Seven seasons and a movie. That does Community one better than its goal.
We started watching Ray Donovan and I swear to you we were not two episodes into the show before I started referring to it as Showtime Sopranos.
Seriously. While I have absolutely no insight into the development of the show, it felt like somebody at Showtime was jealous of HBO and how popular The Sopranos were and figured they could play mix and match with the formula… we’ll make the family Irish, not Italian, and they’ll be from Boston rather than Jersey, and Ray won’t be in the mafia, he’ll be a fixer for the rich and famous… and come up with a winner.
Of course, by the time they got everything together and going The Sopranos was over and HBO was winning again with Game of Thrones, but whatever. At least Ray didn’t have to go head to head with Tony.
Anyway, Ray is this big time fixer in LA, where most of his family has ended up, having migrated from Boston to the west coast to be together I guess. The set is made complete when Ray’s father Mickey gets out of prison, where he had served 20 years for murder, and comes to LA to be with his family… and get in trouble.
The series is best summed up as a series of plans that all go wrong, but Mickey is the king of the disasters. An old school drug dealer and bank robber, he has an endless series of plans to get rich, usually dragging in one of his sons to help, which inevitable go badly off the rails, often landing his partners in jail and causing no end of headaches for Ray.
But Ray’s services are so much in demand by the rich and the powerful that he somehow manages to make things right, getting people out of prison or out of trouble with gangsters, before the next scheme gets everybody back into trouble again.
The series is seven seasons of plans gone bad, dead bodies being hidden, disappearing Boston accents (except for Abby, who is on always on point), and plot lines left unresolved. I mean, I swear there is at least one thing every season that, when the next season rolls, I ask aloud, “So what happened to… the Russians or the White Supremacist prison gang or the FBI investigation or whatever” because they clearly want to just “Yadda Yadda Yadda” themselves past a few things.
And then there are seasons six and seven, when the whole family relocates to New York. All the key players magically end up in the Big Apple. Not Boston, where they are from, but New York City where, if the show is to be believed, you can find parking right across the street from where ever you are headed. Apparently Liev Schreiber, who plays Ray, got divorced during season five and his ex-wife (Naomi Watts, who will always be Jet Girl to me, and who I always confuse with Rachel Griffiths for no good reason… Australians I guess…) and kids moved to New York so he wanted to move shooting there so he could be close to his sons. Maybe dysfunctional families do move across country together.
Still, there is a train wreck like fascination that grows on you as you watch the show because literally every plan, every aspiration, even the most simple of intentions, manages to fall through into some sort of disaster. I stopped with references to The Sopranos and started calling the show Mickey Wrecks it All. Also, there is an easy drinking game built into the show. Every time Ray says, “Sure” in that curt, unconvincing way he has, take a drink. You’ll be plastered before the end of most episodes.
The series was cancelled after the seventh season, which was almost a relief because I am not sure how much more Ray could take without straining even willing suspension of disbelief beyond all possible limits.
However, Showtime relented, and there is now a movie in the works to tie everything together. I wonder if it will be complete fan service, like the Downton Abby film, allowing Ray to finally have a plan come together, or if it will just be Mickey finally bringing the whole family down with another of his bad ideas. We’ll see when it comes out.
But Abed from Community would be proud. His measure for success in television was six seasons and a movie.