Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Revisiting Ray Donovan

Robert Ellis

The purpose of this blog is to explore. To examine rather than criticize. To respect the fact that as writers we know the time and effort and dedication it takes to start and finish any written work, whether we're writing for the stage, the screen, or an eBook reader. In the end, what happens to the work after it's completed means less than what happened to the work when we sat down and created something out of nothing.

All the same, one of the benefits of working in a genre is that every genre has a beginning, middle, and end. But even more important, every genre has a past, present, and future. Because of this history, it's easy to pick out the good from the bad, and the great from the good. It's also easy to see what's fresh and new because it's usually so out in the open. When I spot it, I can feel it in my gut.

Liev Schreiber as Ray Donovan
We've spoken about RAY DONOVAN before, but since then I've had a chance to watch the season finale more than once. And every time I do, that feeling hits me in the gut like a shot from a .45 Glock. RAY DONOVAN is a cable series produced for Showtime. The program was created by Ann Biderman, and in the first half of the first season, Biderman took an additional credit as one of a number of executive producers. After that Biderman added a writing credit which continues, I believe, through the entire second season.

Writer, Producer, Ann Biderman
Put simply, I think that RAY DONOVAN changes everything. I think it redefines what good fiction is. I think that Ann Biderman is the cream of the cream. Biderman is the only writer in television or books who has created a true "tough guy" without turning him into a cartoon or machine or "action figure" in a real long time. Her tough guy is smart, entirely human, and equipped with a full set of emotions. Biderman's the only writer in television who can feather in background information and character detail without making it feel like melodrama. Even more, Biderman can do exposition without the audience even thinking that the story has slowed down or gone off track. RAY DONOVAN never slows and never goes off track.

Jon Voight as Mickey Donovan, Ray's father
While I watched the finale of Season 2, I have to admit that I thought about the ending of THE GODFATHER more than once. It was that good. So many loose ends were tied up. And with so much sadness, so many really great characters met their end. Wow. It took my breath away.

Obviously, there are a lot of very talented people creating fiction today. But there's no one writing in any format or in any genre who's any better than Ann Biderman. Waiting for Season 3 is going to be painful. Like another wonderful cable series, HOMELAND, so much went down in RAY DONOVAN that the show will have to be recreated almost from scratch. Trying to guess how Biderman's going to pull it off, anticipating the direction, the new conflicts, will be the best.


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