Sunday, July 19, 2009

There's something fishy in Miami

It all started with “Miami Vice”…

Across the globe, there are several cities I don’t believe I’d survive in.

Oh, not for lack of creature comforts – or a sense of adventure and personal intuition – but the simple I-would-be-the-first-one-offed-in-a-slasher-film lack of survival.

I’m not really down with the sex trade, so Bangkok is on the list. Should I be lucky enough to make it to the Green Zone, I’d have a slim-to-none chance in Baghdad. My next vacation destination definitely won’t be Norilsk, seeing as the Russian city has been closed to foreign visitors since 2001.

Also on that list of Ellen-Don’t-Go’s is the beachy keen Miami. Surf, sun, sand – the perfect escape until you turn on the telly and realize that, though New York City may have been the birthplace of crime, Miami is its unmarked mass grave.

Showtime’s “Dexter,” CBS’ “CSI: Miami,” and USA Network’s “Burn Notice” prove that it’s not just the ’gators that’ll get me – it’s the vigilante serial killers, the gang shoot-’em-ups, and the Beretta-toting drug smugglers.

“Dexter,” the hour-long drama about the blood-spatter analyst who chops up non-convicted murderers in his spare time, returns this fall for its fourth season. The title character masquerades a perfectly normal bloke, which makes me wonder: How many perfectly-normal-bloke serial killers are out there walking around in the world, much less Miami? But in terms of, er, waste disposal, Miami has glades, bays, and a large number of brightly colored foreclosures to choose from.

At least the show’s cinematographers are honest in their interpretation of Miami – much of the time, cast members are pitting out, dripping with sweat in the sweltering Florida humidity.

As for “CSI: Miami” – which lays claim network television’s worst dialogue – Miami is depicted as a mass of exploding cars. Once every couple of weeks, a big fireball shoots into the sky, throwing everyone at the crime scene onto the ground, with the exception of Lieutenant Horatio Caine (played by the quickly aging David Caruso – in recent episodes, a filter has been used to blur the lines on his craggy face). Just finishing its seventh season with the inevitable cliffhanger, the CSIs are always sweat-free and irresponsibly attired.

The only indication that any of this “I’m watching you” violence happens in my favorite locale are the aerial shots provided by low-flying helicopters. Every other pan consists of ground-level buildings and bikini-filled pools. (By the way, the show is shot and filmed in Los Angeles.)

“Burn Notice” is the Mama Bear of this dangerously bloody fable. It’s not too shabby, but it’s not too chic, either. Focusing on ex-CIA operative Michael Westen trying to save his hide – and survive the murky mire and his mother – the show just started its third summer season on cable’s USA Network. Some underhanded deal or other seems to be going on, usually involving C4 explosives, a ’76 Dodge Charger, and countless Mojitos.

While Westen and his pals are fighting off the flowered shirts and gold chains of Miami scum, the director and producers made a few good decisions – allowing the actors to sweat, squint, and suffer the heat of Hollywood, Fla., all on their own as the cameras roll.

So, in rather blunt conclusion, the second I stepped off the plane at Miami International, I’m absolutely certain that the hanger would explode, a serial killer would be my taxi driver, and my hotel room would neighbor a cocaine cartel. And if all of that combined didn’t lead to my demise, I’m sure the ’gators would be glad to do the job.

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