Ray Donovan (episode 1) – 5 stars

Having only seen the premiere, any rating is preliminary, Showtime is on my keister to contibute to the buzz.

The story of L.A. “fixer” Ray Donovan (Liev Schreiber) has all the elements of a great show.  Schreiber is a compelling central figure, hard-wired into the glitzy life of sex and power and celebrity, but beleaguered, not only by a childhood trauma, his own demons, dependent adult brothers, and the normal strains of a wife and two kids, but the ominous return of his menacing, just out of prison for 20 years, father (Jon Voight).

It’s also populated by some really fine character actors, including Elliot Gould (as Donovan’s Jewish hot shot Hollywood lawyer patron) and a thick Stephen Bauer, who has aged into Michael Nouri (as Donovan’s either Israeli or Greek No. 2).  Josh Pais, as a squirrely, unctuous studio mogul, damn near steals the first episode. 

Slate, in its never-ending quest to be contrarian, bemoans the series and its reliance on yet another anti hero.  Having just lost James Gandolfini, whose Tony Soprano was the dramatic anti-hero of our time, I welcome a new one, especially on of this species. Donovan is inward as Soprano was explosive, and he crosses two worlds (a tough Boston upbringing and sun-bleached, gaudy L.A.) which may offer all north Jersey offered and more.

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