The pitch must have been something like ‘Entourage’ meets ‘The Sopranos’: a tough-guy troubleshooter with family issues solves the problems of LA’s rich and famous by any means necessary. The reality isn’t quite as enticing. Ann ‘Southland’ Biderman’s writing is as one-note as Liev Schrieber’s performance as the titular hardman – unreadable doesn’t automatically equal intriguing.
So thank goodness for the supporting cast, most notably Hollywood old stagers Elliott Gould (as Donovan’s doddery mentor) and Jon Voight (our hero’s gangster daddy, fresh out of prison), who bring the series to vivid life. Voight in particular is as engaged and gripping as he’s been in a good while: whether executing a priest or leering at a breastfeeding mum, he’s repulsively compelling.
This week’s cases – a basketball player wakes up next to a corpse, a singer is troubled by a stalker – serve more to showcase Ray’s traits than hold much inherent interest in themselves, but there’s bags of potential here if the cast are given room to breathe and the lead can shake off his apparent ennui.