Starz’s “Magic City,” set in a gorgeous Miami Beach hotel in 1959, looks as cool as a pair of Ray-Bans.
Lovely women in (and sometimes out of) bikinis swim in a pool visible, aquarium-style, from the hotel’s bar while victims of a sadistic mobster sway like seaweed at the bottom of the Atlantic.
If only the storytelling equaled the imagery. “The Godfather Part II” couldn’t have drained Florida’s coast and pre-Castro Cuba of all of the decent mob stories. So why does “Magic City” feel underheated?
Created by Mitch Glazer, the series stars Jeffrey Dean Morgan as Ike Evans, owner of the Miramar Playa Hotel, Miami Beach’s most glamorous resort.
A cabana boy who married well, Ike struggles to keep his chunk of paradise on the up and up, both fiscally and ethically -- no easy task given the devil’s bargain he made years earlier with mobster Ben “The Butcher” Diamond (Danny Huston).
Ike’s worst fears begin to pan out when his best friend, a union leader threatening to strike the hotel, goes missing.
His problems are only beginning. Son Stevie (Steven Strait, the series’ sexy, bad boy) is having an affair with the Butcher’s gorgeous young wife. Good son Danny (Christian Cooke) is a law student under the watchful eye of a mob-busting district attorney.
With characters like that, “Magic City” all but writes itself, and sometimes feels that way. The three episodes available for review, though solid, offer few surprises. Ike’s Jewishness (and the era’s anti-Semitism) is by far the freshest angle on the by-now too familiar gangland doings.
Morgan nicely underplays the desperate Ike, while the often shirtless Strait is the show’s early breakout. Alex Rocco, forever Moe Green from “The Godfather,” guest stars as Ike’s elderly, seen-it-all dad, perfect casting for a show that occasionally comes close to deserving him.
“Magic City” airs Friday on Starz at 10 p.m. New York time. Rating: **1/2
ABC’s soapy new political drama “Scandal” stars Kerry Washington as a high-heeled, fast-talking fixer whose clientele reaches all the way to the White House.
The show itself is beyond fixing. The latest in diminishing returns from Shonda Rhimes, creator of “Grey’s Anatomy” and its spin-off “Private Practice,” squanders a perfectly good guilty-pleasure premise with witless writing and Washington’s overacting.
Washington plays Olivia Pope, a former White House staffer heading up a crisis-management team of lawyers. She still has the run of the Oval Office, though, thanks to a smitten, hunky two-timing president (Tony Goldwyn). Maybe Rhimes has been watching “The Good Wife.”
Apparently not closely enough.
“Scandal” airs Thursday on ABC at 10 p.m. New York time. Rating: *1/2
Dolores Hart gave Elvis Presley his first screen kiss in 1957’s “Loving You,” and six years later gave up the Hollywood life (and a fiance) for a Connecticut nunnery.
Now the Mother Prioress of the Abbey of Regina Laudis tells her story in Rebecca Cammisa’s Oscar-nominated HBO short film “God is the Bigger Elvis.”
Using clips from Hart’s films, vintage home movies and new interviews with Mother Dolores and other nuns taped within the rarely photographed confines of the abbey, “God is the Bigger Elvis” ponders the cost of faith in one woman’s life. Most poignantly, the film includes a visit from the man Hart left nearly at the altar, and who never really got over her.
In its scant 36 minutes, the film makes a star of Dolores all over again. She’s as charming and thoughtful as the film, and suggests why, 52 years later, the fiance still professes his love.
“God is the Bigger Elvis” airs Thursday on HBO at 8 p.m. New York time. Rating: ***
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(Greg Evans is a critic for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. Opinions expressed are his own.)