Ray Donovan – Episode 1-1 Review

Ray_DonovanI tried to watch Ray Donovan today, a new series on Showtime starring Liev Schrieber and Jon Voight. I can’t say I particularly liked it that much, but I’ll give it another episode or two before making a decision.

To summarize, Schrieber plays the titular character, a Boston thug turned professional “fixer” in Hollywood. He covers up scandals and affairs, bashes heads in, and whatever else the rich and famous require. I found the plot a little dry. Donovan went here and there, fixing the problems of rich people and feeling torn between work and home. It wasn’t something I could see myself getting invested in long term.

My more abstract problem with the show has to do with the characters. Schrieber is playing the brooding, tormented anti-hero that we see so often on TV nowadays, and I immediately found his wife annoying. Her nasally, wrong-side-of-the-tracks accent and her whining for a better house drove me crazy, because it’s supposed to. I’m tired of being instructed to dislike the wife. The Sopranos, Dexter, Breaking Bad, Mad Men – all of these shows have handed us dark anti-heroes, have made us root for them, and have given them wives that we’re meant to hate. It’s a tired formula. God, even on Nurse Jackie we end up liking Kevin, Jackie’s husband, more than her.

Had the show been very good, I might have been able to overlook my problems with the wife the way I’ve been able to somewhat overlook my hatred for the Mike character on Homeland. But the episode felt empty and confusing to me. Not much happened, and when things did I wasn’t sure what was going on. I had a hard time keeping track of the Donovan family, who’d been molested by priests and who hadn’t, and why everyone hated their dad (Jon Voight).

Like I said, I will likely give the show another episode or two before I write it off. But I can already tell that I’d probably rather spend my summer evenings catching up on Scandal than watching what is clearly the lesser show about a fixer.

Did you guys watch? What’d y’all think?

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