Saturday, June 29, 2013

Ray Donovan Is Wicked Good

Ray Donovan
Showtime Network
Sunday Nights
With Liev Schreiber, Jon Voight, Elliot Gould
Created by Ann Biderman
Four Scoops of Bosco

Reviewed by Allen Bacon, The Daily Bosco

Usually, the only good thing that comes out of a Boston-Los Angeles blending is a Celtic-Laker game.

With the debut of Showtime's latest drama, Ray Donovan, on Sunday night (6.30.13), that is probably going to change.

Think if the characters from the Brothers McMullen or The Fighter moved to Los Angeles, (or in this case Calabasas) and you only start to get the idea of what this new show is about.

Liev Schreiber plays the title character who works for two high powered Los Angeles Attorneys (played by Elliot Gould and Peter Jacobson) as a Star Handler.

The opening of the pilot episode plays out with the break neck pacing of an episode of  another Showtime hit House of Cards as Ray's team of handlers handle a situation or as it turns out two major crisis situations at once.

A star athlete, who is married, is caught in bed with a dead woman who has overdosed on cocaine while another of his firm's clients, a macho action movie star (played by John of Cincinatti's Austin Nichols) is caught for the umpteenth time with a transvestite when his character persona is supposed to be the epitome of Straightness.  How they "handle" those two situations at once is one of the most interesting scenes you will see on television this year.

But there's more.

Turns out, Ray's dad, played by Jon Voight, is getting released from prison after twenty years and the first thing he does is hunt down a priest and shoots him execution style.  And he's heading toward Los Angeles.

As the show moves on we slowly grasp the situation.  Ray's transplanted family from Boston, which we begin to understand through the eyes of his young daughter as she works on a School Geneology Project, includes a sister who committed suicide, a brother who was molested by a priest and has a tremendous drinking problem, a brother who stayed in the boxing game too long and suffers from palsy, and a half brother who is Black.

Sure he can handle the Hollywood star problems with adept skills and street smarts he learned on the streets of Boston, but when it comes to handling his family that is another matter.

The title character could also be one of the most complex characters to hit television since Don Draper and Tony Soprano.

This series, created by Ann Biderman (Southland, NYPD Blue) brings a lot of the styling and sensibilities of those two excellent shows and a feature length big screen movie feel with the added edge of appearing on the Showtime network where more things can happen than on regular network TV.

In a situation that is becoming more common place, this show also has a feel of a feature length movie because the stars of the show are major Movie actors.  In addition to Schreiber, Voight, and Gould, James Woods also plays a recurring character.  The rest of the cast is made up of great television/movie actors like Peter Jacobsen and it's kind of fun to figure out where you have seen them before. (To give you a head start, Jacobsen was on House)

As most good Opening shows on good television series do, there are a lot of unanswered questions and potential story lines that makes you wanting to find out more about all the characters.

We will get the chance to see how that plays out over the next three months.

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