June 15, 2013



MAGIC CITY:  Friday 9PM on Starz

You’d have thought, after the low-rated, little-buzzed first season of MAGIC CITY, that both Starz and series creator Mitch Glazer would have recognized the series needed to return with some extra oomph for Season 2.  But it wasn’t to be found in tonight’s season premiere, and the result remains something like the show’s 1960s-era Miramar Playa Hotel during a Miami midsummer:  luxurious and more than a little underbooked.

Much of the season premiere, written by Glazer and directed by Clark Johnson, was devoted to resolving last season’s cliffhanger, which had hero Ike Evans (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) in jail for murdering a hitman who was going to kill hooker Judi Silver (Elena Satine).  It’s a long story, but basically Judi was in danger because uber-gangster Ben “The Butcher” Diamond (Danny Huston) knew that she’d witnessed the murder of a hotel labor leader, a crime that Ike had unwittingly set into motion when he asked Ben to help settle his labor difficulties.  By the end of the episode, Ike was free, thanks to Judi facing down viciously corrupt State’s Attorney Jack Klein (Matt Ross, as crazy as when he played Alby on Big Love) in front of the grand jury and testifying that Ike was innocent.

The other major plotlines were mostly in the background, but they were just where last season had left them.  Ike’s older son Stevie (Steven Strait) is having an affair with Ben’s wife Lily (Jessica Marais), and Stevie has no idea that Ben doesn’t just know about it, but enjoys watching them through a one-way ceiling mirror in his house.  Younger son Danny (Christian Cooke), a law student but a little slow on the uptake, is considering going to work as an intern for looney Jack Klein, although he (Danny) did burn the evidence against his father rather than turn him in.  Ike’s wife Vera (Olga Kurylenko), as presaged last season, will go back to her old dancing career to headline a show at the Miramar Playa.  Also building on last season’s developments, Meg Bannock (Kelly Lynch), the sister of Ben’s deceased first wife, is now an investor in the hotel and may not remain a silent one–and Lynch is now a series regular.

It seems as though the major new storyline this season will center on Sy Diamond (as-yet unseen, but he’ll be played by James Caan), head of the Chicago mob, to whom Ike and Ben have already separately reached out to handle their respective problems with each other–Ike wants Sy to buy Ben out, while Ben wants Sy’s permission to bump Ike off.  However all of that plays out, it’s unlikely to change the show in any fundamental way.

Magic City is a passion project for Glazer (it’s inspired by his Miami childhood, and he wrote or co-wrote every episode last season), but that doesn’t come across when watching it.  It’s too clearly influenced by classic gangster movies and the same Coppola and Scorsese masterpieces that have colored so many in the genre, and it plays as a less richly imagined mix of Boardwalk Empire and Mad Men.  The production design and costumes are sumptuous, and the photography, tonight by Gabriel Beristain, is quite handsome; much pain has gone into the recreation of the time and place of the show’s setting.  The cast, too, is uniformly fine, especially Morgan and Kurylenko.  But Glazer’s plotting is weak and predictable, and that makes Magic City seem to plod.

Starz hadn’t had much luck generating excitement for its original scripted programming, and Magic City was only being watched by around 375,000 people in its initial airings early in its run–after that, Starz stopped even talking about those numbers.  (It’s hard to imagine the show was getting more than a 0.1 in 18-49s, although that demo means less in paycable, with no advertisers involved.)   It’s a perfectly respectable piece of programming for the network, but it doesn’t seem as though this season is doing very much to attract new eyeballs.



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."