March 31, 2012


More articles by »
Written by: Mitch Salem
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,


MAGIC CITY:  Premieres Friday April 6 at 10PM on Starz – Potential DVR Alert
Starz’s new MAGIC CITY is another stroll down Mad Men lane:  glamorous people in impeccably detailed 1960s settings (technically very late 1950s), smoking, drinking to excess, having lots of illicit sex, and generally enjoying what they don’t know is their political incorrectness.  

In this case, the specific inspiration is also the Las Vegas/Miami/Havana sequences of Godfathers Parts I and II.  The pilot, written by series creator Mitch Glazer and directed by Carl Franklin, is set on December 31, 1958, also a critical date in Godfather II chronology, and the events in Havana that embroiled Michael and Fredo Corleone are visible on television sets in the background of Magic City scenes.  Our setting, though, is Miami Beach, where the show’s protagonist, Ike Evans (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) is the owner of the Miramar Playa Hotel.  Like Moe Greene, Ike is a Jewish resort hotel guy who’s had to take on the mob as a partner.  (In what may well be a conscious nod, Alex Rocco, who played Moe Greene, has a small role in Magic City.)  That brings him into the orbit of ruthless Ben Diamond (Danny Huston), who’ll do Ike’s dirty business by taking care (permanently) of the hotel’s union problems that are threatening a strike as Frank Sinatra prepares to perform in the grand ballroom on New Year’s Eve.  But Ben also makes no secret of the fact that he wants his part ownership of the Miramar Playa to become full.
It will doubtless complicate Ike’s life that unbeknownst to him, his son Stevie (Steven Strait) has abandoned his womanizing ways to begin a passionate affair with Ben’s wife Lily (Jessica Marais).  Ike’s other son, nice-guy Danny (Christian Cooke) is in love with hotel maid Mercedes (Dominik Garcia-Lorido), while Ike’s second wife Vera (Olga Kurylenko) is so far beautiful but undefined. 
The Magic City pilot is in no great hurry to do more than establish the series setting, central characters and tone.  (Nor does it need to be:  the show’s already been renewed for a second season before it’s even premiered..)  The pilot has been luxuriously shot by cinematographer Gabriel Beristain, and even Matthew Weiner might be impressed with the production design.  Magic City is already far more entertaining than Starz’s other bid for elite-drama status, the unrelenting Boss, although it doesn’t seem to to be trying to go very deep.  (Deeper, though, than other Mad Men clones like Pan Am and The Playboy Club.)  So far Ike hardly appears to have the layers of a Don Draper–he’s just a generally decent guy who’s willing to act badly to save his own skin, a challenge that one images will get more complex as the season goes on.
Despite the tropical heat that surrounds the characters in Magic City, the temperature of the show itself seems to be fairly cool, and it probably won’t bring Starz the kind of ratings success it’s had with the supercharged Spartacus franchise.  The show has promise, though, as a reasonably intelligent and compelling Spring entertainment that’s more than easy on the eyes.

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."