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Showtime's 'Ray Donovan' is a minor disappointment: Review

Liev Schreiber, right, is "L.A.'s best professional fixer"

Liev Schreiber, right, is "L.A.'s best professional fixer" for the rich and famous, as created by "Southland" producers and "Sopranos" directors. (Credit: Showtime)

Hey! Liev Schreiber! Jon Voight! Peter Jacobson! Elliott Gould! Ann Biderman -- who wrote and created and is one heck of a smart writer! What's not to like about Showtime's new "Ray Donovan," opening at a TV set near you this Sunday night at 10?

Turns out, "Ray Donovan."

My review:


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'Ray Donovan' review: Liev Schreiber stars

THE SHOW "Ray Donovan"

WHEN | WHERE Sunday at 10 p.m. on Showtime

WHAT IT'S ABOUT L.A.'s premier "fixer," Ray Donovan (Liev Schreiber) suddenly has a lot to fix. A top athlete he represents calls to say the woman he did coke with the night before is dead in bed next to him; another client, an actor, has been caught having sex with a transvestite, imperiling his weekend movie opening. What does Ray do? Deftly install the actor next to the dead woman, preserving his heterosexual image. All in a day's work. Ray takes care of some problems with baseball bats, others with cash payouts. The progeny of a Boston mobster, he is also a family man with a wife, Abby (Paula Malcomson), two teenage kids and a nice house in Calabasas. That's threatened when his despised father, Mick (Jon Voight), just out of jail, turns up. "Southland's" Ann Biderman created.

MY SAY Wanted to like "Ray Donovan." Had every reason in the world to like "Ray Donovan" -- chief among them Schreiber. But in the end, don't much like "Ray Donovan." 

This could all be a matter of taste (Boston mob? Meh), or just one of those "been there, seen that" reactions after watching an awful lot of series with emotionally layered leads who wrestle with their demons, past, spouse, families and existential isolation in the cold, cruel universe. (Right: the Don Draper crowd.)

This could also be a case of the pieces not all quite fitting together, or plot tangents that are just a little too convenient, or ridiculous. (An actor who cops to being with a dead woman instead of a transvestite because it's better for his movie opening? Whatever.)

Or maybe it's just Schreiber's character. Ray's the strong, silent type -- quite possibly a little too silent. There are a lot of wide open spaces with this guy, who is clearly a practitioner of deeds over words. Still, a few more words would be helpful, if only to establish what's going on inside, if anything.

Indisputably a wonderful actor, Schreiber fills the screen with stubbled menace and has created a potentially interesting protagonist. The operative word here, however, is "potentially." "Donovan" ultimately succeeds on the little things -- some very good performances by some very good actors and sharp dialogue by Biderman, who knows how to write Tough Guy talk with the best of them. You may like "Ray Donovan" -- if not, don't say you weren't warned.

BOTTOM LINE Good-looking production and Schreiber, but "Ray" left me cold.

GRADE B-

Tags: Liev Schreiber , Ray Donovan , Showtime , Peter Jacobson , Jon Voight

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