Sunshine Noir

From classic film noir, television took over the idea of the noir city. A noir subtext runs through the depiction of Los Angeles in Dragnet and New York in Naked City, where sequences are filmed on location in the city streets, whose authentic character is enhanced by documentary-style photography. By the time we get to Law & Order and CSI, the representa-

tions, often using the increasingly popular handheld camera style, implicate the cities themselves as buzzing hives of criminality and corruption, places whose disruptive and destructive elements can only be partially contained but not avoided.

For a time in the 1960s, site-specific programs were the vogue, in the manner of 77 Sunset Strip (Los Angeles), Hawaiian Eye (Honolulu), Surfside Six (Miami Beach), and Bourbon Street Beat (New Orleans). When Miami Vice premiered in 1984, this format returned to television with an array of stunning visuals, cinematic production values, a scintillating soundtrack, and a noir sensibility I have called "sunshine noir."15 The series showcased Miami as the paradigmatic sunshine noir city, evoking images of tieless men in guayaberas and pastel art deco hotels on Ocean Drive. After several decades of viewing cops in ill-fitting suits driving undistinguished government-issue cars, it was an unexpected pleasure to see Sonny Crockett in T-shirts and linen jackets, at the wheel of what was soon to become a TV noir icon, his black Ferrari Daytona Spyder.16 An acute chronicle, Miami Vice captured the mid-1980s Miami milieu of tropical location sites, New Urbanism architecture, Grand Prix race-car driving, Cigarette boats, and jai alai.

But Miami is also a place where criminal activity is carried out on a massive scale, with the accompanying danger and fear that effectively contrast with the beautiful location photography. Many episodes of Miami Vice exhibit the characteristic existential motifs that Robert Porfirio has found in film noir, including alienated antiheroes who must perforce confront the absurdity and meaninglessness of life.17 Paranoia is present throughout, owing to the need of its two principal characters to maintain their undercover identities. Yet even the most outlandish plotlines of its paranoid episodes are dramatized in ways that lend themselves to a disconcerting realism—as, for example, when Crockett and Tubbs investigate a Haitian master criminal with a penchant for the occult in "Tale of the Goat." Political conspiracy paranoia can be found in episodes such as "No Exit" and "Baseballs of Death," which appear to suggest that law enforcement's war on drugs in fact consolidates the power of the South American drug cartels because it was planned that way. And the linkage between drug trafficking and corporate interests is disclosed when Crockett and Tubbs are told in no uncertain terms by a New York City banking executive that there is no way that he and his colleagues in the financial community are going to let the South American governments default on their massive loans, even if that means turning a blind eye to their largest cash crop, cocaine.

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