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Channel hop

Mark Peters

 

Glamorously strutting its way onto our screens this week, Cuban cigar in one hand, martini in the other, comes brand new drama series Magic City (FX, Thursday at 11pm). Thankfully, the title doesn't refer to a town solely populated by conjurers and illusionists (oh, imagine the japes!) but to Miami Beach, where suave businessman Isaac "Ike" Evans (Jeffrey Dean Morgan; Grey's Anatomy), owner of the glitzy Miramar Playa Hotel, is ringing in the New Year with a helping hand from Ol' Blue Eyes himself, Frank Sinatra.

It's the late 1950s, and all is not going too smoothly for Ike and his beachside hotel, and with union bosses threatening to take the fizz out of his champagne, the king of the castle is forced to sell his soul to a dirty rascal - perma-tanned mobster Ben "The Butcher" Diamond (Danny Huston; The Aviator) - to save his beloved Miramar. Although on the surface it may seem like he has everything - the money, the young, gorgeous wife (Olga Kurylenko; Quantum of Solace), two handsome sons - Ike had to sell a 49 per cent stake in the hotel to Diamond to get it built. The Butcher, who has returned to Miami from Havana and the Cuban revolution, now craves a bigger slice of the pie.

With its seductive, glossy stylings and its stroking of the mob underbelly, Magic City draws obvious comparisons to Mad Men and The Sopranos, and while it may not reach the dizzy heights of those illustrious shows, it's still intriguing and ambitious enough to keep you watching.

Unfortunately, all that style has left substance on the backseat; there's a lot of sex and nudity but not a lot happens, and when something does, the storylines are predictable and full of mob cliché. It certainly takes its time to unfold and while Morgan is no match for the late, great James Gandolfini (is anyone?), he is a brooding, compelling star amid the programme's sun-kissed soap opera of palm trees and showgirls. It may not be full of magic but that doesn't mean it should do a disappearing act.

Having lost most of its bite in the previous two seasons, erotic gothic vampire drama True Blood returns on Saturday for a sixth series of supernatural shenanigans (HBO, 10pm). Picking up exactly where we left off last year, Sookie (Anna Paquin), Eric and the rest of their blood-drenched gang - having completed their assault on Vampire HQ - are running quick smart from newly risen demi-god Billith (Stephen Moyer; Paquin's real-life husband).

Based on the Southern Vampire Mysteries novels by Charlaine Harris, the show's main characters have all returned for this season but death-obsessed creator and producer Alan Ball has left the lair. The fifth series certainly seemed lighter (there was far too much fluttering of faeries) and rather uneventful compared with seasons past, and whether Ball's departure will see the show continue to lose its darkly comic edge remains to be seen. Even though True Blood has become progressively worse, it all began with such blood-pumping vitality that it remains watchable - and life in Bon Temps is once again set to get a little weirder, with the introduction of legendary vampire Warlow, played by the fantastically grizzled Rutger Hauer. Let's hope the nights grow a little darker.

If you, too, are a creature of the night and still wide awake at 2am tonight, you'll be able to join the heaving crowd at Glastonbury, the iconic music festival and cornerstone of British culture. A live, six-hour special (BBC Entertainment; repeated tomorrow at 6pm, Thursday at 12pm and Saturday at 10.15pm), presented by DJs Jo Whiley, Lauren Laverne and Mark Radcliffe, will feature musical highlights and live performances from three days in the Somerset pastures of Worthy Farm. With an eclectic line-up of more than 200 bands, proving you can please everyone some of the time, no doubt mainstream artists such as Arctic Monkeys, Elvis Costello and Sunday-night headliners Mumford & Sons (a band so utterly dull they make Coldplay sound like the Sex Pistols) will hog the limelight. If we're lucky, we may get a glimpse of country-music legend Kenny Rogers, hip hop heroes Public Enemy and post-punk gothic blues rock god Nick Cave. Of course, the majority of the 150,000 people descending on the Vale of Avalon will be there to witness the Glastonbury debut of Their Satanic Majesties, The Rolling Stones.

Enjoy your week of sex, blood and rock 'n' roll.

 

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