Jeff Simon: 'Ray Donovan' deals with modern Hollywood brutality - The Buffalo News

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Jeff Simon: 'Ray Donovan' deals with modern Hollywood brutality

The following column is offered with one giant-sized spoiler alert. If you were ever a watcher of Showtime's "Ray Donovan" and missed Sunday's season finale, you might want to go elsewhere and drop in after you have.

I remain a "Ray Donovan" loyalist. If you think that's been easy this year, you're crazy. "Polarizing" is one commonly used word for this "Donovan" season that fits nicely.

Donovanians have been groaning unhappily all season on social media, where groaning is encouraged to keep TV consumers from too much inchoate misery.

But what we all have to realize is that the recent developments in the parade of sexual abuses among celebrities and power people -- especially Hollywoodians -- leaves "Donovan" as possibly the most topical dramatic show on television.

The plot development that I found the most regrettable all season ultimately turned into one of the most powerful episodes of a continuing dramatic series I've ever seen. That was when Abby (Paula Malcomson) as Ray's wife committed suicide rather than live any longer with cancer. She was weepingly helped to her finale by her loving brother-in-law and daughter while Ray was out of town frantically trying to arrange life-saving surgery.

It was, out of nowhere, a stark, fearless look at mortality when almost any death has become more tolerable than whatever life itself is now allowing.

And all on episodic television on the Showtime Network.

Malcolmson's performance as Abby was astounding. What she did in that episode was a tour-de-force. Because of the customary Emmy peculiarities -- including Showtime's conventional "runner-up" status to HBO -- it is never likely to be recognized with Hollywood's usual gold statues. But it was deserving of one and then some.

Her death left the series after that to flounder for a few episodes at best.

So it should have surprised no one that Sunday's season finale found Ray, the ultimate Angeleno fixer, in New York City following a hallucination of his dear departed Abby into the East River. In the background, David Bowie was singing "Rock and Roll Suicide." Got that?

No. Ray's not dead. He's only moving to New York from Hollywood to give the show a new lease on life, says the show's showrunner David Hollander, who replaced the show's creator, Ann Biderman.

Hollander and Showtime already have announced that "Donovan" would be back for a season six. In addition, Hollander has also said in an interview with Ernest Macias that Jon Voight -- who plays Ray's father, Mickey -- will be back even though he was left at the end of the season back in jail again at his son's behest while Ray was busy committing murder-for-hire in New York.

"Ray Donovan" is about as dark as TV series get. Says Hollander "He does have this history of being an enforcer, of being a thug, a fixer and a collector" which are "useful skills to have in a city like New York."

Ray's apparently suicidal leap into the water is a form of "rebirth and cleansing," says Hollander, eager to slather as much instant mythology as he can on his TV show.

We Donovanians are polarized. We've been that way since the show began. I loved the basic premise of its creator Ann Biderman, who's also known as the creator of the ambitious TV series "Southland" and as one of the writers of the superb movie "Primal Fear" starring Richard Gere and Edward Norton. I loved the premise of "Ray Donovan" from Day One: Liev Schreiber, as dour, saturnine Ray "fixer" for a top Hollywood mega-lawyer (Elliott Gould) who required his employee to do major thuggery and worse. Ray's two faithful assistants were brilliantly conceived by Biderman and played by Steven Bauer and Katherine Moennig.

That was a great premise for a TV show -- just as "Scandal" initially about a Washington fixer, was to begin with. Hollywood is nothing if not a place where the celebrated and merely famous people get into constant trouble of varying magnitude. Surely a whole TV series could be made showing creative ways that brutal professionals get them out.

And now a brief word from the degenerate reality of constant abuse revelations that we're living with and which is, as we speak, changing the basic relationship of gender and sex in our era.

The latest outrages to spring up in the last few days were a Ronan Farrow revelation in the New Yorker of further accusations against Harvey Weinstein by Annabella Sciorra and Darryl Hannah, including Sciorra's claim that she was raped and subsequently so terrified by Weinstein's stalking that she kept a baseball bat next to her bed for years.

As if that weren't enough, Anthony Rapp of "Star Trek: Discovery" has charged that when he was 14, Kevin Spacey sexually assaulted him. Spacey responded that he didn't remember the incident but was sorry for "deeply inappropriate drunken behavior" and that he is, uhhh, working through his problems.

It's a "coming out" statement about being gay that has virtually nothing to do with the pedophilia charged which is nettlesome in a larger and infinitely higher caliber way.

"Ray Donovan," as a show, implied that it would deal with all of that, especially in its dealings with the history of the Donovan Brothers by priests in their native Boston, when they were children. It was the strongest and best of the brotherly and family sub-plots about the Donovan Brothers which have generally been the draggiest parts of the otherwise intriguing series.

That's the incredible paradox of "Ray Donovan" as a series. Its basic rhythm is its alternation of Schrieber's mumbling squinting solemnity and depression (PTSD from child abuse, says a shrink) and Voight's amoral, jiving, grinning prancing as his father, probably the least trustworthy paterfamilias in TV history (although William H. Macy gives him a run for his money in "Shameless" also on Showtime).

"Ray Donovan" proved in this uneven and dire season how great its television could be showing us Abby's suicide.

If it pays attention to Biderman's original basic premise and the Hollywood media circumstances changing almost with every degenerate day, it may yet just get there consistently.

email: jsimon@buffnews.com

 

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