Magic City is the latest Period Drama series from the Starz Network. Premiering last Friday, Starz has made the first three episodes available on their site, unedited and for free. I’ve now watched all three episodes and here are some of my initial thoughts. Set in Miami, Florida in the late 1950s, Magic City is about the operations of the fictional Miramar Playa Hotel, an upscale hotel located right on the sandy beaches of Miami. Isaac “Ike” Evans (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) is the central star of the series and the owner of the hotel, though his life may not be as glamourous as one would expect. Protesters are swarming the hotel in an effort to convince Ike to unionize and in response Ike turns to some shady people, specifically notorious gangster Ben Diamond (Danny Huston).
I like the setup, the location, the concept, but something about this seems all too familiar. If you haven’t already guessed it, I’m thinking about this show’s strikingly similarities to both Boardwalk Empire and Mad Men. Like Boardwalk Empire you have a man in power with ties to some questionable people and then just take out prohibition and replace it with labor reform, gambling, and other issues relevant to the time and setting. Next you just need to add a splash of nostalgia a la Mad Men with guys in suits sipping on cocktails and you have Magic City. Already I’ve noticed some harsh reactions by some viewers to this show’s obvious similarities to those more popular shows, but I think if you can just go into Magic City objectively and judge it on it’s writing and performances, you might enjoy it.
Personally, I love the time period and I’m glad to see that Starz has gone all out to make this show look authentic. The settings, locations, and costumes are all marvelous and beautifully photographed, but what about the rest of the show? I like that as well. It’s basically all the reasons I like Mad Men except darker. The only spot where I think it may be lacking at this point in time is the characters. I like them all but there hasn’t really been enough time to explore them thoroughly. After the first episode I really had no idea what kind of character Ike Evans was supposed to be. Is he a tyrannical businessman? Is he driven by greed or power? But three episodes in I’m finally starting to get a feel for him. Surprisingly he’s a fairly normal, caring family man, who just happens to turn to dark places to avoid failure. I think this is one of the cases where you really have to give the show time to let the characters grow and thus far it looks promising.
Other characters of note on Magic City are Olga Kurylenko as Ike’s exotic young wife Vera, Steven Strait as Ike’s playboy twentysomething son Stevie, Danny Huston as intimidating gangster Ben Diamond, and my personal favorite Alec Rocco as Ike’s light hearted father. With all that being said why should you watch Magic City? Well if you’re the type that enjoys a good period drama or crime drama then you might get a kick out of this, or maybe if you’re into Mad Men. Plus you can watch the first three episodes for FREE, there ain’t no better deal than that. I know I’m going to try and follow this series best as I can. After all I gotta support Kirkland, WA native Jeffrey Dean Morgan, we K-Towners stick together.