×

Ray Donovan

Showtime series captures darker side of 'Entourage' world from fixer's perspective

With:
Liev Schreiber, Paula Malcomson, Jon Voight, Eddie Marsan, Dash Mihok, Steven Bauer, Katherine Moennig, Pooch Hall, Devon Bagby, Kerris Dorsey, Peter Jacobson.

In creating “Southland,” Ann Biderman conjured an image of L.A. that mixed the town’s surface glitz with its grimy underbelly. She returns to that territory with considerable success in “Ray Donovan,” a Showtime drama casting Liev Schreiber as a high-powered fixer — the guy to whom the “Entourage” gang would turn if Vinnie or Ari got caught with their pants down. Buoyed by a riveting supporting performance from Jon Voight, it’s a dense, highly organic world — at its best, playing like a present-day “Chinatown.” More often, it’s eminently entertaining, if not initially quite worthy of a spot alongside TV’s velvet-roped A-list.

As played by Schreiber, Ray is a taciturn Gary Cooper type — a modern gunslinger who doesn’t make idle threats or suffer fools gladly. The twist is he’s also a family man, a Boston transplant with a tough but ambitious wife (“Deadwood’s” terrific Paula Malcomson) who hates living out in suburban Calabasas (“Like the friggin’ Jersey Shore of L.A.,” she gripes) and yearns to secure their teenage kids spots in elite private schools.

Still, Ray’s circle goes well beyond that, and the farther he gets from home, the more sordid his life becomes. Beyond clients engaged in all sorts of questionable behavior, there are his two brothers: strung-out Bunchy (Dash Mihok) — who never emotionally recovered from being sexually abused by a priest — and ex-boxer Terry (Eddie Marsan), who still manages a gym while suffering from the early stages of Parkinson’s thanks to all those blows to the head. (Seldom have onscreen brothers looked or seemed less related than this trio, but it’s a talented enough group to let that slide.)

Finally, there’s Ray’s criminal dad, Voight’s Mickey, unexpectedly paroled from prison after two decades, who shows up wanting to re-establish ties. Everyone but Ray seems to be onboard, but the old man’s quirks, foul mouth and roguish charm barely hide his underlying menace and ruthlessness — a mass of contradictions, yes, but never less than utterly compelling.

“Whatever you think happened, it was 10 times worse,” Ray says of life with father.

Even that doesn’t fully capture “Ray Donovan’s” teeming environs, as the early episodes (Allen Coulter directed three of the first five) introduce closeted Hollywood stars, athletes who awaken next to inconvenient bodies, sleazy studio execs and eccentric rappers, all part of a clientele Ray’s fast-talking partner (Peter Jacobson) embraces and coddles in the most colorful of terms.
In a way, it’s as if a darker “Entourage” wedded “Brotherhood,” a Showtime drama of a few years back about a tough New England family and mismatched brothers, with a dollop of “The Fighter” for good measure.

Granted, not all of the subplots work, but Biderman and company have quickly established a rich array of possibilities and deep bench of characters, even if a few too many fit familiar Hollywood stereotypes. And while it might not mean much beyond the L.A. market, the show does present the city’s sprawling geography and rhythms better than most programs set here.

Premiering alongside the final leg of Showtime’s longtime mainstay “Dexter,” the new series — with its own brooding, secretive leading man — seems well suited to become another Sunday-night destination.

Such are the benefits of getting into business with this fixer, especially when there’s so little about “Ray Donovan” that needs fixing.

Ray Donovan

(Series; Showtime, Sun. June 30, 10 p.m.)

Production: Filmed in Los Angeles by the Mark Gordon Co. and Ann Biderman Co.

Crew: Executive producers, Ann Biderman, Mark Gordon, Bryan Zuriff; co-executive producer, Lou Fusaro; producers, Allen Coulter, Jason Weinberg; director, Coulter; writer, Biderman; camera, Jonathan Freeman; production designer, Neil Spisak; editor, Sidney Wolinsky; music, Marcelo Zarvos; casting, John Papsidera. 60 MIN.

Cast: Liev Schreiber, Paula Malcomson, Jon Voight, Eddie Marsan, Dash Mihok, Steven Bauer, Katherine Moennig, Pooch Hall, Devon Bagby, Kerris Dorsey, Peter Jacobson.

More TV

  • iheart living room concert for america

    Fox's 'IHeart Living Room Concert for America': TV Review

    There’s something refreshing about something being about what it’s actually about. This was the thought that came to mind as the Backstreet Boys — a band still riding on the afterburn of one massive hit — performed a five-way “socially distanced” version of “I Want It That Way” on Fox’s televised benefit to raise awareness [...]

  • Claire Danes as Carrie Mathison in

    'Homeland': Carrie Mathison Says Goodbye to Longtime Ally (SPOILERS)

    “Homeland” reached another milestone in its final season with the passing of a fan-favorite character who has been with the show since its inception. SPOILER ALERT: The following includes spoilers for “Threnody(s),” episode 8 of the eighth and final season of Showtime’s “Homeland.”  Carrie Mathison has said goodbye to a longtime ally in her quest [...]

  • Jane Levy Breaks Down Special 'Zoey's

    Jane Levy on 'Panic' and Jim Carrey as Inspiration for Special 'Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist' Episode

    SPOILER ALERT: Do not read if you have not yet watched “Zoey’s Extraordinary Glitch,” the eighth episode of “Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist.” “Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist” thrust Jane Levy back into the spotlight as a leading lady in a broadcast series, but the eighth episode of that NBC dramedy, entitled “Zoey’s Extraordinary Glitch,” more literally thrust her into [...]

  • ‘Westworld’: 5 Burning Questions From Season

    ‘Westworld’: 5 Burning Questions From Season 3 Episode 3

    SPOILER ALERT: Do not read if you have not yet watched the third episode of “Westworld” Season 3. After Maeve (Thandie Newton) and Bernard’s (Jeffrey Wright) windy Westworld and Warworld antics from last time around, Episode 3 returned to the equally dangerous environment of future Los Angeles. The episode began with Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood) playing [...]

  • Outlander 507

    The 'Outlander' Death That Brought 'An Unexpected Wave of Emotion' (SPOILERS)

    SPOILER ALERT: Do not read if you have not yet watched “The Ballad of Roger Mac,” the seventh episode of “Outlander” Season 5. The latest “Outlander” episode was simply heartbreaking with one confirmed death and one fate left quite literally hanging in the balance. Both book readers and non-book readers alike have been aware for [...]

  • Mergers and Deals Placeholder

    Tegna Confirms Two Acquisition Offers Withdrawn Amid Coronavirus Upheaval

    Tegna confirmed Sunday that two suitors for the station group have recently withdrawn acquisition offers, citing the upheaval in the broader marketplace caused by the coronavirus crisis. Tegna’s statement is the company’s first acknowledgement that it has received four unsolicited acquisition offers in recent weeks. Two of those have since been withdrawn while the other [...]

  • David Schramm

    David Schramm, Star on NBC's 'Wings,' Dies at 73

    David Schramm, a stage actor who was also a star on the NBC comedy “Wings,” has died. He was 73. Schramm was a founding member of New York’s The Acting Company, which announced the news of his death on Sunday. He played Roy Biggins, the rival airline owner on “Wings,” and appeared in all 172 [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content