TV Review: Showtime's 'Ray Donovan'

Showtime premieres Ray Donovan, about a high-power Hollywood fixer embroiled in his own family drama, on Sunday at 10 p.m. The following are reviews from TV critics around the Web, compiled by B&C.

“[I]t’s as if a darker Entourage wedded Brotherhood, a Showtime drama of a few years back about a tough New England family and mismatched brothers, with a dollop of The Fighter for good measure. Granted, not all of the subplots work, but Biderman and company have quickly established a rich array of possibilities and deep bench of characters, even if a few too many fit familiar Hollywood stereotypes. And while it might not mean much beyond the L.A. market, the show does present the city’s sprawling geography and rhythms better than most programs set here.”

-Brian Lowry, Variety

Ray Donovan could be TV’s next go-to dark drama, thanks to Liev Schrieber’s mesmerizing performance as Ray and Jon Voight’s superb bobbing and weaving as the menacing Mickey. They’re the twin pillars of what starts as a complex drama about the hidden underbelly of celebrity America and turns out to be an even more complex drama about family.”

-David Hinckley, New York Daily News

“The Donovans are caricatures, and so are the Hollywood big shots. A series that weaves together such familiar archetypes needs to run off the road at some point and add an element of surprise… Too much rides on Ray’s charisma, and while Mr. Schreiber has considerable presence, the script pushes it so relentlessly that Ray’s brooding silences become almost laughable.”

-Alessandra Stanley, New York Times

“Biderman must be gleeful at getting to pull the strings on such an intricate story, with a fine ensemble cast. It’s an embarrassment of acting riches for Ray Donovan. So much so that any scene where Schreiber or Voight looks up to witness the other at a distance just crackles with anticipation - what hell is about to be unleashed in the ensuing moments?”

-Tim Goodman, The Hollywood Reporter

“[T]he show is an awkward melange of anti-hero tropes, which are so familiar by now that they verge on — or veer into — melodramatic cliché. Ray Donovan is the latest example of Dick-Measuring TV, in which powerful, angry men assess what they’ve amassed and scrabble for more — but none of it, of course, can fill the gaping voids within them, etc.”

-Maureen Ryan, The Huffington Post

“Together with Jon Voight, who’s thrillingly twisted as Ray’s crazy ex-con father, Mickey, Schreiber helps save this show from becoming just another drama about sex scandals diverted and TMZ headlines deferred… Too bad Mickey’s story is more compelling than Ray’s, which sometimes feels like a parody of tough-guy enforcer tropes.”

-Melissa Maerz, Entertainment Weekly

“The outline is terribly familiar: Ray is one of those TV heroes who’s great at solving everyone’s problems but his own. And there are times when that excessive familiarity carries over into Ray’s plots and characters… Yet in Ray and Mickey, producer Ann Biderman has created two of TV’s most interesting characters and one of its most absorbing dynamics.”

-Robert Bianco, USA Today

“Though I do not begrudge Ray Donovan its sense of momentum or tension, I was immediately struck by a desire to simply see more of Ray doing his job for a few episodes rather than seeing him deal with his brothers’ various problems. ”

-Hank Stuever, Washington Post

“While it’s too soon to tell whether Ray Donovan will rank alongside The Sopranos in the pantheon of timeless drama, this is television to watch with the phone off and the second screens tucked away, a testosterone-fueled drive through the seedy underbelly of Hollywood, one punctuated by danger at every intersection.”
-Jace Lacob, Daily Beast

Ray Donovan is still some good performances in search of a show… Ray is so far too much a cipher to be an engaging focal character, and his flaws and failings are those of so many middle-aged cable ass-kickers in the past decade… The show is best, actually, when it cracks its brooding, Oedipal, serious-drama glumness and struts its stuff as the slightly weirder story of Mickey, the senior citizen on the make trying to fit back into the free world… The show is called Ray Donovan, not Mickey Donovan, though. And here too, Ray can’t yet escape the shadow of the old man.”

-James Poniewozik, TIME

“Everyone is great, but Jon Voight? Brilliant. His character snorts coke with Terry as if he’s sharing a beer with his boy, and gives his grandson advice you’ve never, ever heard on TV. Ever. Great acting, writing and direction.”

-Linda Stasi, New York Post

“A story that could easily collapse under its own weight is held aloft by both great writing and absorbing performances from the entire cast…”

-Mary McNamara, Los Angeles Times

“Voight is an even more malignant pleasure: bull-necked, coarsely shrewd, his features as raked back and slitted as if he did his time in the joint in front of a wind machine. He’s got such assurance that he even gets by with some of the crummier bits in the script… Unfortunately for Peter Jacobson-who plays Lee Drexler, Ray’s deskbound partner in the fixer business-that kind of cheap writing is pretty much Jacobson’s full-time cross to bear.”
-Tom Carson, GQ