|Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Olga Kurylenko as Ike and Vera Evans in 'Magic City.'|
The fact of the matter was that the show had so much going for it that it was a shame to see it lack in such key areas.
The freshman show, set in glamorous Miami Beach circa 1959, was easily picked up for a second season and after watching the first few episodes, I can hopefully shed some light as to whether it has improved, what works and what still needs attention.
For a limited time, you can watch the second season premiere HERE for free.
This season, Ike Evans (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) is still trying desperately to rid his Miramar Playa Hotel from the grips of co-owner Ben “The Butcher” Diamond (Danny Huston) and hatches a plan that has him dealing with other unsavory types that come in all shapes and sizes, including dealings with Havana’s glamorous casino underworld and Chicago gangster Sy Berman (James Caan).
As Ike concentrates on his hotel empire, his two grown sons Stevie (Steven Straight)and Danny (Christian Cooke) gravitate in polar opposite directions. Stevie begins to feel the powerful bloodlust of the underworld as moral law student Danny is reeled in by the halls of justice and State Attorney Jack Klein.
With Castro’s Cuba sending shock-waves through the nation, the Evans family begins to feel the ripple effects. Will Ike’s long-shot gamble to take back his hotel succeed?
* THE LEADING MAN. I said it last year and echo it here again. Jeffrey Dean Morgan is the glue that holds this show together. He's not just another TV actor-for-hire, his portrayal as Ike, the upstanding (yet semi-dark) hotelier pulled in a thousand directions is, for my money, one of the best male leads on network or cable television. It's truly a shame he'll probably be overshadowed once again by similar strong leads such as John Hamm's Don Draper of AMC's "Mad Men" and Steve Buscemi's Nucky Thompson of HBO's "Boardwalk Empire."
* THE LOOK. It seems these days most cache networks have to have their period piece ala "Mad Men" and "Boardwalk Empire." Many have chalked off "Magic City" as a poor man's 'Empire' and, to a certain extent, they're right. Both are set in a tourist town ('Empire is set in 1920s Atlantic City, NJ). Both delve into the era's shady, back-room politics. Both are on pay channels and can drop as many F-bombs as they want with strong sexual content. You get the idea. "Magic City" continues to be one of the most gorgeous shows on television with top-notch art direction that captures the mid-century, atomic era perfectly.
|Chicago gangster Sy Berman (James Caan) chats with Ben Diamond (Danny Huston)|
* JIMMY CAAN. It's Sonny Corleone!! We all know how awesome James Caan is and the fact that he's on "Magic City" can only help the show. Period. We last saw Caan on television when he starred as Ed Deline, the tough-as-nails casino security big shot on the NBC drama "Las Vegas." Every week, Caan managed to elevate his lackluster material and I can only hope that he does the same as Sy Berman, the Chicago gangster who actually manages to make Ben Diamond slightly nervous (no small task).
*THE DAMES. Both Kelly Lynch as socialite Meg Bannock (who has ties to the Evans family)and Olga Kurylenko as Ike Evan's Cuban dancer wife Vera simply enchant the screen.
* THE VET. Alex Rocco (another alum of "The Godfather") is still a standout as Arthur Evans, Ike's dad.
WHAT DOESN'T WORK
* WEAK VILLAIN. Call me a hater but I still can't get behind Danny Huston as Ben Diamond. I'm not sure if it's his over-the-top delivery or his cornball dialogue. Either way, Houston's pit bull gangster comes straight out of Mafia 101.
* PAPER DOLLS. Look,I get it. I know we're in the land of Starz where everyone looks like they jumped out of a magazine but for the love of Pete, cast some actors that look like us regular Joes. Part of the reason that both "Boardwalk Empire" and Mad Men" work is their casts don't like like they've jumped off the pages of Vogue or Tiger Beat.
* THE SEX THING. I may catch heat for this but the sex in "Magic City" does seem gratuitous and much of it is totally unnecessary. And Ben Diamond's whole cuckold thing? That's just plain dumb. Do we really need to see he's a sexual deviant to believe he's a psychopath? "Magic City" is not alone in this. Last year, "Boardwalk Empire" delved into the very same territory with Gyp Rosetti's (Bobby Cannavalle) choking fetish. Again, very dopey.
WHAT NEEDS WORK
OY VEY, THE DIALOGUE. I called out the dialogue last year and I'm sorry to say, it's only improved marginally. Mind you, I've only seen the first few of season two and there is a slight improvement. Still, we get these zingers:
"You ever wonder why they call me 'The Butcher'?"
"No matter how far you run, you aways find yourself back where you started."
- Meg Bannock
"God, I should be illegal. Shit, I am illegal."
- Judi Silver
"I see things as they are. I had to. I grew up in this world. Your world."
- Danny Evans
What can I say? Despite its obvious shortcomings, I'm still giddy for "Magic City." I'd probably be even more giddy if I didn't put such high expectations on the show, which I hoped would bring much more to the table. Moving forward through this second season, I'll know better not to expect more than my weekly dose of great suits, period music and run-of-mill gangster fare. I'll leave the heavy lists for HBO and AMC.