You may well have seen a trailer I put on tumblr for Ray Donovan. That was kind of an unofficial preview for my third column. Over the last few weeks I’ve been bombarded by family, friends and colleagues with ideas for my next column. With that in mind I have a confession to make, I am not up to date on the following shows Boardwalk Empire, Man Men and Breaking Bad but perhaps worst of all, I have never even watched an episode of The Wire. These are all shows that have been suggested to me but I’ve always stated that the principle of this column was to spotlight shows that aren’t on people’s radar. Ray Donovan is now only seven episodes in on Showtime in the US and certainly falls under that category. Ann Biderman, the show’s creator (who is best known for the movies Primal Fear and Public Enemies), has flown in the face of the unfair stereotype that the most engaging TV of today is being created by those who are young (Biderman is 62) and male (Biderman is called Ann and therefore a woman) to create some truly engaging television.
Ray Donovan is the story of a professional “fixer” for a law firm in Hollywood. What does a fixer do you might ask? A fixer is a trouble shooter for Hollywood agents or lawyers but not in the most conventional sense. If you represent a married basketball star that has just had a hooker die in his hotel bed, then a fixer will cover up the scandal and ensure it never reaches the media. It’s not a pretty job but someone’s got to do it right? Well in this case that man just happens to be Ray Donovan.
Played by Liev Schrieber (Sabretooth from X-Men Origins: Wolverine), Ray Donovan, is a man who’s trying to keep his life together while it slowly falls apart. His marriage with his wife, Abby (Paula Malcomson), is on the rocks (due in part to Ray’s infidelity) and his relationship with his children is also becoming increasingly strained. As if that wasn’t enough, his father, Mickey has just been released from the prison. Played by Jon Voight (most famous for fathering Angelina Jolie), Mickey, has a difficult relationship with his son, to say the least, and topping that list is his son’s involvement in his imprisonment. Jon Voight chews the scenery in a way that only a great actor with a role he relishes can do. Mickey is a character full of contradictions, menacing but a coward, compelling yet repellent. Ray’s brothers Bunchy and Terry don’t have it any easier either. Bunchy (Dash Mihok), was sexual assaulted by a priest as a child and this has left him suffering from depression, addiction and with a child-like disposition. Terry (played by British actor Eddie Marsan) is a former boxer turned gym owner who is dealing with the degenerative Parkinson’s disease.
A South-Bostonian through and through, Ray Donovan, is the one child in the Donovan family who has never allowed himself to be manipulated by his father. Ray even went as far as moving with his family from the East Coast to the West Coast for a better life and in attempt to avoid Mickey’s influence. The law firm he works for in Los Angeles is run in part by his closest friend and mentor Ezra Goldman (Elliott Gould) with whom he shares a number of deep and dark secrets. Ezra is struggling with his conscience and his behaviour is becoming increasingly erratic. You feel that at any time whatever secrets he and Ray share, could be revealed and Ray’s life could collapse like a tower of cards.
Ray Donovan is a show with a great ensemble class and an array of wonderful supporting actors. Biderman has created a show with two enormously strong lead characters, Ray and Mickey, and whenever Schreiber or Voigt are on screen together the feeling is reminiscent of a powder keg ready to explode. This show, even after seven episodes still has plenty of uncertainty that leaves the viewer keen for more answers and compels them to watch. One thing is for certain though, even for a professional fixer there are problems that even they can’t solve.