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Featured TV on DVD Review: Ray Donovan: Season One

June 7th, 2014

Ray Donovan: Season One - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray

Ray Donovan began last year on Showtime and broke the record for biggest premiere on that cable channel. It maintained its viewership numbers throughout the season, while earning great reviews. Now that it is coming out on DVD and Blu-ray, is it worth checking out for those who don't have Showtimes? Is the Blu-ray worth picking up for those who like the show?

The Show

Liev Schreiber stars as Ray Donavan, who is a Hollywood fixer. At the beginning of the series (after a scene I can't talk about right away) Ray Donavan gets a call from an athlete who woke up in bed with a dead woman. This isn't the first time this has happened to one of Ray's clients. He assembles the team to deal with this, Avi, who is an ex-Mossad agent; Lena, who is a PR agent; and Lee Dexter, his business partner. We also quickly meet his family, his wife, Abby, and his two kids, Bridget and Conor. We also briefly hear about his two bothers, Terry and Bunchy, both of whom have serious issues, while we later learn about his father, Mickey, with whom Ray has a contentious relationship.

That's a serious understatement.

Twenty years ago, Ray framed his father, Mickey, for a crime he didn't commit and sent his father away for 20 years. And now that he's out of prison, five years early, he's looking to put him back in prison, or get rid of him in a much more permanent way. The reasons for this get explained throughout the first season, but any details are way too far into spoiler territory. This does mean pretty much everything that happens in the main plot are spoilers. There are a number of side plots I could discuss, like Ezra Goldman, Ray's boss, who is getting old and becoming senile. This plot shows up in a number of episodes. Ray helps his neighbor adopt a teenage boy, Marvin, whose mother is an addict. Marvin and Bridget begin a relationship, which Ray is against. Ray helps a former child star, Ashley, who then becomes obsessed with him.

I was not drawn into this show and there are two main reasons for this. Firstly... have you ever gone to After Hours is one of their more popular video series and in one episode they talk about the most common TV shows that are made. They point out that a lot of ground-breaking shows are just, to quote Michael Swaim, "strong, male anti-hero's journey to redemption." That's certainly the case here. Ray Donovan doesn't do enough differently to make it stand out from a rather crowded genre. Also, and this is the biggest complaint, it doesn't do enough... period. To say this TV series has pacing issues is an understatement. I'm sure a good screenwriter could have turned this 12-episode season into a 10-episode season with ease, maybe even an 8 or 9-episode season. I wasn't exactly sure what to expect with this show, but I certainly wasn't expecting to be bored as much as I was.

That's a real shame, as the show has potential. It has a great cast, including Liev Schreiber, Jon Voight, Paula Malcomson, Kerris Dorsey, and the others. (I especially liked seeing Denise Crosby in a recurring role.) It has a great sense of style and there are some parts of the plot that are really engaging. But for every part that works, there's an equal part that doesn't. While Paula Malcomson is a great actress, she's playing a part we've seen too many times.

The Extras

There are no extras on the Blu-ray. There is an app you can download for your smart phone that you can synchronize to the show for a more interactive experience, but that's it.

The technical presentation is strong for a TV on DVD release. The level of detail is high, the colors are strong, blacks are deep, etc. There are no compression issues or digital artifacts to hinder the video. The audio features clear dialogue, as well as plenty of activity in the surround sound speakers. It's not the fanciest audio / video presentation I've seen, but it is still excellent.

The Blu-ray costs $50, which is $20 or 67% more than the DVD. That's too much to ask for.

The Verdict

I really wanted to like Ray Donovan, but I couldn't get into to. There's not enough in Season One that was new or different from other shows in this genre, while the pacing was too slow. Additionally, there are no extras on the DVD or the Blu-ray, while the latter is far too expense for this type of release.

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Filed under: Video Review, Jon Voight, Steven Bauer, Denise Crosby, Elliott Gould, Peter Jacobson, Paula Malcomson, Eddie Marsan, Dash Mihok, Katherine Moennig, Liev Schreiber, Kerris Dorsey, Ambyr Childers