"Caribe" Cruised TV Air-"Waves" Years Before "Miami Vice"

Herbie J Pilato

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[The Classic TV Preservation Society]

Before there was CSI: Miami (which originally aired on CBS from 2002 to 2012) and Miami Vice (which initially ran on NBC from 1984 to 1989), pre-Magnum PI (CBS, 1980-1988), and a little bit after the original Hawaii Five-O (CBS, 1968-1980) there was a tropical-island based action-adventure television series titled Caribe.

Caribe, which was a "Quinn Martin production," briefly aired on ABC, Monday nights at 10 PM, from February 17, 1975, to August 11, 1975.

The show featured Stacey Keach (who was just about to hit it big with his Mike Hammer set of TV-movies and a subsequent series on CBS) and Carl Franklin (who would later go on to discover a second career as a successful director).

On Caribe, Keach and Franklin portrayed Ben Logan and Mark Walters, respectfully, both of whom worked for the Caribbean Force - an international agency fighting crime whenever Americans were in the vicinity.

The show also starred the late, great Robert Mandan, who would soon find success playing Chester Tate, Katherine Helmond's dippy husband on TV's classic cult soap-opera send-up favorite, Soap (ABC, 1977-1981).

Along for the water ride as guest stars were actors like Marlyn Mason, Dabney Coleman (of the ground-breaking 1970s NBC TV dramedy, Buffalo Bill), Brett Summers (Match Game), Diana Muldaur (Star Trek: The Next Generation), Linda Marsh, Robert Loggia, Joanna Pettet, and Monte Markham (from the short-lived 1960s TV cult favorite, The Second Hundred Years, and who also played Barney Miller, The Seven Million Dollar Man on The Six Million Dollar Man).

Not sure if there will ever be any plans to do a feature film adaptation of Caribe, as movie-goers did not exactly run to theatres for the 2006 big-screen adaptation of Miami Vice (with the Oscar-winning Jamie Foxx and maybe-just-a-little-bit-miscast Colin Ferrell in the original roles created by TV's Vice squad Don Johnson and Philip Michael Thomas).

But for what it was, Caribe was ahead of its time, despite it not catching on with the home-viewers.

The program's main problem wasn't production quality, the casting, the direction, or the writing. All of that was top-notch. Caribe couldn't even use Carol Burnett as an excuse for not winning the ratings battle (as Burnett's mega-hit CBS variety show had long moved from its Monday night slot at 10, where it had prepped itself since 1967 before moving in 1972 to its other staple spot on Saturday evenings - also at 10 PM).

No - the show's biggest problem was timing. Audiences just weren't ready for it.

Of course, had ABC given it more of a chance to find any audience, things might have been different. Not only for Caribe but maybe also for Miami Vice.

In the history of TV, some lesser-quality shows last longer than they should, while many top-quality shows are never given a chance to find an audience.

Many times, shows stay on the air or are canceled for reasons other than high or low ratings.

It's a game where unfortunately the television viewers are too often the losers.

Such was the case with Caribe, which deserved a better shot than it was granted.

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Herbie J Pilato is the author of several books about pop culture including THE 12 BEST SECRETS OF CHRISTMAS: A TREASURE HOUSE OF DECEMBER MEMORIES REVEALED, MARY: THE MARY TYLER MOORE STORY, TWITCH UPON A STAR, GLAMOUR, GIDGETS AND THE GIRL NEXT DOOR, DASHING, DARING AND DEBONAIR, and NBC & ME: MY LIFE AS A PAGE IN A BOOK, among others. He's also a TV writer/producer, and has worked for Reelz, Bravo, E!, TLC, and hosted THEN AGAIN WITH HERBIE J PILATO, the hit classic TV talk show (which premiered on Amazon Prime in 2019).

Los Angeles, CA
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