Monday, July 1, 2013

Ray Donovan Debuts with Originality and Flair

You can only watch so many police dramas, regardless of how good they are.   And even post-apocalyptic science fiction -  be the agent of apocalypse disease, aliens, power failure - can satiate, though for me that limit is much higher than for police drama.  But even so, it's refreshing to see a series that has little to do with either television genre.

Well, Ray Donovan does have more than a bit of crime.  But its idiosyncratic hero is a fixer - that is, a guy who gets his clients out of difficult straits which can just as likely include cops as well as criminals as the source of the difficulty.   He's cool and calm, but is also ferociously protective of his family and those he loves, to the point of beating someone perhaps to death for failing to stay away from Ashley, whom Donovan is both professionally protecting and having sex with, after Donovan has given the stalker more than fair warning.

Not that Donovan loves Ashley, but he cares about her.   And he was hired not to protect Ashley but to see who else she's been sleeping with - who else other than the Hollywood producer was is also sleeping with Ashley and hires Donovan.  But that's the point.   Donovan's best moments come from the heart, regardless how they may contradict a rational course of action.  Donovan knows he's playing with fire with Ashley, including angering not only his client but his wife and risking his marriage, but he's not about to resist the impulse.

The show comes loaded with complications that keep it on the edge of tragi-comedy.  On the verge of making love to Ashley against the wall, she has an epileptic seizure.  His two brothers have something to tell him - he and they have another brother - literally, a brother who's a brother, an African-American brother.  In such moments, the series almost resonates in different ways with Curb Your Enthusiasm and Californication.  Meanwhile,  Ray find this new brother hard believe, given that his father was out there screaming against busing in Boston.

Ray's father Mickey is played by Jon Voight, and you can't get much better than that.  (Liev Schreiber is tour-de-force as Ray.)  And Mickey also has a fascinating, complicated story.  Ray did something to put his father in prison in Boston for 20 years - we don't yet know what that is - and the first thing Mickey does when he's released is kill the priest who molested his boys.   And then he's off to California, much to Ray's displeasure - verging on fury.

It looks as if we're in for a highly original series in Ray Donovan, bursting with emotion and characters pushed to their limits in a feisty, merciless world.



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