Ellen Gray: 'Mad Men' fans get speculative

Megan Draper (Jessica Pare) - Mad Men - Season 6, Episode 1 - Photo Credit: Michael Yarish/AMC
Megan Draper (Jessica Pare) - Mad Men - Season 6, Episode 1 - Photo Credit: Michael Yarish/AMC
Posted: June 14, 2013

* MAGIC CITY. 9 tonight, Starz.

* MAD MEN. 10 p.m. Sunday, AMC.

SOME OF THE PEOPLE watching "Mad Men" are being driven a little mad themselves.

Starved of sensation by a show that's so far failed to deliver a Red Wedding, a la "Game of Thrones," or even a measly serial killer, they've begun spinning theories on the Web about Charles Manson, the murdered actress Sharon Tate and a certain T-shirt worn by Megan Draper (Jessica Paré) - theories that, if true, would turn the show into something I doubt it was ever intended to be.

I blow hot and cold on "Mad Men," but even I appreciate that it's not that screwed up.

I think. I hope. With only two episodes left of Season 6, we should know soon who's right.

There's nothing wrong, though, with wanting a little action with your scrupulously designed period melodrama, and that's why more people should probably relax a little and catch up with "Magic City," which begins its second eight-episode season on Starz tonight.

If you missed the first eight - and the ratings, though they grew over the season, indicate most people did - worry not. "Magic City," set in 1959, isn't the kind of show where there's going to be a quiz afterward about the meaning of a hat a secondary character wore in the third scene, and it's reasonably welcoming to newcomers.

Jeffrey Dean Morgan ("Grey's Anatomy") stars as Ike Evans, the hardheaded, softhearted proprietor of a swank hotel in Miami Beach.

He's done some bad things, starting with going into business with a man (Danny Huston) whose nickname is "The Butcher," and some of those things are, yes, probably worse than the things Don Draper (Jon Hamm) has done in "Mad Men."

That Ike's a more sympathetic character at this point may have to do with his obvious devotion to his wife, Vera (Olga Kurylenko). It's hard not to love Vera: She's a former showgirl who caught the widowed Ike's heart a few years earlier in Havana and has since become an impressively determined stepmother, effectively raising the youngest of his three children. As a convert, she's also transformed herself into the family's most observant Jew.

Vera's not a perfect person, and this season uncovers some of her weaknesses, some of them involving Meg (Kelly Lynch), whose sister was Ike's late wife. But there's a sincerity to her that can't help reflect well on her husband, who's done one good thing, at least.

Their marriage stands in sharp relief to that of Huston's character, Ben Diamond. His young wife, Lily (Jessica Marais), has been having a risky affair with Ike's son Stevie (Steven Strait), a situation that's about to get both kinkier and more dangerous.

James Caan joins the cast as mob boss Sy Berman, the only apparent check on the power wielded by The Butcher, and Ike visits Cuba with an interesting proposition for Castro's government.

Creator Mitch Glazer, a former cabana boy who grew up in this world, has recaptured it beautifully. No, it's not as unpredictable as "Mad Men," but at least it packs enough of a punch to keep the conspiracy theorists at bay.

Email: graye@phillynews.com

Phone: 215-854-5950

On Twitter: @elgray

Blog: ph.ly/EllenGray

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