August 7, 2017

SHOWBUZZDAILY Season Premiere Review: “Ray Donovan”

RAY DONOVAN:  Sunday 9PM on Showtime

Showtime has been having an awful summer, marked by the abject failure of I’m Dying Up Here and Twin Peaks, an 18-hour stunt that is filling the tiniest of niches.  (The soon-to-return Episodes and Dice have never been blockbusters either.)  For deliverance, the network is turning to its own Monarch of Moroseness, the veteran RAY DONOVAN.

It would be an overstatement to say that a fresh wind blew through the Season 5 premiere tonight, but the time jump engineered by showrunner David Hollander (who wrote and directed the episode) changed many of the show’s dynamics.  The biggest development was that Ray’s wife Abby (Paula Malcomson) had died when the season began, under circumstances which Hollander is so far leaving mysterious, meaning that it may or may not be related to the cancer that Abby supposedly beat last season.  (Despite Abby’s death, Malcomson remains a series regular this season, and based on the premiere will be showing up frequently in flashbacks and fantasy sequences.)  In some ways, it may be even more surprising that Ray (Liev Schreiber, as stoic as ever) has a new housemate:  his hated dad Mickey (Jon Voight), who’s continuing his plan of becoming a screenwriter.  There’s also a mystery about a bar fight violent enough that Ray is in a court-ordered regimen of therapy.

Meanwhile, Ray’s brother Terry (Eddie Marsan) had surgery to control the palsy of his Parkinson’s, and seemed about to marry his cop girlfriend Sheila (Michael Hyatt) until–this being Ray Donovan–the engagement fell apart the day before the wedding due to Terry’s pas sins.  Their other brother Brendan (Dash Mihok) was ineptly trying to join his wife Teresa (Alyssa Diaz) in a wrestling tour out of GLOW.  Ray’s son Conor (Devon Bagby) was away in boarding school, and Bridget (Kerris Dorsey) had her own mystery going, off to New York to spend some time with a new character who may have known Abby in a cancer ward.  The premiere also set into motion the season’s crime storyline, with the introduction of a new power broker, studio head Samantha Winslow (Susan Sarandon).

The loss of Abby may not be a bad thing for Ray Donovan, because as fine an actor as Malcomson is, her character was often bogged down in “wife” material, all disapproval and nagging.  Hollander’s decision to reveal the specifics of her fate over time also adds a different kind of suspense to the storytelling.  All of it also provides Schreiber with plenty of material to continue being inarticulately grim, his Ray Donovan specialty.

Ray Donovan has always been one step below TV’s highest rank, respected but not quite original or stylized enough to garner special notice, and hurt by murky plotting and a somewhat monotonous tone.  However, it’s a well-produced and especially well-acted show, so perhaps a bit of a shake-up will jar the series in the right direction.  Its network could certainly use a win.

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."