The next time you read about a scandal in Hollywood, think of Ray Donovan.
He’s a “fixer.” Like Olivia Pope on “Scandal,” he sweeps in, obliterates the obvious and creates a new truth that plays better in the press.
He’s the guy behind the sexting athletes, the cheating politicians.
And in the new Showtime series “Ray Donovan,” plenty of outrageous behavior happens.
Working outside the law, Liev Schreiber’s Ray doesn’t hesitate to bang a few heads, break a few knees.
He’s not exactly on strong personal turf, either. His father (Jon Voight) has just gotten out of prison; his family tree is filled with broken branches.
In the opener, an actor has been found in bed with a dead transsexual. Instead of covering up the crime, Donovan orchestrates a new one and finds a way to polish the man’s reputation.
The machinations are fun to watch – this is an upgraded USA channel concept. But the family subplot is so dense it could make “Ray Donovan” more challenging than a family reunion.
Voight goes over the top with his revenge; Steven Bauer (as Ray’s henchman) uses an accent that suggests an entirely different series.
Add in Elliott Gould (as a mentor with mental problems) and two brothers who seem like refugees from the Actors Studio and it’s clear there are so many styles here it’s impossible to get a handle on who or what “Ray” wants to be.
Certainly creator Ann Biderman has created a lush world, one stuffed with characters. But she could have had that with just Ray, his cronies and his work. Tossing in the family, this becomes “The Fighter” meets “Michael Clayton” and, for an hour-long series, that’s a bit too much.
By the end of the first episode, so many covers have been cracked, it seems unlikely we’ll be able to polish off all the books that fill this shelf. The series seems daunting – and it really shouldn’t.
Schreiber is a unique, watchable actor who doesn’t need a boxing ring to pull punches. The brothers seem like liabilities, too. And a city like Los Angeles? As corrupt as it may seem, it can’t have this many rogue fixers settling scores.
“Ray Donovan” takes time to embrace. It isn’t must-see TV like some recent classics. But it has the desire to be in that category and the people who can make it happen.
If the series goes the distance, it’ll largely be due to Biderman’s writing and Schreiber’s acting.
They’re a one-two punch that haven’t scored a knockout in the first round, but there’s still time.
“Ray Donovan” premieres June 30 on Showtime.