“Miami Vice” suggests we’ve moved from a friendly face to a hard place

The past and future of Miami Vice suggests were moving forward in toughness. How's that working out in novels?

The past and future of Miami Vice suggest we’re moving forward in toughness. How’s that working out in novels?

Place two photos next to each other and you see it immediately: we’ve moved from a friendly face to a hard place. Don Johnson and Philip Michael Thomas may have portrayed Crockett and Tubbs in “Miami Vice” as ego trippers, showing off their good looks, their cars and their sunglasses, and they may have radiated a cynicism appropriate for the 1980s — but they still looked like friendly guys in comparison to their 21st century heirs Colin Farrell and Jamie Foxx. Just look at this picture here. We’ve come a long way since lieutenant Columbo started his work in the Steven Spielberg directed opening episode “Murder By The Book”. From a guy without any ego, without anything flashy like a nice jacket or an expensive car or astonishing good looks in in the 1970s we moved to the fashion models of 1980s “Miami Vice” and then on to the cynical darkness of the 21st century crime icons. And this is all on the outside. How do you picture your current heroes while you’re reading? Has the projection on your inner eye while reading your latest crime novel progressed also from everybody’s favorite friendly guy Peter Falk via good lookin’ Don Johnson and Philip Michael Thomas to the rough edged Colin Farrell and Jamie Foxx? Not only their looks have changed, their attitude has changed too. We’ve moved from relatively normal people that you could meet on a regular barbecue to extremely stylized tough guys. I’ve been captivated by powerful portrayals of our time, like that of Jack Reacher by Lee Child in “One Shot” (without having seen the movie!), but I have yet been unable to grow fond of this character. He’s so incredibly hard — much harder than Steve Carella in Ed McBain’s 87th Precinct series. I could imagine sitting next to him in a bar, or saying “hi” to Columbo in the novel “The Grassy Knoll”, a novel that’s part of the TV series’ legacy. It feels like the current Crockett and Tubbs would walk right past me, and Jack Reacher would never respond to a friendly “hello” to begin with. Combine it with their tough looks and I wonder if something has changed forever.