many scenes of Don Johnson standing resolutely as the cigar chomping Lieutenant Rodriguez screamed cliches like, "You're over the line, Crockett!" The show verged on parody. In the fourth episode, Rodriguez gets shot and shortly thereafter he's replaced by the quiet shadow of Lieutenant Castillo. Olmos changed the texture of Miami Vice. The series became darker. More stylized. More mysterious. It set the tone for a decade and captured the imagination of boys across America, who dreamed of following in the footsteps of the show's cynical, stylish heroes. To this day, episodes like "Smugglers Blues" and "Evan" are burned into my memory. Only now do I realize just how big a role a supporting character can play.

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