On Showtime's latest series, Ray Donovan, Liev Schreiber plays the titular character by locking his face into serious-Gosling-face mode and occasionally speaking in a Boston accent. It's as flat as the rest of the show's pilot.
Created by Ann Biderman, creator of Southland and a former writer for NYPD Blue, Ray Donovan follows Ray Donovan (did it occur to anyone to give the show a more interesting title, or was dullness the desired effect from the start?), a rough-and-tumble Boston boy from a fucked-up family who now lives in Los Angeles, where he fixes the fucked-up problems of the rich and famous. He's a fixer, but he can't fix his own fucked-up home life, including a strained marriage and a daughter who needs to get into a better school. Are you becoming bothered by my use of the phrase "fucked-up"? Is it beginning to feel repetitive? Do you find yourself wishing I'd try something new? Welcome to the experience of watching Liev Schreiber on Ray Donovan.
A regular day in the life of Ray: He wakes and the telephone rings because an athlete has awoke next to a dead woman, the victim of too much blow. Ray must handle it. His face is like:
Then, in the kitchen of his home, he admires the family tree his daughter is constructing for school. Ray, full of joy, is all like:
Unfolding like a grade-Z Entourage, the show falters as a new problem emerges: A big-shot action star has been caught with a prostitute. Thing is, the prostitute was a man. Cue the Ari Gold wannabe shouting about cocksuckers and fags like this isn't 2013. On top of this situation feeling tired, no one has the bombastic charisma of Jeremy Piven. The screaming feels embarrassing. Obviously, Ray looks like this:
After dealing with this situation (and another, involving a young pop star who wants to jump Ray's bones), the occasion for the series emerges. Ray's father Mickey (Jon Voight) is out of prison and heading for L.A. Ray's brothers, one an alcoholic victim of sexual abuse at the hands of a Catholic priest, the other a boxer suffering from Parkinson's, are willing to make peace with their dad. They've even accepted their black half-brother. Ray, the perpetual sourpuss, won't hear of it. Turns out, he was the one who put Mickey in jail. Ray emotes:
His wife is mad at him about the pop star, and so Ray copes with alcohol, drinking alone. As is always the case, he hallucinates that a photograph of Marilyn Monroe is asking to fuck him. Hate it when that happens.
So, what is this show about? It seems like it aspires to anti-hero prestige TV status. Ray's certainly serious enough for this to appear to be Serious TV to anyone watching while they make dinner, or something similarly distracting. But if you pay attention, you won't be rewarded. This pilot is inert. Ray is good at his job but not good at his life. Will he be able to fix himself? It's an interesting question to ask of something with a beating heart, not a robot.
Written by Ross Scarano (@RossScarano)