Parents love Ray Donovan.
No one knows how it started, and only Michael Clayton’s IP lawyers know how it will end. But everyone knows: Parents love Ray Donovan.
And on the occasion of its fourth (???) season, we took it upon ourselves to find out why.
The resulting report is the product of countless (four) wide-ranging interviews with countless (four) proud parents of Ringer staffers (and our boss).
Why do parents love Ray Donovan? Here, let them tell you …
Liev Schreiber Is Parent Kryptonite
Liev Schreiber plays Ray Donovan, the show’s reluctant hero, in a star-making turn.
Or at least I’d understood it to be star-making. Bill Simmons’s mom, Jan, questions the charge — and suggests that, in certain Parent Cinema circles, Schreiber was a big deal long before Ray: “I was first drawn to Ray Donovan because I always found Liev Schreiber extremely attractive (A Perfect Man, The Painted Veil) and because it was about family from Boston living in L.A.,” she says.
As for the performance itself? Our sources are unanimous: Ray Donovan is iconic.
“Ray is a badass. Ray plays by his own rules. Ray is clever and a survivor,” says Kate Knibbs’s dad, Jim.
Mallory Rubin’s mom, Sherri, confirms this assessment — for better or worse: “You know what they say about PMS? ‘Power, money, and sex.’ … PMS also stands for ‘Putting up with men’s shit’ and that’s exactly what the deal is when you are involved in one way or another with Ray. … Ray is a player and the show revolves beautifully around his machinations.”
Ryan O’Hanlon’s dad, Michael, sees Ray’s singular vibe as #goals. “Ray is a dad, and for this middle-aged father of four he is a smart, badass dad. Don’t we all wish we could channel his badass-ness?”
It’s a great question. Jan, meanwhile, sees Ray’s vibe as #goals of a different kind. “I could definitely see myself getting involved with him,” she concedes. “But I would never want to be married to him.”
Let Jon Voight Dance
While affinity for Ray himself runs universal, our sources also consider the show’s supporting cast central to its appeal.
Jim gives the lowdown on one of Ray’s more mercurial components — Ray’s father, Mickey: “[Mickey] is a not-quite-derailed train somehow balancing on one track. … He is not a good person, but he saunters into their L.A. lives and knows how to manipulate. … A combination of a black heart with either a clever or just evil mind.” Jim celebrates the performance as a return to Dad-friendly form: “Jon Voight is fantastic. Not Anaconda Jon Voight. Deliverance Jon Voight.”
Jan agrees: “Mickey … fabulous character, fabulous performer … and I love when he dances!”
And yet, as our sources are quick to point out, the show isn’t just about dads. “[Ray’s wife] Abby is definitely my other favorite character,” says Sherri. “She acts as if she cares, she tries to be the good, holy rolling wife. But when push comes to shove, she knows how to get even while still loving all of the members of her family.”
“I think [Abby] is a great female character who shares the same crazy dysfunctional passion for her family as her husband,” adds Jan. “I was disappointed, though, when she had the affair with the cop, [a] poor substitute for Ray.” Fuck that cop.
Jim even shows love for Ray’s oft-overlooked younger characters: “Ray’s daughter’s relationship with the budding rap star started out just as a teen rebellion thing, but the actress (and the rap star actor) made it bigger and into a classic tragedy. Plus, the ‘Sunny’ remix as he is being shot to death is one of the best songs I have ever heard on a show. Seriously. This is from a Rolling Stones/classic rock guy. My son played it for days on his tinny-sounding iPhone.”
Los Angeles: The Boston of the West
When we asked our parents about the show’s setting, they noted the juxtaposition of Ray’s Boston sensibility with its L.A. locale as a consistent highlight.
Michael lays out the logic: “People like Ray Donovan are usually associated with New York and Boston, so the fact that Ray is out in L.A. with all of the ‘beautiful people’ makes it work so much better.”
Sherri backs this up with a firsthand account: “If the show were to have been set in Boston, the appeal would never have been the same. As one who [has] lived in and visited many spots in Massachusetts/Boston, the glitz and glamour associated with Ray being a fixer was much more readily achieved in the setting of L.A.”
As for Ray’s L.A. bona fides, Jan signs off: “I do love the L.A. location of the show, especially when Ray is in Beverly Hills, on Rodeo or Canon (my stomping grounds). I also enjoy the Malibu and Calabasas footage, particularly when Ray’s wife ran out of the store with the shoes!”
Ray Is a Fixer — in Every Sense
Last but not least, our sources agree: As an instrument of plot, centering a premium cable show around a professional fixer is a stroke of genius. “[Ray] fixes problems,” Jim explains. And that’s true. When Ray shoots the priest in the back of the head in Season 1, or when Ray pays off the Navy SEAL cuckolded by the San Diego Chargers quarterback in Season 3 — those were problems and Ray fixed them.
But our sources also agree that there is a larger meaning at play — and that the idea of a “fixer” extends well past Ray’s job. In fact, they wonder if Ray Donovan doesn’t even make the case for another, simpler word for “fixer”: Dad.
Michael puts things in perspective: “My favorite story line is the fact that everyone in the Donovan family always tries to do the right thing. … Even though they usually screw things up, in the end the family always has each other’s back. (My wife tells me this is not a story line. LOL.)”