TV Review – Ray Donovan

Is this a show about a Hollywood fixer or a family whose mobster father’s crimes keep coming back to haunt them?

I don’t know….I’m not sure the people behind the show know either, but either way, I like it.

BQB here with a review of the Showtime series Ray Donovan.

About to close its fourth season, this show stars Liev Schreiber as the titular character Ray Donovan, the man that Hollywood celebrities go to with problems that can’t be handled through regular channels (i.e. the police, lawsuits, etc.)

I have to admit it, when I first started watching the show in 2013, I thought this sounded like a great premise.  Surely there must be a seedy underbelly to Hollywood that we mere mortals never see.

The series began strong.  Ray beats up a pop star’s stalker with a baseball bat.  As the show moves on, he blackmails celebs, hides their dead bodies, etc.

Problem – the show, pretty much from the start, made the Hollywood stuff a side dish and the family drama the entree.

Ray’s father is Mickey (Jon Voight) , an ex-convict recently released after serving a long stretch.  Despite being in his seventies, Mickey is constantly plotting a heist, a hustle, any number of get rich quick schemes that threaten to tear the Donovan clan asunder.

It goes without saying that looking out for his brothers is Ray’s second full-time job.

Here, the actors who play Ray’s brothers shine.  British actor Eddie Marsan is boxing club owner/trainer Terry.  Marsan’s performance captures the essence of a man who is single, getting older, clearly depressed over not having a family of his own and wishing he could have done more in life.  His brain was willing but his past boxing career left his body weak.

Meanwhile Dash Mihok stars as slow yet loyal Bunchy, sort of like the family puppy dog who from time to time declares that he too can put on his big boy pants only to end up causing trouble.  Still, you can’t help but hope that Bunch puts on those big boy pants one day.

Pooch Hall, a boxer in his own right, is the Donovan family’s black half-brother, Daryll aka ‘Black Irish’ a young, wannabe boxer and the product of Mickey’s affair behind the late Mrs. Donovan’s back.

The show follows a basic formula:

  • Ray tells Mickey to go F himself and never talk to anyone in the family ever again because he is tired of cleaning up after him.
  • Mickey ignores Ray and concocts an illegal scheme.
  • Mickey is so charming that he tricks one, two, or sometimes all three of the Donovan brothers into helping him.
  • Mickey’s plan is botched, resulting in potential criminal charges, arrests, and/or other criminals coming after the Donovans.
  • Ray, not wanting to see one, two, or all three of his brothers go to jail or worse, uses his fixer skills to bail them out.

I’ll say this for the show – it is schizophrenic.  A third of the time it is about scummy Hollywood life and the other two-thirds are devoted to the family drama.

Is it a Hollywood fixer show or is it The Departed with palm trees?  (Oh, I forget to mention the Donovans are all Bostonites transplanted to California, so expect a lot of wicked bad Bah-stahn accents, kid.)

Other cast members:

  • Ray’s henchman Avi, an ex-Israeli agent played by Steven Bauer who often tells Ray the hard truths he doesn’t want to hear.
  • Ray’s hench-woman, Lena – messy haired lesbian played by Katherine Moennig.  I thought it was interesting that this show has a hench-woman.  And she doesn’t do the stereotypical “oh let me put on a pretty dress and fool the men” schtick.  She is a pretty serious member of Ray’s fixing operation.
  • The other Donovans – Paula Malcolmson as Ray’s wife Abby, who puts up with Ray’s constant cheating and Kerris Dorsey and Devon Bagby as Conor and Bridget.)  Viewers, you may not be able to relate to a bat wielding leg breaker like Ray (and that’s no doubt a good thing) but if you’re a parent, you can probably relate to the spoiled brat hi jinx that Ray and Abby have to deal with on a regular basis.

At times, I have thought that the show would be better if it would pick one angle and stick with it.

If it is going to be a show about a Hollywood fixer, then focus on Ray doing illegal shit to get celebrities out of trouble…OR…

…if it is going to be about a man who constantly has to bail his dumb father and brothers out of trouble, then focus on that.

But somehow, this cast and the folks behind the show make it work, tie it altogether, and provide a good story.

Thus I can’t fault them for having two angles.

I keep coming back to find out what will happen next and that is always a sign of a good TV show in my book.

And while Jon Voight has had a long career starring in many acclaimed movies, in my mind, his role as Mickey “I do horrible things that ruin my family’s lives but I’m so charming they forgive me in five seconds” Donovan is what I will remember him for years from now.

STATUS: Shelf-worthy.

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2 thoughts on “TV Review – Ray Donovan

  1. Jason says:

    I haven’t watched this series yet…I want to watch it!

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