A great TV show is like a gourmet meal or a good book. You don't start with the dessert! You start with a teaser, a light bite that hints at what's to come. And that's what the pilot of Magic City does. It introduces us to some of the characters and to the hotel, which make no mistake, is going to be a central character in this show. It's a beautiful setting in which to tell a story that promises to be both romantic and violent, just like the year in which the first episodes are set. Kennedy is about to be President, and Cuba is about to fall. Gangsters control much of Miami, just as they do in Las Vegas and Chicago and New York. But in this time of unrest there is also Frank Sinatra crooning his tunes. There is sun and fun. There are bellboys and housemaids but also rich trophy wives in their furs and jewelry. And there is the Miramar Hotel. It is the fantasy. It is at the heart of everything, where the rich and famous come to relax, and where the driven owner and his sons will do anything, and I mean anything, to keep the party going.
While the pilot is not heavy on plot, it does set up the central conflicts, or at least some of them. The Miramar is partly funded by mob money, and the mobster with the wallet wants more control. Meanwhile his new and much younger wife has an eye on the Miramar's Prince Regent, the owners playboy son. Meanwhile his other son is courting the maid. Plenty of potential there. Throw in a union threatening to stop the flow of liquor. A workforce whose families are all trapped in a country in the throes of revolution. And a great leading man with charisma that just lights up the screen. The Miramar is his baby. His paradise. A gleaming new marvel of glass and brass and all the brightest most modern conveniences of the day. Perfumed air is pumped into the lobby 24 hours a day!
I know there has been a question about women possibly being offended by the show. I don't know. There is certainly quite a bit of nudity. Though I personally didn't find it overt or out of place. And so far the women in the story aren't what would be considered good role models by today's standards, though I suspect that is going to change. Still, for all the great looking women in the cast, there is lots to keeps the ladies interested too, I think. Maybe I'm wrong.
I just think it is a fascinating time in our recent history, and yet a time that really hasn't been shown that often on TV. It's a time with plenty of conflict, with war on the way and a President soon to be slain, with human rights and women's rights about to take center stage. I'm sure that these are not the central stories that these producers are hoping to tell. But I think they will make great peripheral ideas that help to drive the main characters.
The first episode blew me away almost for the same reasons that many are complaining about. Instead of a lot of story telling right off the top, this show starts by painting us a picture. A backdrop if you will. A stage on which to tell the tale. And that stage is beautiful. I loved the set design, the costumes, the dialog, even the smoking. In those days everybody smoked. Which brings me I guess to my final point. Everybody is comparing this show to Mad Men, and many are using that other very well crafted show to throw pot shots at Magic City. I think it's impossible to ignore the similarities in the two shows. They're both set in the same time period. Both have a real eye for authenticity. But I don't think it's fair to offer up a show in it's fifth season and say that a show with one episode under it's belt doesn't hold up! Lets see what you have to say after 48 episodes or more of Magic City. I think a more fitting comparison is probably Boardwalk Empire. While not a contemporary historically, the shows share more in common. Both are about a specific PLACE at a specific time, and the problems faced by the men who are trying to take charge of their empires. And I think that the Miramar is going to be just a great place to have a holiday! I hope it's with us for many seasons!