If "Magic City," the new drama kicking off tonight, April 6th, at 10pm on Starz, had started back in the fall, it would have been grouped in with "The Playboy Club" and "Pan Am" as similarly hollow-ringing, a pretty period piece consciously following in the steps of "Mad Men." Lucky for the show, it's starting now, after those other series have been canceled and are already fading from memory (Starz likes "Magic City" so much it's already committed to a second season).
But "Mad Men" still casts a long shadow over "Magic City," which was created by "Passion Play" writer/director Mitch Glazer, one from which it isn't able to escape, in part because it doesn't have the complexity or depth of Matthew Weiner's show, and in part because of its lead character. Ike Evans (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), owner of the glamorous Miramar Playa, initially comes across so much like a sun-faded copy of Jon Hamm's Don Draper that by the time the differences between the two emerge they just don't seem that compelling. Here's a rundown of the inevitable similarities between the two men and where they diverge:
"Magic City" begins on the last day of 1958, two years before the start of "Mad Men," and takes a similar, almost fetishistic approach to the details of its period, from the smoking (Ike likes a good cigar) and constant cocktail sipping, to the outfits, the decor, the cars. Ike, like Don, is suavely dressed with a hint of a rough edge underneath and a general aura of old-school masculinity.
As a man of his time, he also knows how to wear a sleek suit -- though since he's in Miami he sometimes gets to undo his top button.
They're irreplaceably great at their jobs:
And those jobs often run in similar paths: the wooing of clients with women and booze and the pitching of abstract and flattering ideas. Ike has to secure and please events and acts at the hotel, from a New Year's show with Frank Sinatra to a beauty pageant, and like Don he's not afraid to get a little forceful when charm isn't working. Ike, like Don, is also secure enough in his skills that he knows his biggest trump card is the threat of walking away -- something he uses when his gangster business partner Ben Diamond (Danny Huston) tries to flex his muscle.
They didn't start at the top:
Don was once a poor Midwestern kid named Dick Whitman, and while Ike doesn't seem to be harboring secrets on that level, he also didn't come from wealth, he married into it -- the beachfront property on which the Miramar is built used to belong to his first wife, and his sister-in-law Meg (Kelly Lynch) teases him about having once been a cabana boy.