The first season of Magic City just wrapped up about two weeks ago. This is one I have to credit my father with pointing out to me. Set in the Miami that he and my mom both grew up in in the late 50′s, it tells the story of a fictional hotel on Miami Beach, the Miramar Playa and more specifically its creator and majority owner, Isaac “Ike” Evans. There is loads of violence and language in the show as well as nudity. In fact, my father tells me that the directors spent months looking for actresses with real breasts for this show because back in the 50s, plastic surgery was obviously not available and since in Miami and LA nearly all the girls have been touched up…
The show itself is beautifully shot complete with gorgeous cars from the period – only Lincolns, Cadillacs, T-Birds, 57 Chevys…lots of attention to detail in the street scenes and the various shots of Miami. Incredibly, all the outdoor shots of the Miramar Playa are computer-generated according to this article. For those that have never driven all the way up Collins from SoBe to Haulover Beach, it is something that you should do just once to compare what things were back in the late 50s and how Miami Beach is now.
As for the storyline, it is pretty comparable to a Miami-based Sopranos complete with the mob and loads of intrigue. Ike is no Tony Soprano and Ben “The Butcher” Diamond is probably even more sadique then most of Tony’s crew, but the relationship between the two and the intersection of their worlds makes for great television. During the 8 episodes of S01, we piece together the history of the Evans family and how Ike gets more and more enmeshed with the Miami Beach mob scene. Probably the best set hands-down on the scene is the incredible Atlantis Lounge with the windows on the pool. This was extremely well-done and often used in the storyline to extraordinary effect (the dead Billy Diver falling reminded me of the falling man in the Mad Men generic).
The characters are engaging, in particular Ike, Vera, and Stevie in the Evans clan. Danny is nice too but a little underdeveloped I think. And also, a bit too much drawn from Michael Corleoni – you know, the son that was supposed to stay out of the family business but will most likely be drawn it at one point in a future season. All the major women in the show are totally hot, whether it is Danny’s girlfriend Mercedes, Vera “V” Evans, the sultry Judi Silver, or the smoking Lily Diamond. The characters mostly avoid stereotypes and have enough depth to make us feel somewhat attached to them. The acting is really good – particularly Ben and Ike of course but also that of Lily and Judi.
The thing that holds the show together is, of course, the suspense and duel between Ben and Ike. Similar to Mad Men, the weaving in to the story of current events (the fall of Batista, etc) added to the realism of the show. If there were some weak points, they would be in the conclusion (I really think Ben would have reacted a little more violently to his discovery), the money problems of Ike (we never quite know if he is broke or not), and the sadism of the District Attorney (hard to believe that he could still have that job as bitter and violent as he is).
Overall though, I am looking forward to S02 and more of the magnificent scenery that makes me miss Miami all that much more.