Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Pilot Review: Magic City

Magic City (Starz)
Premiered April 6 at 10pm

Period dramas with large ensembles are all the rage these days. It’s no surprise, therefore, that Starz would produce a show of its own to rival “Boardwalk Empire” and “Mad Men” and to explore a different wild, seedy era of recent history. Miami Beach in the 1950s seems like as good a place as any to set a show, and it’s certainly hard to deny the beauty and power of the shots and the views off Ike’s balcony as he stands there smoking a cigar. As expected, there is plenty of sex infused into almost every bit of the show, on the beach and even managing to derail a car and cause major damage within the show’s first few minutes. There’s definitely a sense of this being the place to be, with the strike affecting productivity and business in a big way, and the background of Che taking power is prominent and influential as well. Like other similar shows, this series is almost impossible to penetrate, full of characters whose identities and roles have yet to be fleshed out and clarified. Jeffrey Dean Morgan has been waiting for a part like this, and I think he’ll prove to be a strong lead after plenty of guest-starring parts as dead fathers and boyfriends on other shows. It’s really all about Danny Huston, who doesn’t appear until thirty-four minuets into the pilot but instantly milks his scene for all it’s worth, soaking up the scenery with this electric-swiveling chair and intimidating stories. I’m not yet sold on this show, but I’ve learned that giving up so soon on a show with so much potential isn’t wise. It will need to distinguish itself based on the merit of its story and not simply its look and feel.

How will it work as a series? There’s plenty of material to be covered here, and the show’s success will depend mainly on the effectiveness of its lead and its ability to offer engaging short-term plotlines, like the strike and any other happenings at the hotel. It’s going to need to become accessible, and that’s something that may or may not come with time.
How long will it last? Actually, the show has already been renewed for a second season, three weeks before it premiered. Starz is clearly invested in a certain type of programming, producing “Spartacus” and intense drama “Boss,” and I think this is a way for them to break into a new genre and they’ll want to follow through unless the ratings are truly awful.
Pilot grade: C+

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