TV’s Ray Donovan knocks it out of the park
The Showtime TV series Ray Donovan is one of the best programs on cable. It can be compared as the Irish version of the HBO series The Sopranos, but is more unpredictable and exciting. I can’t believe I didn’t catch on when it first aired in 2013 and I am binge watching it — the most exciting invention of the 21st Century
By Ray Hanania
Binge watching is the most exciting invention of the 21st Century, far surpassing the iPod, iPad and the iPhone computer technology.
And I am using “binge watching” to watch one of the best TV series on cable TV, Showtime’s Ray Donovan.
“Ray Donovan,” played by actor Liev Schreiber, is a “fixer” for Hollywood’s elite. He’s the “go-to guy” when the wealthy and the powerful need something fixed, covered-up or “taken care of.” His clients include business people, sports figures, politicians, FBI directors, Hollywood celebrities and even his dysfunctional family.
The Donovan’s have brought all of their family problems from South Boston where Donovan was a street thug, and refined it with the help of two assistants, Avi, played by Steven Bauer, and Lena, played by Katherine Moennig.
Donovan has a family that is very similar to Tony Soprano’s family, including a crazed wife, Abby, played by Paula Malcomson, and daughter and son Bridget, played by Kerris Dorsey, and Conor, played by Devon Bagby.
But the talent doesn’t just stop there. The show is a series of powerful acting cameos and series staples including his mob-tied father, Mick, played by Jon Voight, and his brothers Terry, played by Eddie Marsan, and Bunchy, played by Dash Mihok. And, he has a half brother, whose mother is Black, played by Pooch Hall.
We’re talking corruption at all levels and people get whacked all the time, including many you would think are so talented they should be in the series for far more episodes.
The Showtime series is in its 4th season and I am speeding through finishing Season 1 and Season 2 in less than five days, and am breaking into Season 3.
It involves all the usual Irish foibles including victims of Catholic church pedophilia, political corruption and scenes of law enforcement.
It’s good to see Bauer in an action drama. He plays the perfect role of Donovan’s enforcer side-kick, so much more sophisticated than Soprano’s Salvatore “Big Pussy” Bonpensiero, who was played by actor Vincent Pastore.
The story lines underlying the show are complex but so believable. Internal family fighting gets so vicious that Donovan puts a contract on his father, Voight, who was released from prison after serving 20 years for murder and that brings in a whole slew (or to be politically correct using the Gaelic, slaugh) of controversy.
Ray Donovan can’t turn one corner without three more things popping up that he has to take care of for his family, his clients, his friends and even strangers.
Cameo appearances include the fantastic James Woods as Boston mobster Sully, Hank Azaria as the head of the FBI’s office in Los Angeles, Elliot Gould as his wealthy father-like mentor, Katie Holmes, Rosanna Arquette, Richard Benjamin, Ian McShane, Vinessa Shaw as the prying Boston Globe reporter and so many more I can’t even name them all. They don’t all get whacked.
The series started with compelling drama and that’s what kept me hooked. It suffered from some poorly done PR and early promotion and while the following is big, I am amazed I didn’t hear more about the series before.
Maybe there is just too much on cable TV these days. My scheduled has been crowded lately dominated by Shameless, which is about an dysfunctional Irish family that is not as violent as the Donovans but comes close, and Westworld, the remake of the 1960s Yul Brenner film which could have been a lot better.
Why don’t they have a TV series on Arabs yet? You think being portrayed as violent makes you bad? I want a sitcom called “Everyone Loves Abdullah.” Talk about a whacked out, violent potential storyline?
Anyway, I’m hunkering down to finish Ray Donovan through Season 4 with great anticipation. If you haven’t seen it, you MUST see it. If you have seen it, you already know this is one of television’s best entertainment options.
And I am not sure I can wait until June for the premiere of Season 5 and all the violence and unpredictable shocking surprises that make this series so great.
(Ray Hanania is an award winning former Chicago City Hall reporter, and political columnist. A Palestinian-American standup comedian, you can reach him by email at email@example.com.)