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Ray Donovan: TV Review

Showtime's new series relies on great performances to deliver compelling family drama.

 (Photograph: Jeff Riedel)
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Photograph: Jeff Riedel

Jon Voight as Mickey Donovan, Liev Schreiber as Ray Donovan, Paula Malcomson as Abby Donovan, Dash Mihok as Bunchy Donovan, Eddie Marsan as Terry Donovan and Pooch Hall as Daryll in Ray Donovan

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Katherine Moennig as Lena in Ray Donovan

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Liev Schreiber as Ray Donovan in Ray Donovan

 (Suzanne Tenner)
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Suzanne Tenner

Liev Schreiber as Ray Donovan in Ray Donovan

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Kerris Dorsey as Bridget Donovan and Liev Schreiber as Ray Donovan in Ray Donovan

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Devon Bagby as Conor Donovan in Ray Donovan

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Paula Malcomson as Abby Donovan in Ray Donovan

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Kerris Dorsey as Bridget Donovan and Liev Schreiber as Ray Donovan in Ray Donovan

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Paula Malcomson as Abby Donovan in Ray Donovan

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Paula Malcomson as Abby Donovan and Josh Pais as Stu Feldman in Ray Donovan

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Paula Malcomson as Abby Donovan, Liev Schreiber as Ray Donovan and Josh Pais as Stu Feldman in Ray Donovan

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Liev Schreiber as Ray Donovan, Peter Jacobson as Lee Drexler and Paula Malcomson as Abby Donovan in Ray Donovan

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Devon Bagby as Conor Donovan and Austin Nichols as Tommy Wheeler in Ray Donovan

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Liev Schreiber as Ray Donovan and Johnathon Schaech as Sean Walker in Ray Donovan

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Paula Malcomson as Abby Donovan, Denise Crosby as Deb and Elliott Gould as Ezra Goldman in Ray Donovan

 (Suzanne Tenner)
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Suzanne Tenner

Liev Schreiber as Ray Donovan in Ray Donovan

 (Suzanne Tenner)
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Suzanne Tenner

Liev Schreiber as Ray Donovan and Elliott Gould as Ezra Goodman in Ray Donovan

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Jon Voight as Mickey Donovan and Liev Schreiber as Ray Donovan in Ray Donovan

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Jon Voight as Mickey Donovan in Ray Donovan

 (Photograph: Suzanne Tenner)
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Photograph: Suzanne Tenner

Dash Mihok as Bunchy Donovan, Pooch Hall as Daryll and Eddie Marsan as Terry Donovan in Ray Donovan

 (Photograph: Suzanne Tenner)
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Photograph: Suzanne Tenner

Jon Voight as Mickey Donovan and Liev Schreiber as Ray Donovan in Ray Donovan

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Dash Mihok as Bunchy Donovan in Ray Donovan

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Liev Schreiber as Ray Donovan and Elliott Gould as Ezra Goldman in Ray Donovan

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Liev Schreiber as Ray Donovan in Ray Donovan

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Steven Bauer as Avi in Ray Donovan

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Ambyr Childers as Ashley Lynn Prescott in Ray Donovan

 (Photograph: Patrick Wymore)
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Photograph: Patrick Wymore

Liev Schreiber as Ray Donovan and Elliot Gould as Ezra Goldman in Ray Donovan

 (Photograph: Patrick Wymore)
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Photograph: Patrick Wymore

Devon Bagby as Conor Donovan and Jon Voight as Mickey Donovan in Ray Donovan

 (Photograph: Patrick Wymore)
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Photograph: Patrick Wymore

Dash Mihok as Bunchy Donovan in Ray Donovan

 (Photograph: Patrick Wymore)
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Photograph: Patrick Wymore

Steven Bauer as Avi and Pooch Hall as Daryll in Ray Donovan

 (Photograph: Patrick Wymore)
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Photograph: Patrick Wymore

Jon Voight as Mickey Donovan in Ray Donovan

 (Photograph: Patrick Wymore)
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Photograph: Patrick Wymore

Paula Malcomson as Abby Donovan and Eddie Marsan as Terry Donovan in Ray Donovan

 (Photograph: Patrick Wymore)
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Photograph: Patrick Wymore

Pooch Hall as Daryll, Eddie Marsan as Terry Donovan, Jon Voight as Mickey Donovan and Devon Bagby as Conor Donovan in Ray Donovan

 (Photograph: Patrick Wymore)
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Photograph: Patrick Wymore

Pooch Hall as Daryll, Jon Voight as Mickey Donovan and William Stanford Davis as Potato Pie in Ray Donovan

 (Photograph: Patrick Wymore)
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Photograph: Patrick Wymore

Pooch Hall as Daryll, Eddie Marsan as Terry Donovan, Jon Voight as Mickey Donovan and Dash Mihok as Bunchy Donovan in Ray Donovan

 (Photograph: Patrick Wymore)
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Photograph: Patrick Wymore

William Stanford Davis as Potato Pie and Dash Mihok as Bunchy Donovan in Ray Donovan

 (Photograph: Patrick Wymore)
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Photograph: Patrick Wymore

Pooch Hall as Daryll and Paula Malcomson as Abby Donovan in Ray Donovan

 (Photograph: Patrick Wymore)
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Photograph: Patrick Wymore

Pooch Hall as Daryll in Ray Donovan

 (Photograph: Patrick Wymore)
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Photograph: Patrick Wymore

William Stanford Davis as Potato Pie in Ray Donovan

 (Photograph: Patrick Wymore)
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Photograph: Patrick Wymore

Pooch Hall as Daryll and Eddie Marsan as Terry Donovan in Ray Donovan

 (Photograph: Patrick Wymore)
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Photograph: Patrick Wymore

Eddie Marsan as Terry Donovan and Pooch Hall as Daryll in Ray Donovan

 (Photograph: Patrick Wymore)
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Photograph: Patrick Wymore

Liev Schreiber as Ray Donovan in Ray Donovan

 (Photograph: Suzanne Tenner)
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Photograph: Suzanne Tenner

Elliott Gould as Ezra Goldman and Liev Schreiber as Ray Donovan in Ray Donovan

 (Photograph: Suzanne Tenner)
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Photograph: Suzanne Tenner

Jon Voight as Mickey Donovan in Ray Donovan

 (Photograph: Suzanne Tenner)
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Photograph: Suzanne Tenner

Frank Whaley as Van Miller in Ray Donovan

 (Photograph: Suzanne Tenner)
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Photograph: Suzanne Tenner

Elliott Gould as Ezra Goldman in Ray Donovan

 (Photograph: Suzanne Tenner)
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Photograph: Suzanne Tenner

Paula Malcomson as Abby Donovan in Ray Donovan

 (Photograph: Suzanne Tenner)
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Photograph: Suzanne Tenner

Jon Voight as Mickey Donovan in Ray Donovan

 (Photograph: Suzanne Tenner)
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Photograph: Suzanne Tenner

Elliott Gould as Ezra Goldman and Liev Schreiber as Ray Donovan in Ray Donovan

 (Photograph: Suzanne Tenner)
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Photograph: Suzanne Tenner

Denise Crosby as Deb in Ray Donovan

 (Photograph: Suzanne Tenner)
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Photograph: Suzanne Tenner

Liev Schreiber as Ray Donovan and Paula Malcomson as Abby Donovan in Ray Donovan

 (Photograph: Suzanne Tenner)
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Photograph: Suzanne Tenner

Eddie Marsan as Terry Donovan and Pooch Hall as Daryll in Ray Donovan

 (Photograph: Suzanne Tenner)
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Photograph: Suzanne Tenner

Dash Mihok as Bunchy Donovan in Ray Donovan

 (Photograph: Suzanne Tenner)
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Photograph: Suzanne Tenner

Brooke Smith as Frances and Eddie Marsan as Terry Donovan in Ray Donovan

 (Photograph: Suzanne Tenner)
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Photograph: Suzanne Tenner

Octavius J. Johnson as Marvin Gaye Washington in Ray Donovan

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Liev Schreiber as Ray Donovan and Jon Voight as Mickey Donovan in Ray Donovan

Showtime's original programming has made good use of the anti-hero for years now from Dexter to Weeds to Californication. The marketing for Ray Donovan seems intent to sell its latest drama series as another entry into this weary genre, but fortunately, this isn't more of the same. Rather than an additional show about a bad guy struggling with his demons, Emmy-winner Ann Biderman has delivered a layered family drama with a captivating cast of characters.

Ray Donovan (Liev Schreiber) is a "fixer" for a big-time Hollywood attorney. When movie stars, athletes and celebrity royalty get into trouble (like waking up in a hotel room with a dead girl trouble) they call Ray to make this go away. While this may sound like great fuel for episodic television (it certainly worked for the first season of Scandal), it makes up surprisingly little of Ray Donovan's screen time. Instead, the show focuses on Ray's dysfunctional family, who moved from South Boston to Los Angeles 15 years ago. Ray's older brother Terry (Eddie Marsan) runs a boxing gym and suffers from Parkinson's due his fighting history. Younger brother Bunchy (Dash Mihok) has a substance abuse problem stemming from being molested by a Catholic priest as a child. Ray's wife Abby (Paula Malcomson) desperately wants her husband to move their kids to a better neighborhood so they can go to good schools. But it's the reappearance of father Mickey (Jon Voight), that puts Ray on edge. After being sent to prison for murder, Mickey heads to California to re-insert himself into the lives of the Donovans, but Ray is committed to keeping him away from his kids, convinced that he will destroy everything he's worked for.

Aside from a few "fixing" assignments and the general motivation to get Mickey out of California, Ray Donovan is fairly thin on plot in its first few episodes. This can make things feel a bit aimless, but the character work and acting is so good that it almost doesn't matter. Despite the title character's stone-faced exterior, Schreiber draws a beautiful portrait of a man out of place. While Ray's name is notorious amongst the Hollywood glitterati, he's still a scrappy guy from Southie who often seems like he'd much rather be working for the forgotten people his clients leave in their wake. We're left guessing why Ray has so much hate for his father, while Terry and Bunchy are so willing to let him back into their lives. But as we get to know Voight's Mickey, he reveals himself to be equal parts charming and slimy, unveiling a man who would hurt anyone to get what he thinks is owed to him.

Ray Donovan gets off to slow start but delivers an extremely compelling portrait of a unique working class family.

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