When it comes to Los Angeles-based noir drama, Ray Donovan continues to hold up awfully well in its third season, premiering Sunday. The Showtime drama starring Liev Schreiber as the most inflexible muscle in Tinseltown continues its low-down winning ways, finding room for guest stars Ian McShane (as a wealthy, growly guy) and Katie Holmes (as the sullen daughter of the growly guy, and very tough herself).
If you aren’t predisposed to like this genre, you could say with some fairness that one of the problems with Ray Donovan is that everyone is tough — tough to a one-note fault. But as conceived by creator Ann Biderman and now extended by showrunner David Hollander, Donovan is managing to walk a fine line between hardboiled entertainment and over-cooked melodrama.
By now, I have bought into the idea that the Donovan family consists of some of the most different people who could possibly share DNA. Take wily old coot Mickey, the thoroughly disreputable paterfamilias played with ever-increasing gusto by Jon Voight. This season, Mickey adds pimping to his repertoire, but it’s not as seamy as it sounds, believe it or not.
Ray’s brothers are enduring different stages of agony. While Terry (Eddie Marsan) is in prison as a result of last season’s botched robbery attempt and now finds himself applying his boxing skills to fighting off neo-Nazis in the pen, Bunchy (Dash Mihok), who’s now managing the family fight club, is tortured with longing by the alluring presence of a surly female wrestler who spends a lot of time stretching and training in the club.
The show is also sending Ray’s wife Abby (Paula Malcomson) into an interesting downward spiral involving booze and a dog she rescues from the highway. It’s the tension Ray experiences in the push-pull of work vs. family that winds him tighter and tighter. The strain is really beginning to show, which makes things tough on him but more interesting for us.
Ray Donovan seems to occupy a second-tier status among classy cable dramas, but it’s sometimes as good as almost anything else out there. Certainly I want to keep watching, to see how the Donovan family proceeds. They’ve got to implode some time, and I want to be there to catch it.
Ray Donovan airs Sundays at 10 p.m. on Showtime.