We can probably all agree that there’s more supposed ‘quality television’ out there than anyone with any semblance of a job or an attempt at a social life could possibly try to watch. I know I certainly have this problem – I’m in season two of Game of Thrones. I know. Try not to judge me too harshly. If a series has passed a certain number of seasons it’s going to be pretty hard to sell me on it, because, to quote an overly quoted meme:
A friend tried to sell me on the virtues of Supernatural on the weekend. While I have no doubt it’s thoroughly entertaining (its passionate following will attest to that), it’s eleven seasons in, and short of contracting glandular fever and being bedridden for seven weeks, (ala my first year of university) I am never getting around to watching that.
So, with that in mind, I understand how desperately time poor you are and how full your television watching schedule currently is, I want to make a recommendation to you that I hope you’ll take seriously. And Game of Thrones just ended for another year so surely you’ve got a spot that just opened up.
Ray Donovan has to be one of the most widely underrated shows of the past few years, so much so that even Foxtel doesn’t believe it warrants that elusive ‘same day as US’ treatment. Instead, we get it a day late. But don’t let that deter you from this hidden gem.
Were you a fan of The Sopranos? Do you feel like you’re perhaps missing some weekly episodic family drama peppered with a healthy dose of organised crime? Even if this isn’t you I still highly recommend picking up season one of this drama from Showtime.
If you’re not familiar with it, it stars the wonderful Liev Schreiber as the titular Ray Donovan, a Hollywood ‘fixer’ whose fast-paced, less than legal career is only out done in its drama, by that in his own family. The Donovan’s truly are in a league of their own when it comes to dysfunctional family units. From his bored, and volatile wife Abby (played hateably well by Paula Malcomson) to his brothers who each have their own issues (the wonderful Dash Mihok and Eddie Marsan), and notably, one of the best antagonists I’ve seen in a television drama in quite a while, his father Mickey, played note perfect in a role I’m sure was made for him, by Jon Voight.
The Donovan’s are a bunch of wannabe Boston gangsters, transplanted into Hollywood where they’re trying to make at least a semi-legitimate go of it, and leave the awfulness of what’s occured in their family behind in Boston. If you happened to catch Spotlight (also starring Liev Schreiber) during Oscar’s season, you’ll notice some cross over of issues to do with the Catholic Church here.
Like any great drama with an ensemble cast, there’s often a few storylines going on, and even after losing their original creator after the second season, the series has stayed on course and never made it to that point of having ‘too much going on’ like so many series seem to end up at after a change of show runner. It’s stayed focused and now entering it’s fourth season, each season has built upon the last.
The cast are wonderful, but to have an actor as accomplished in the theatre world as Liev Schreiber in the main role really raises the bar. Ray Donovan is often a man of few words, and Liev does an incredible job of portraying the pain, love, and conflict that this character is plagued by. During the rare occasions that Ray really allows his emotions to flow, Liev is positively mesmerising.
I can’t give this show a more glowing review than I already have, now it’s up to you to give it a chance. You won’t regret it. Also, he’s a total badass, and can break a guys wrist using a billiards table, so there’s that:
While we’re talking hidden gems, I recently signed myself up for a trial of streaming service Stan, off the back of all the wonderful things I have been reading about it. I tried it out when it was first launching, and I wasn’t super impressed by the quality or the range of shows compared even to Australian Netflix’s offering. But, I thought it was worth another look, and I’m really glad I did.
After doing a deal with Showtime, I’m pleased to say they’ve got an excellent collection of premium content, including Ray Donovan, so you’ve got no real reason not to check it out. It’s also got some other’s I’ve loved and never finished like Californication and Masters of Sex. Two shows that fell by the wayside due to the sheer overwhelming volume of quality TV.
I also stumbled across a series that is being produced for Amazon Prime but is screening on Stan in Australia called Mozart in the Jungle, which whilst it has an unusual title, is a fictional drama/comedy about the New York City Symphony Orchestra. Now, on the surface, this is not something I’m remotely interested in, but I was pleased to discover it stars Malcolm McDowell (what is it with Malc and classical music?). I figured I gave the man a permanent tribute on the back of my leg, so it wouldn’t be too hard to take a look at his latest work. At a 22-24 minute per episode average, it’s an easy watch with interesting characters, gorgeous classical music and a generally quite charming vibe.
As much as I love to give recommendations, I also like to take them. I like to think I’ll give most anything a chance as long as it’s not too far down the road, so hit me up with your favourites!