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"Magic City" The Complete First Season DVD Review

Magic City: The Complete First Season DVD cover art - click to buy from Amazon.com Magic City: Season One (2012)
Show and Blu-ray Details

Creator: Mitch Glazer / Producers: Dwayne Shattuck (producer); Tim Christenson (co-producer); Lawrence Konner, Ed Bianchi (co-executive); Geyer Kosinski, Mitch Glazer (executive)

Writers: Mitch Glazer, Lawrence Konner / Directors: Ed Bianchi, Simon Cellan Jones, Carl Franklin, Nick Gomez

Regular Cast: Jeffrey Dean Morgan (Isaac "Ike" Evans), Olga Kurylenko (Vera Evans), Steven Strait (Stevie Evans), Jessica Marais (Lily Augustine Diamond), Christian Cooke (Danny Evans), Elena Satine (Judith Diane "Judi" Silver), Dominik Garcia-Lorido (Mercedes "Mercy" Lozaro), Taylor Blackwell (Lauren Evans), Danny Huston (Ben "The Butcher" Diamond)

Recurring Cast Members: Yul Vázquez (Victor Lazaro), Michael Rispoli (Bel Jaffe), Kelly Lynch (Margaret "Meg" Bannock), Matt Ross (Jack Klein), Bradford Tatum ("Dandy" Al Haas), Alex Rocco (Arthur Evans), Andrew Bowen (Divin' Dave Donahue), Brett Rice (Senator Ned Sloat), Steven Brand (Cliff Wells), Michael Beasley (Grady "Big Man" James), Jordan Woods-Robinson (Sterling Voss), Chad Gall (Ethan Bell), Tom Degnan (Pierce Fuller), John Cenatiempo (Vincent Lamb), Karen-Eileen Gordon (Florence), Karen Garcia (Inez), Willa Ford (Janice Michaels), Carla Bianchi (Peggy Reef), Todd Allen Durkin (Doug Feehan), Taylor Anthony Miller (Ray-Ray Mathis), Gregg Weiner (Phil Weiss), John Manzelli (Sol Drucker), Ricky Waugh (Barry "Cuda" Lansman), Patrick Michael Buckley (Monte), Stan Carp (Al Strauss), Suzanne Didonna (Ann Strauss), Rus Blackwell (Nate Bales), Catalina Rodriguez (Theresa)

Notable Guest Stars: Leland Orser (Mike Strauss), Shelby Fenner (Myrnna Shapiro), Arron Shiver (James Patrick "Jimmy Shoes" Clayton), William Marquez (Cesar Ramos)

Running Time: 414 Minutes (8 episodes) / Rating: Not Rated (TV-MA on air)

1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen / Dolby Digital 5.1 (English), Dolby Mono 2.0 (Spanish)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired, Spanish; Not Closed Captioned; Extras Not Subtitled
Season 1 Airdates: March 30, 2012 - June 1, 2012
DVD Release Date: October 2, 2012 / Suggested Retail Price: $44.98 SRP
Three single-sided, dual-layered discs (DVD-9s) / Digipak in Holographic Cardboard Slipcover
Also available on Blu-ray Disc ($54.99 SRP

Buy Magic City: The Complete First Season from Amazon.com: DVDBlu-ray

There is usually a clear precedent for Starz original programming. For instance, the network's biggest hit "Spartacus" seemed to model its ancient debauchery
after HBO's "Rome." "Camelot" came from the makers of Showtime's "The Tudors." It's easy then to link "Magic City" to "Mad Men." Set in Miami at the end of the 1950s, this drama takes its style, loose morals and mid-20th century setting from AMC's (prior to this week, anyway) Emmy darling.

In the opening moments of the first episode, protagonist Isaac "Ike" Evans (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) even cuts a figure resembling Don Draper as he awakens in darkness, guilt-stricken and haunted by his past. Though both the character and the performance evoke Jon Hamm's signature role, the similarities do not extend much further, as "Magic City" has its own world, its own vices, and its own distinctive setting of the same era but the other end of the Eastern coastline.

"Magic City" centers on Ike Evans (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), a powerful Jewish hotelier in 1959 Miami who looks and sounds like Don Draper. Ben "The Butcher" Diamond (Danny Huston) is kind of a big deal.

Evans is the owner of the Miramar Playa, the most glamorous hotel in Miami. In the first episode, he reluctantly sells a share to cold-blooded crime boss Ben "The Butcher" Diamond (Danny Huston), an arrangement he immediately regrets as dead bodies and legal troubles mount. With his first wife dead, self-made go-getter Evans is remarried to the young "Gypsy" Vera (Olga Kurylenko), who is converting to Judaism for him.

In addition to that couple, the series focuses on Evans' children, two of whom feature prominently. The smooth, womanizing Stevie (Steven Strait), a bartender at the hotel's swank Atlantis Lounge (whose windows offer a view from inside a pool) and general help to his father, starts a dangerous affair with the feared, powerful Ben's newest wife (Jessica Marais). Less connected to the family business is law school student Danny (Christian Cooke), who is circling around a relationship with maid and longtime pal Mercedes (Dominik Garcia-Lorido), the daughter of Ike's trusted general manager Victor (Yul Vázquez). "Mercy" and Victor fear for their mother/wife, whom political turmoil keeps stuck in Cuba. Ike also has a young daughter (Taylor Blackwell), who largely falls off the radar after celebrating her bat mitzvah.

Being a Starz production, the series adds copious amounts of nudity and some profanity to the abundant cigarettes and booze of the period. Much of the sex is weird and gratuitous, although at least a little bit of it drives stories (under the table, Miramar offers prostitution and gambling).

Deemed infertile, Ike's young Gypsy second wife Vera (Olga Kurylenko) visits a witch doctor in the season's shortest and most absurd turn. The relationship between owner's son Danny (Christian Cooke) and general manager's daughter Mercedes (Dominik Garcia-Lorido) is of ongoing secondary interest to the series.

The bared breasts, bottoms, and more do not seem to be winning "Magic City" many viewers. The series began with a modest audience of 300,000. That grew to 500,000 by season's end, but even that was a far cry from Starz's other offerings like "Spartacus" and "Boss". As on that Kelsey Grammer crime drama, Starz announced a second season renewal for "Magic City" before a single episode even aired,
a decision they might have regretted after seeing the low ratings earned by both of these shows. "Magic City" has received fair reviews and a reasonably warm reception from the general public.

The series is created and almost entirely written by Mitch Glazer, a screenwriter with a staggered filmography that includes The Recruit and the Charles Dickens adaptations Scrooged and Great Expectations (the 1998 Ethan Hawke, Gwyneth Paltrow, Robert De Niro version).

With the first season airing in late spring and the second expected to do the same next year, Starz home video arm Anchor Bay Entertainment chooses this busy retail season packed with TV-DVDs to release the 3-disc The Complete First Season of "Magic City" on DVD and Blu-ray.

Ike's son Stevie (Steven Strait) tends the bar at the Atlantis Lounge, whose windows look into the pool. Lauren's grandfather ("The Godfather"'s Alex Rocco) does not want to attend her bat mitzvah.

Disc 1

1. The Year of the Fin (55:31) (Originally aired March 30, 2012)
On the eve of 1959 with Frank Sinatra scheduled to appear, the Miramar's future is threatened by strikers demanding the hotel unionize. Stevie begins seeing Lily.

2. Feeding Frenzy (49:22) (Originally aired April 13, 2012)
Ben encourages Ike to get into gambling. Ike's father (Alex Rocco) does not want to attend Lauren's bat mitzvah. The D.A.'s office sees Danny as a potential way to get to Ike.

3. Castles Made of Sand (51:24) (Originally aired April 20, 2012)
Ike asks his late first wife's sister (Kelly Lynch) to buy a 49% share in his hotel. Stevie and Lily fear that Ben might be on to them. And the Miramar hosts the Miss 1959 pageant.

Victor (Yul Vázquez) tries his best to get his wife out of embroiled Cuba. Miramar escort Judi Silver (Elena Satine) ignores pleas to get out of town in "Suicide Blonde."

Disc 2

4. Atonement (49:04) (Originally aired April 27, 2012)
Ike tries to get the district attorney's office to leave alone the found body of a dead associate. An intruder attack hospitalizes Danny. Miramar's most beloved prostitute Judi (Elena Satine) finds her life in jeopardy.

5. Suicide Blonde (53:21) (Originally aired May 4, 2012)
Judi resists pleas for her to flee Miami for her safety. Faced with infertility, Vera goes to a witch doctor. Danny is courted for an internship.

6. The Harder They Fall (51:29) (Originally aired May 11, 2012)
Rumors swirl about a major boxing match being fixed. Vera's brunch occurs without Jackie Kennedy making her scheduled appearance. Ike pushes a senator to vote on gambling legalization, though not in the way you expect.

Smarmy D.A. Jack Klein (Matt Ross) turns up the pressure on Ike Evans. Stevie (Steven Strait) scours a blackmailer's boat house to destroy his incriminating evidence.

Disc 3

7. Who's the Horse and Who's the Rider? (53:55) (Originally aired May 18, 2012)
Stevie responds to a blackmail involving compromising Polaroids. An unhappy Ben confronts Ike about his disputed senatorial bribe.

8. Time and Tide (49:28) (Originally aired June 1, 2012)
The smarmy D.A. (Matt Ross) takes extreme measures to tie Ike to a murder. The Lazaros get an update from Cuba.


Aside from its deliberately grainy underwater opening, "Magic City" looks good, although the limitations of standard definition are evident here. A show with as much style should benefit from Blu-ray, but I was only sent the DVD. Despite filming on location in Florida, Starz apparently can't resist employing some highly artificial green screen backdrops of ocean views, reminding one of the ludicrous ludus from "Spartacus." The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack is good, engulfing in suitable ways. A Spanish dub is curiously supplied in 2.0 mono, suggesting the '50s setting was taken a little too seriously. English SDH and Spanish subtitles are also offered.

Jeffrey Dean Morgan, looking as always like Javier Bardem, speaks from the Atlantis Lounge in "Starz Studios: Magic City." Time-lapse photography shows the Miramar Playa's impressive lobby being constructed in "Building an Empire."


Minute-long recaps are offered, naturally, on all but the first episode.

Beyond those and the menu-inaccessible trailers for "Boss", "Magic City", and "Spartacus: War of the Damned" with which Disc 1 automatically loads,
all extras are relegated to Disc 3.

"Starz Studios: Magic City" (13:33) collects thoughts from historians, authors, a "style expert", creator Mitch Glazer, and the crew about the setting of 1959 Miami. Glazer, the cast and crew go into further detail about the show's characters, atmosphere, and look. It's a basic but good primer which reveals foreign cast members' successfully hidden natural accents.

Five other shorts delve deeper into topics touched upon above. "The Cars of Magic City" (1:33) touches briefly on the regular characters' vehicles, with cast and transportation coordinator remarks. "The Style of Magic City" (4:03) considers the dramatized period's fashions embodied in the costuming, which is described in relation to the characters. "Building an Empire" (1:33) covers the construction of the hotel's lobby set.

"Magic City" creator, writer, and executive producer Mitch Glazer discusses "The Golden Age of Music." "Magic City" characters fill the rectangles of Disc 3's main menu.

"The Golden Age of Music" (7:43) has Glazer discussing the series' original score, diegetic club music, and the infrequent needle drops. "Miami Beach: The Real Magic City" (3:31) addresses the setting as it existed back then.

And that's it; you surprisingly won't find deleted scenes
or audio commentaries here or on Blu-ray, which apparently does not get any exclusive extras.

The main menus display stills and clips in rectangles while the leisurely theme music plays. Submenus are silent, static, and in the same rectangular design.

The three discs are held in a six-sided Digipak, which is topped by a cardboard slipcover that recreates the artwork below, adding some subtle holographic touches. Removing the discs reveals episode writers and directors, while the titles of each disc claim another side. An insert promotes the next season of "Magic City" and other Starz series, while a coupon offers $2 off a handful of Anchor Bay thrillers on DVD and Blu-ray.

Ike Evans (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) takes in the ocean view from the balcony of his glamorous hotel.


"Magic City" is a bit derivative and smutty, but this 1950s Miami drama is also an involving character study that's easy to get immersed in. If you're among the many who have never seen the show and appreciate a mature television drama, you may want to give this a look.

Anchor Bay's DVD is unusually light on bonus features and a little pricey for such a short season, but the feature presentation is good.

Buy Magic City: Season One from Amazon.com: DVD / Blu-ray

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Reviewed September 28, 2012.

Text copyright 2012 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 2012 Starz Originals, Media Talent Group, South Beach Productions, and Anchor Bay Entertainment. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.