Sunday, April 08, 2012

Could It Be Magic?

After Lost became a hit, a bunch of shows tried to copy, in various ways, its mix of fantasy, action and flashbacks. The trend continues to this day.  It's been a few years since Mad Men caught the zeitgeist, and now we're seeing serials with post-WWII period detail popping up.

The latest is Magic City, from Starz, the channel that brought us the amazing Party Down and little else of interest.  Created by screenwriter/producer Mitch Glazer, it's about a guy who runs a fancy hotel in 1959 Miami Beach.  Is it another Mad Men?  Is it anything?

The pilot has Isaac Evans (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) trying to keep his hotel afloat as the union is trying to shut it down on his big night--New Year's Eve, 1958, Sinatra performing.  He needs the help of gangster Ben Diamond (Danny Huston), but it's the kind of help that'll lead to trouble in the future.  There are subplots, one including the Cuban revolution, but I'm afraid the show, so far, doesn't amount to much.

The sets and costumes are fine, and Magic City offers a premium channel's worth of sex, nudity and beautiful women, but the characters don't seem well developed. In fact beyond Morgan as Evans, no one makes much of an impression.  Worse, the writing is weak and cliched--for instance, the gangster makes a speech about how he always wants more.  Maybe he thinks that (or maybe not), but does he have to state it explicitly?

Perhaps Magic City will improve, but I'm not sure if I'll come back for a second helping. I do like the look, and Morgan is appealing, but there's not that much else calling me back.

I might add shows like this make one all the more impressed with Mad Men.  It's able to go beyond the period trappings and make us care about the characters.  And it does it without violence, which so many other popular dramas rely on.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think they're going for a Jewish Sopranos, though in the Sopranos they got actual Italians who looked like real people to play the leads.

9:42 AM, April 08, 2012  

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