All of the marketing material surrounding Ray Donovan, Showtime’s upcoming drama series, paints a very serious with tinges of black humor picture of LA and titular Ray Donovan. "The Bag or the Bat” is a bit too serious. Structurally it’s a normal pilot. We get to see Ray do his normal duties as the best Hollywood “fixer” and deal with his own dysfunctional family. Introducing plenty of serious subject matter ranging from sexual abuse, drug abuse, and guilt. It weighs everything down but never gives viewers a reason to really care.
Hollywood is a fucked up town. A constant and accurate descriptor for this show and surrounding area. Craziness just seems to happen here. NBA stars wake up with dead women in their bed. Action stars pick up male transvestites. Craziness. Everyone eventually calls Raya and his crew. Going off of that, Donovan sounds like it could've easily been a show on USA.
When things turn to Donovans home life and things become decidedly less “characters welcome”. Both of Ray’s brothers are in terrible spots. Terry has parkinsons, brought on from a career in boxing. Living in his boxing gym. Younger brother, Bunchy is battling sobriety and life after getting a million dollars as part of a settlement with the Catholic Church. His wife hates where they live, calling it the Jersey Shore of Los Angeles.
Ray is constantly battling with his amorality, while still being seen as a good man and father to his family. His own mentor, played by Elliott Gould, is having moral crisis feeling the need to repent for all the terrible stuff that they’ve “fixed”. Things that should never have been fixed. Ray does some very twisted, effective, but ultimately wrong things in “The Bag or the Bat”. Trying to keep that stain from infecting his family. The sudden release of his father, Mickey (Jon Voight) is treated as a massive oil spill. It appears Ray was responsible for putting Mickey away. This appears to be the main arc of the show but nothing about it is really set up beyond place setting.
Liev Schreiber gets a lot of strong silent type material here. On the strength of Schreiber's performance the series seems destined to use “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood” by Nicole Simone (the Santa Esmeralda cover would be humours). Ray is a distant character, always on the outside looking in, appraising the situation. Making the constant return to his dysfunctional family trying to watch after a while. Which would of been alleviated if the pilot had given any sort of greater context to these characters. “The Bag or the Bat” doesn't hold your hand trying to get you like these characters, you shouldn’t. But it doesn’t give you any reason to be interested in these characters either.
Tonally Ray Donovan feels like creator Ann Biderman and episode director Allen Coulter are apping The Sopranos. Imagine if Christopher Moltisanti managed to get out of the family and escape to Hollywood. Never making it in Hollywood, he falls on his old gangsterism to make way. And now the old life is catching up to him.The Sopranos, which does have one of the better pilots of all time, had me by the end of it. By the end of “The Bag or the Bat” I’m not really sold. Ray Donovan just comes off as nihilistic in an attempt to live up to some misplaced sense of what prestige TV is. It’s summer and there isn’t anything really on so of course I’ll watch all of this most likely.
Now this is all based off of an official episode posted on Showtimes Youtube channel. The series will debut on Showtime proper June 30. Being posted on Youtube it was censored, all the cursing and nudity is cut out. Judging by the run time it doesn’t appear that any scenes were cut. The censoring isn’t that bad, o no you don’t get to here F-bombs. The pixelization of nudity is actually kind of comical.
You can find Mike Mazzacane online at places like Twitter @MaZZM and at mazzz.net . In both places he wonders, Why they do that? Attempts to find that euphoric high he recived from the E3 Sony press converene (KH 3 IS A THING). Writes abou obscure MMA events. Video Games from time to time. And Film and TV because it's kinda cool.