I’m not sure why the two-season series “Magic City” (2012-13) wasn’t a hit, although I sometimes wonder if it might have thrived had it not been on Starz, which often gets lost in the shuffle. Perhaps “Power,” “Outlander,” and “American Gods” have lifted the channel’s visibility in recent years, but even so, the Starz brand remains hard to define, and therefore easy to dismiss.
“Magic City” is a smart soap, with a gorgeously evoked time period that recalls “Mad Men” and a morally twisted mob theme that recalls “The Sopranos.” Set in the very late 1950s, it revolves around the owner of a Miami luxury resort hotel — played by Jeffrey Dean Morgan — and his family, including his two hunky sons and his second wife.
Morgan is perfect as a good guy who got help from a very bad man, mobster Ben “The Butcher” Diamond, played with quiet malevolence by Danny Huston. And the supporting actors, including Matt Ross, James Caan, and Kelly Lynch, are all entertaining. But the flashiest turn may be by the production designers, who give us no end of swanky, Rat Pack-era interiors. The show is visually transporting.
Don’t expect a “Mad Men” level of character drama and psychological insight; it plays out a little more like a Harold Robbins novel, with goodly shares of steamy romance, family tension, too-powerful men, money problems, and twisted criminals. You can find it on Starz on Demand, Amazon, and iTunes.Matthew Gilbert can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @MatthewGilbert.