Skip to main content
Sign Up for Our NewsLetter


May 9, 2012

Mad Men in Miami!

Magic City Renders a Mid-Century Miami that is Sexy, Scintillating and Stylish

By Nancy Staab

Take Mad Men, add a dash of gangsta Sopranos, garnish with 1960’s Miami swank, shake it up, and you have the potent TV cocktail known as Magic City.

The leads of Starz new show Magic City, which takes place in mid-century Miami. The leads of Starz new show Magic City, which takes place in mid-century Miami.

We admit it, we are majorly obsessed with Mad Men and this season has proven the most superlative yet. But we are also more than a little mad for premium channel Starz’s swishy new show Magic City. TV Guide calls the show “Hot, sexy, pulsating and brutal!" Magic City was conceived by Hollywood executive producer/writer Mitch Glazer, who spent his formative years as a cabana boy at an ultra-luxe resort in Miami’s golden era.

“That era was like Casablanca,” says Glazer. “You had the CIA, the Mob and anti-Castro forces, all mingling in the Boom Boom Room.”

Likewise, the show is grandiose in its ambitions, style and content but with a gentle nostalgia at its core, given Glazer’s semi-autobiographical viewpoint.

Judi Silver Judi Silver

An entire Fontainebleu-esque set was created from scratch to stand in as the opulent Miramar Playa hotel--ground zero for the show. Mid-Century Miami architect Morris Lapidus (creator of The Fontainebleau and Eden Roc ) would have been proud of the Miramar’s glossy hotel lobby, signature Lapidus-style grand staircase "leading to nowhere," subterranean Atlantis Bar lit up by porthole views of the swimming pool and its bathing beauties, and a grand ballroom where Sinatra croons in the opening episode. (Thankfully we only hear Sinatra as any attempt to cast Old Blue Eyes would have been disastrous).  As a side note: Glazer has a healthy respect for Midcentury Modern design details and resides in one of Hollywood’s most iconic Midcentury homes by architect John Lautner, so his attention to set design is impeccable.

And speaking of authenticity, the show is actually filmed in Miami for the proper palm tree and sultry Latin vibe. Retirees play shuffleboard, sexy show girls vamp it up, the mafia rules the town, and everyone drives the most impossibly glam cars with tremendous tailfins---whether Ike’s white Cadillac or his son’s racy red, 1957 Corvette.

The cast is eye-candy from start to finish, with the charismatic Jeffrey Dean Morgan (Grey’s Anatomy, Watchmen) embodying the main role of suave hotelier Ike Evans. (Morgan is a throwback to rugged matinee idols of yore like Clark Gable and Gary Cooper: in other words, equally capable of wrangling a loose gun or girl, never breaking a sweat, but sometimes a wisecrack, in his polished suit). Morgan’s character is backed up by a bevy of beauties both female and male, including his exquisite showgirl second wife played by Bond girl Olga Kurylenko, who secretly longs to return to the spotlight; bombshell lady of the night Judi Silver; the head mobster’s own moll Lily Diamond and a Grace Kelly-like sister-in-law played by Glazer’s wife Kelly Lynch

Stevie and  his red Corvette Stevie and his red Corvette

There's also Ike’s two young adult sons who’ve grown up in the hotel business: one innocent and in love with a Cuban chamber maid, the other a ladykiller (Steven Strait) experienced in both women (he’s having an affair with the Mobster’s moll, leading to rich complications) and the smoke-and- mirrors business required to maintain the hotel’s illusion of glam. When asked why the Miramar Playa keeps the lobbies frigid with air conditioning at all hours, Ike explains “because the ladies like to show off their furs!”

Come to think of it: there’s also a little Downton Abbey in this show with its upstairs/downstairs dynamic, maid-to-mogul cast of characters and a peek at the seamy underbelly of a glitzy hotel circa 1960 Miami.

The chief mobster, Ben Diamond, is played with gleeful greed and a touch of sadism by Danny Huston (Angelica Huston’s brother). Of course, he’s pressuring Ike to add gambling and prostitution to the hotel’s plush amenities. To wit, there’s already a bookie’s office hidden behind the Miaramar Playa’s femme, pink boutique. And did we mention the costumes by Carol Ramsey? Pure gorgeousness from the shiny, hard metallics worn by the aptly- named Judi Silver, to the hour-glass dresses, gloves, and red lips sported by Ike’s wife Vera.

Magic City aspires to but doesn’t match all the psychological complexity, plot density, and mystery of Mad Men, but the fact that it ambitiously aims at this level of style and substance and only misses it by a few martinis is high praise indeed. Here’s hoping enough viewers find this niche show on Starz so it can continue to enjoy its days in the Miami sun.


Magic City airs on Starz at 10PM Eastern time on Friday nights. Includes some violence and nudity (what did you expect?).  Rumor has it that Starz has already ordered a ten-episode second season. You can watch the first three episodes of this season for free at the show’s website: