×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

TV Review: ‘Ray Donovan,’ Season 2

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

Ray Donovan, the Hollywood fixer in the show by the same name, is going to be preoccupied for a time fixing his family – and himself. That was where season one ended and season two picks up, in this Showtime series of intermittent appeal, where Liev Schreiber’s taciturn leading man is frequently eclipsed by the raging id that is his ex-con father, played with unrestrained gusto by Jon Voight. Several cast additions enliven the show, but the dark turn into priestly abuse and revenge has left the series toting excess baggage – and not just a baseball bat – in these opening frames.

For those who missed season one (and SPOILER warnings for those who might begin belatedly), Ray’s emotionally damaged brother, Bunchy (Dash Mihok), turned out to be not the only family member molested by a priest, who the brothers (and it bears repeating: No trio of on-screen siblings have ever looked less alike) eventually dispatched. This not only undermined a budding romantic relationship for third brother Terry (Eddie Marsan) but has clearly exacted a toll on Ray, at least if his eerie dreams and strange behavior toward his wife Abby (Paula Malcomson) are any indication.

The closing events of the first season – involving the death of a mobster Ray enlisted to whack his dad, Mickey – have also put Ray squarely in the crosshairs of an ambitious new FBI L.A. Bureau Chief (Hank Azaria), who labels him a “bagman for movie stars,” forcing the fixer to schlep to Mexico, trying to bring his dad back to clear up the mess.

If all that weren’t enough, Ray’s revelations to Abby have left their own relationship teetering – she even drags him to couples therapy, while experiencing her own midlife crisis – and his teenage kids continue to act out in rather tiresome pay-cable ways.

As created and written by Ann Biderman, there’s certainly a lot to chew on here, with the inevitable detours into salacious stories involving pro athletes and “American Idol” contestants. That includes not just the central cast but side players like Azaria, Wendell Pierce, Ann-Margret and Vinessa Shaw, the last as a Boston reporter nosing around regarding what really happened on that dock last year.

Still, “Ray Donovan” remains somewhat limited in its appeal – featuring colorful characters, yes, but at times constricted by Ray’s cowboy nature, which includes a professional knack for finding weak spots and exploiting them. Perhaps that’s why Voight’s Mickey is such a vital component – unlike his son, a man who talks softly and totes around a big stick, somebody who never knows when to shut up.

Showtime effectively launched the series behind “Dexter,” and now “Ray” will be asked to stand on its own. And while the series possesses enough pleasures, guilty or otherwise, to warrant a secure place in the DVR queue, it still feels like a program that is finding its way – seeking a balance between the seedy underbelly of L.A. glamor and the most dysfunctional of family dramas, connected by a fixer who’s mostly a downer.

Popular on Variety

TV Review: 'Ray Donovan,' Season 2

(Series; Showtime, Sun. July 13, 9 p.m.)

Production: Filmed in Los Angeles by the Mark Gordon Co. and Bider Sweet.

Crew: Executive producers, Ann Biderman, Mark Gordon, Bryan Zuriff, David Hollander; co-executive producers, Lou Fusaro, Cheo Hodari Coker; producers, John H. Radulovic, Jason Weinberg; director, Tucker Gates; writer, Biderman; camera, Robert McLachlan; production designer, Richard Sherman; editor, Lynne Willingham; music, Marcelo Zarvos; casting, John Papsidera. 60 MIN.

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

More TV

  • Sharon White, chief executive of OfcomOxford

    British Broadcasters Must 'Redouble Efforts' on Diversity, Media Regulator Says

    With progress on diversity in the television workforce appearing to slow, British broadcasters must “redouble their efforts” to improve the situation across the industry, the U.K.’s media regulator said. In its third annual report into diversity and equal opportunities in the British TV sector, Ofcom said that in the past year there had been “no [...]

  • Tin Star

    Sky Studios Launches U.K. Innovation Hub in Northern England

    Sky Studios is launching a new Innovation Hub in Leeds, the northern English city that is also set to become the new headquarters of British pubcaster Channel 4. Sky Studios, the production arm of pay-TV giant Sky, said Wednesday that the new regional hub would focus on talent development, scripted partnerships and new content experiences, [...]

  • THE BACHELORETTE - "The Bachelorette: Season

    'The Bachelor': ABC Announces Leading Man For Season 24

    ABC has cast its next leading man for Season 24 of “The Bachelor.” Peter Weber has officially been named the upcoming “Bachelor.” The announcement was made Tuesday night on ABC’s “Bachelor In Paradise” reunion special. Weber appeared on Season 15 of “The Bachelorette” with Hannah Brown, ultimately becoming the second runner-up. He was a fan-favorite [...]

  • SEAL TEAM stars David Boreanaz (left),

    Showrunner John Glenn Exits 'SEAL Team' at CBS

    CBS is cutting ties with “SEAL Team” showrunner John Glenn, Variety has confirmed. Glenn joined the show for its second season, which premiered in October of last year. Christopher Chulack, Sarah Timberman and Carl Beverly also executive produced. “Regarding ‘SEAL Team,’ I am proud of the work we did – and greatly enjoyed having the chance to [...]

  • NBC Campaign Aims to Reclaim Brand

    NBC Launches Campaign to Reclaim Brand Ownership of Hit Comedies (EXCLUSIVE)

    NBC is preparing a new salvo in the streaming-era TV branding wars. As audiences increasingly watch shows like “The Good Place” and “Superstore” on other platforms, the Peacock network has launched a new campaign to remind them that these are, first and foremost, NBC shows. And they’re even enlisting a real-life peacock to convey the [...]

  • Shane Gillis

    'SNL' Sought Conservative Appeal With Shane Gillis Hire

    “Saturday Night Live” was looking to shake things up with the casting of Shane Gillis — and it did, albeit unintentionally. According to sources, the long-running NBC comedy show and series mastermind Lorne Michaels were actively looking to cast a comedian for its new season who would appeal to more conservative viewers. This was meant [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content