Showtime’s new series Ray Donovan premieres this Sunday, and the Times-Industrial Complex renders a split decision on the crime drama.
Start with the mothership. Here’s New York Times critic Alessandra Stanley’s take on the show.
Family Ties, Boston Style, in Los Angeles
If a series is going to go full Boston Irish, with battered former boxers, pedophile priests, barflies and fathers who do time in prison, all of it infused with the R-less accent of Dorchester, there really should be a Wahlberg in the cast.
Mark, or at least Donnie.
An Affleck brother wouldn’t hurt.
Instead, “Ray Donovan,” a new series beginning on Sunday on Showtime, stars Liev Schreiber as the title character, a South Boston transplant who works as a fixer for the rich and powerful of Hollywood. Jon Voight plays his bad-penny father, Mickey, a Boston mobster who moves to Los Angeles after 20 years behind bars.
It should be good. Crime stories pay, Mr. Schreiber is a compelling actor, and Ann Biderman, who created this show, was responsible for the wonderful series “Southland.” But the first few episodes of “Ray Donovan” are disappointing — grandiose, predictable and painfully slow.
But wait – here’s the kicker:
It’s a chore to watch. Tom Breen, a public affairs associate at the University of Connecticut, may have put it best in a Twitter comment: “Can’t tell you how disappointed I am that the show ‘Ray Donovan’ is not about the Reagan-era secretary of labor.”
On the other hand, witness the redoubtable Matthew Gilbert’s review in the Times’s wholly owned (for now) subsidiary Boston Globe:
‘Ray Donovan’ brings Southie to Lala Land
It isn’t clear from the title, or from the advance publicity, exactly what “Ray Donovan” is about, beyond the inscrutable face of star Liev Schreiber, which is all over the ad campaign.
That’s because this fantastic new Showtime drama is that wonder of TV wonders, a low concept series that can’t be easily reduced to a quick sentence. “Ray Donovan” is about many, many rich things, among them the PR underbelly of Hollywood stardom, the loathing between a man and his father, South Boston thugs on the wide streets of Los Angeles, the enduring injury of having been abused by a priest, a marriage in turmoil, and the lasting grief of the loss of a sister. You have to see it, to some extent, to get it.
So who really got it? Let’s go to the Times’s arch-nemesis Wall Street Journal for the tie-breaker. From Dorothy Rabinowitz’s review:
The Moral Life of a Fixer
Everything about this hard-bitten and buoyant tale, larded with touches of “The Sopranos,” reflects its own high confidence, and it’s well deserved. The hero, Ray Donovan, isn’t a New Jersey crime boss. He’s an enforcer of sorts who straightens things out for Los Angeles studio heads, their stars, and assorted other important people with dangerous tastes who are about to be ruined by scandal. As the closemouthed Ray—a man of finer sensibility, you’ve already guessed, than the thuggish-looking one shown in the ads for the series—Liev Schreiber is immensely persuasive.
“It’s all terrifically satisfying,” Rabinowitz concludes.
Our conclusion: We’ll give it a try.