Everybody in the TV world seems pretty caught up with Netflix’s new original series, “Orange is the New Black,” but Showtime’s “Ray Donovan” is my new summer guilty pleasure. It’s a much more serious and stereotypical show—even though “Orange is the New Black” chronicles a woman’s stint in prison and the related back-stories of the people she meets.
“Ray Donovan” revolves around the titular character (Liev Schrieber); he’s an expert at doing the dirty work of the stars, running a successful operation in Hollywood. Despite his career success, his family is an utter mess. His father (played chillingly by a very, very creepy Jon Voight) just finished a 20-year stint in the joint and wishes to reunite with his family. Donovan’s one brother, Bunchy, has drug problems that are fed by Voight’s character (they actually do blow together), as well as a history of sexual abuse by a priest. His other brother has complications due to Parkinson's, generally hates himself and runs a dingy gym. Donovan’s wife can’t quite figure out whether he’s worth it. He just found out he has a half-brother. Oh, and they're Boston transplants so we get a lot of that accent.
It's an updated cookie-cutter throwback done well—violent and disturbing, with an antihero protagonist who runs a basically criminal enterprise for a law firm (enter Elliott Gould btw). But it’s really easy to root for the always blunt and stone-faced Donovan, who slogs through a seemingly insurmountable tide of ever-developing problems and nonsense with the same determined demeanor of pulp novel flatfoot.
Much like “Orange is the New Black,” “Ray Donovan” has a great lead character AND a stellar ensemble of supporting roles, though missing some of the creativity. Showtime has already deemed it a worthy venture, renewing it for a second season yesterday after only three episodes.
“Ray Donovan” airs Sundays on Showtime at 9 p.m. CST. The season premiere is available for free. “Orange is the New Black” is available in full on Netflix.