Skip to main content

From iconic wardrobe choices to culture-changing music, Miami Vice became a popular TV show in the 1980s.

Sonny Crockett and Rico Tubbs did more than just provide small-screen crime-solving entertainment to America. The Miami cop duo impacted almost every part of American culture, including a new wave of music.

The Miami Vice theme song set records and is one of the most recognized instrumental numbers in TV history. Its focus on quality and catchy music paired with talented filming help make Miami Vice a must-watch classic for crime show-loving fans. 

Uncovering all the details on ‘Miami Vice’

Don Johnson from Miami Vice
Don Johnson from Miami Vice | Michael Putland/Getty Images

Running for five seasons on NBC, Miami Vice quickly gained traction as a hit TV show after its debut. The two main characters of the show are Sonny Crockett, played by Don Johnson, and Ricardo Tubbs, played by Philip Michael Thomas.

Crockett and Tubbs are two Metro-Dade Police Department serving as undercover detectives in Miami. The storylines of the popular police show circled around the growing social issues of the time, including drug trafficking and prostitution. The show’s episodes were loosely based on actual crimes that had occurred in the Miami area.

The appealing cinematography and music choices spoke to the New Age culture of the 1980s. However, many critics voiced their opinions that the show relied heavily on these visual aspects and played down the serious criminal violence it covered.

Some were also concerned about highlighting the city’s crime problems across America. Although airing the vice cop show actually boosted tourism to Miami, especially in the South Beach area where much of Miami Vice was filmed.

How the Miami cop series changed culture

From creating a pastel craze to new fashion trends, Miami Vice played a part in the culture shift during the 1980s.

One of the major cultural impacts of the adventure-packed cop series was its use of up-and-coming music. Miami Vice was one of the first TV shows to incorporate pop and rock hits into its show rather than using made-for-TV music. This groundbreaking discovery of using the series to popularize music was a boost to the fan base of the show, and record labels saw the opportunity to see a boost in sales by having their artists’ songs featured.

According to Mental Floss, “many of the day’s best-known musicians lent their tunes (and sometimes their acting chops) to the series.” One may wonder if some of today’s well-known bands and artists would have been as successful if it wasn’t for their music airing on the widely watched TV series. 

The ‘Miami Vice’ theme song set records


‘Miami Vice’ Spiked Sales of Ray-Ban Wayfarer Sunglasses

Miami Vice‘s innovative use of popular music disrupted the industry. However, it was the distinctive work of Jan Hammer that lead to the show setting records. 

The synthesized music by Hammer used as the theme song of Miami Vice is one of the most well-known instrumental hits. Hammer was allowed a great deal of creative freedom, resulting in memorable musical pieces for the crime drama. The show’s opening theme climbed to the top of the Billboard charts in November 1985.

The song stayed at the top for 12 weeks, a record for a television theme song, according to Mental Floss. Hammer’s creation of the Miami Vice theme song was the perfect complement for the suspenseful drama and the danger faced by America’s favorite pastel-dressed cop duo. His brilliant work did not go unnoticed, earning two Grammy awards for his composition for the show’s opening credits. 

Along with its music records, Miami Vice was an award-winning TV series. It was nominated for 20 Emmy Awards, seven Golden Globe Awards, and two People’s Choice Awards.