October 28, 2018

SHOWBUZZDAILY Season Premiere Review: “Ray Donovan”


RAY DONOVAN:  Sunday 9PM on Showtime

On the occasion of its 6th season, Showtime’s RAY DONOVAN has relocated across the country to New York, and the surprise is that although the series has always been very LA-intensive, both in storylines and use of locations, there’s very little difference in the final product.  Ray (Liev Schreiber), having survived his season finale plunge into the East River, thanks to a timely rescue by NYPD cop Mac McGrath (Dominic Lombardozzi), is living in Mac’s house in Staten Island, and he’s grown a beard and put on a few pounds.  But he’s still doing the bidding of Hollywood studio head Sam Winslow (Susan Sarandon), which in this case means helping Sam’s chosen Mayoral candidate Anita Novak (Lola Glaudini) get rid of some embarrassing videos.  Ray’s faithful number two Lena (Katherine Moennig) is still helping him, however reluctantly.  In his spare time, Ray helps Mac cover up the cop’s own potential embarrassments.

And, of course, Ray’s relationships with his family are no less fraught.  Daughter Bridget (Kerris Dorsey) and brother Terry (Eddie Marsan) are in NY as well, where Terry has a new boxing gym.  Bunchy (Dash Mihok), still in LA, spends his portion of the hour broken up over losing custody of his daughter.  Most prominent as always is dad Mickey (Jon Voight), now in jail but clearly working on an escape plan, via a self-induced heart attack.

Showrunner David Hollander makes little attempt to play any new tunes in his script for the season premiere, and if it weren’t for the presence of yellow cabs and some Noo Yawk accents, Ray Donovan might just as well still be facing the Pacific Ocean instead of the Atlantic.  That’s a disappointment, because after 5 seasons, the series has been showing its age, presenting storylines that are mostly variations of each other.  Ray already has a murder to cover up, and he seems to have been having the same fight with Bridget since the series began.  Ray Donovan is a smooth piece of work, with a cast led by the ever-intense Schreiber that knows how to use every close-up and pause to express their characters’ moroseness and strains.  Season premiere director Allen Coulter handles the transition to new locations and the time jump with hardly a speed bump.  But anyone who hoped the “new” Ray Donovan would actually shake up the show’s fundamentals is in for more of the same.

That’s probably fine with Showtime, especially as the network approaches a season that will feature the last of Homeland and The Affair, and a Shameless that will soon be missing two of its central characters.  Ray Donovan can likely comfortably continue for quite a while along its familiar path.  One can’t help but feel, though, that if it didn’t take any major narrative chances at this crossroads moment, it may never try.


About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."