Let's get this straight: "Magic City" (10 p.m., Starz, TV-MA) is not a "Mad Men" imitation. It is patterned on "The Godfather: Part II." In fact, it copies from the first two "God father" films with audacious gusto. It's also entertaining.
There's a moment when a curtain blows out of a hotel window just as it did in "Part II" before Johnny Ola breathed his last. The somber score seems almost plagiarized.
"Magic City" opens on Dec. 31, 1958, the day before Fidel Castro seized power in Cuba. Since this cable drama is set in Miami and not Havana, we don't get to see the culmination of the revolution as we did in "Part II." But "Magic City" does star Alex Rocco, well-known to "Godfather" fans as Moe Greene.
The action centers on Miami's fictional Miramar Playa hotel, run by the handsome Ike Evans (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) with a compartmentalized mind and a reserved mid-century cool that may remind some of Don Draper from "Mad Men."
Behind his handsome facade, Ike is exhausted from straddling the line between legitimacy and Miami's underworld, run with psychopathic efficiency by gangster Ben
Diamond (Danny Huston), a man known as the Butcher.
After the death of his beloved first wife, Ike married Vera (Olga Kurylenko), a strikingly beautiful woman who overcompensates for her non-Jewish status by planning an elaborate bat mitzvah for Ike's youngest. This annoys Ike's dad, Arthur (Rocco), an avowed atheist and former petty bookmaker who is first seen reading the Communist Daily Worker newspaper and complaining about the state's "Birchers" trying to censor "Lady Chatterley's Lover." In some ways, he's the show's least typical character.
We're quickly introduced to Ike's other family issues, including a good son and a scheming son. Stevie (Steven Strait) helps the hotel maintain its Rat Pack vibe, but he has a weakness for willing women, which becomes dangerous when he sniffs around Lily Diamond (Jessica Marais), the Butcher's unhinged and dissatisfied wife. Law student and straight arrow Danny (Christian Cooke) seems destined for great things. But will the FBI use his idealism as a way to ensnare Ike and his mobbed-up sponsors?
Of the three episodes available for review, the first is weakest on character development.
"Magic City" emphasizes the shiny surface of things,
seemingly confident that its audience is already well-schooled in mob atmosphere and lore. It lacks the novelistic depth of "Mad Men" or "The Sopra nos," and it has yet to show either of those shows' flair for developing strong female characters. But viewers who have already committed the first two "Godfather" movies to memory are in for a treat.
Starz is now run by former HBO executive Chris Albrecht. "Magic City" has the feel of old HBO efforts like television movies about John Gotti or the Rat Pack. That itself may be a throwback to the days when HBO was a place to get the nudity, profanity and violence forbidden on network television. Now, Starz may be wise to imitate HBO from the days before it became too respectable.
---Edie Falco appears on "Who Do You Think You Are?" (8 p.m., NBC, TV-PG).
---Illegal downloads on "The Finder" (8 p.m., Fox, TV-14).
---"The Way of the Cross From Rome" (8:30 p.m., EWTN).
---A shopkeeper's murder on "Grimm" (9 p.m., NBC, TV-14).
---Vigilantes and shape-shifters join forces on "Fringe" (9 p.m., Fox, TV-14).
---Danny reopens a closed case on "Blue Bloods" (10 p.m., CBS, TV-14).
---A new eight-part series looks at "Motives & Murders" (10 p.m., ID).
A mad dictator uses a ray gun to turn young people into either geniuses or subhumans in the 1956 British sci-fi shocker "The Gamma People" (2:15 a.m., TCM).
---Golf on "Undercover Boss" (8 p.m., CBS, TV-PG).
---Video games can be murder on "CSI: NY" (9 p.m., CBS, TV-14).
---Bill Murray appears on "Late Show With David Letterman" (11:35 p.m., CBS, r).
---Julie Scardina and Rodrigo y Gabriela on "The Tonight Show" (11:35 p.m., NBC).
---Guy Pearce, Eugene Levy and Future visit "Late Night With Jimmy Fallon" (12:35 a.m., NBC).
---Craig Ferguson hosts Laura Linney on "The Late Late Show" (12:35 a.m., CBS).
Kevin McDonough can be reached at email@example.com.