TV’s next great anti-hero has arrived

By Andrew Fishman

It’s Sunday night. Almost 3 million fans around the country are about to tune in to cult TV show “Breaking Bad” on AMC. I am not one of these 3 million people. To the shock of some and the horror of others, I can honestly say I have never seen an episode of this show.

When I tell people this, one of two things happens: I either get scoffed at, or I get a heartfelt lecture on why I should be watching it. To be fair, I really don’t have anything against “Breaking Bad.” I don’t have a legitimate reason to dislike it. Yet I find myself disliking it, anyway. I don’t want to label myself as the quasi-hipster journalist of the television world, but somehow every time I get another lecture on why I should watch “Breaking Bad,” it makes me less inclined to jump on in. I’m sure the hype is well deserved, but when it comes to drawing me in, it’s a definite turnoff. I’ve never been the type to jump on the bandwagon, and every recommendation I get reaffirms my feelings on the subject. 

I’ve had my own Sunday-night routine for the past few weeks. I tune in to Showtime and watch the network’s drama “Ray Donovan.” Never heard of it? Well my dad and I — and almost 1.5 million nonconformist television viewers — watched its pilot episode this June, making it the biggest premiere Showtime has ever aired.

Though the show lacks crystal meth deals and the dad from “Malcolm in the Middle,” it makes up by having its own plethora of action and sex and a phenomenal cast, highlighted by Liev Schreiber’s (Ray) and Jon Voight’s (Mickey, Ray’s father) performances.

Ray Donovan can be characterized in a quote of his own from episode nine of the series: “If you need a gun or a car in this town, I’m the guy you want to get it for ya.” Fictional Los Angeles law firm Goldman and Drexler, which represents high-profile celebrities, employs Ray as a hitman. When Ray’s father is released from prison, the FBI uses him to try to finally nip Ray and his superiors for years of under-the-table lawlessness.

The show also deals with Ray’s home life, including the deteriorating marriage between him and his wife, as well as his relationship with his two high-school-aged kids, who have their own struggles with their father’s line of work. The show hinges on a clearly failed father-son relationship between Ray and Mickey that delves way back into both of their pasts.

An accolade that “Breaking Bad” often receives holds true to “Ray Donovan” as well: Ray is a bad man. But his pure badassery and intelligence cause his viewers to still find themselves rooting for him. When it comes to pure despicable behavior, Donovan fits in among the top tier of sinister heroes. He uses under-the-table deals and murders to take down his own family. Yet through it all, he stays likeable. It may sound surprising, but after one episode, viewers will find it hard not to side with Ray. With “Breaking Bad” coming to an end in a few weeks, perhaps Walt is passing the torch to a new era of lead scoundrel. 

The show itself doesn’t hold back on any front. The fact that it airs on Showtime allows it to take the action (and often violence) to a level far higher than what is acceptable on basic cable — not to mention the fact that it’s commercial free. This action adds to the appeal and suspense that has kept a consistent 1.5 million viewers tuned in every week.

Though the season finale is only two weeks away (I have the date marked off on my calendar), Showtime has already announced the renewal of Ray Donovan for a second season in 2014.

I like to say that I found the diamond in the rough with “Ray Donovan.” The topic of television shows has become an active one, and I love bringing up Ray among all the Walter Whites and Don Drapers.

In the age of binge-watching television shows on Netflix and the like, Ray Donovan should be at the top of everyone’s list for what to watch next. So get online, queue it up and embrace the next generation of television reprobate.


Leave a comment.