'Ray Donovan': Can It Finally Make Liev Schreiber a Household Name?

"You don't talk a lot. I like that."

That's how Ray Donovan, the titular character of the muddled new Showtime drama which debuted on Sunday night, is praised for his quiet, but powerful demeanor. Ray is the strong, silent type: a stoic family man with a haunted past, a troubled future, and a questionable set of morals. Sound familiar? That's because a Ray Donovan by any other name is a Tony Soprano, a Walter White, or a Don Draper.

The only difference is that Tony, Walter, and Don not only set the bar for the strong, silent, and seriously fucked up anti-hero alpha male that's dominated the cable drama landscape over the past few years, but they felt like the real deal. Ray Donovan feels like the glossy Hollywood carbon copy.

Ray is a Hollywood "fixer" whose clients' problems (covering up accidental deaths, covering up homosexual rumors, among others) seem like a drop in the bucket compared to his. Ray, along with his brothers (who are suffering from the trauma in their own ways), was molested by a priest as a child; his father (a scenery-chewing, awards-friendly Jon Voight) with whom he has a troubled relationship is a hardened criminal who put a bullet in the head of said priest; his sister committed suicide at a young age; and he's currently emerged in an affair (presumably, not his first, judging by the reaction of his exhausted wife) with an actress who is currently being stalked by a creep and she, in turn, is stalking Ray. And therein lies the show's earliest problem: Ray Donovan has as many abrupt tonal changes and clichés as it does story lines. Well, that and all those distracting Bah-stin accents.

That said, none of this is through no fault of leading man Liev Schreiber, who plays the titular Ray, however. In fact, if Ray Donovan turns out to be a hit (which it very likely could and it certainly has potential to be good, it just has to pump the brakes a little bit) Schreiber's name could soon become a household one like Bryan Cranston, Jon Hamm, or the late, great James Gandolfini. In fact, that's reason alone to hope that Ray Donovan gets better to give the actor his due. Schreiber has always been something of an underrated gem, a distinguished character actor who has managed to be positively un-Hollywood, despite being married to one of the most famous women in the biz, Naomi Watts.

Ray Donovan might just be a new name stamped on an old and already-perfect formula, but Liev Schreiber — who has been brilliant as a supporting actor in movies as varied as Goon to Defiance to the Scream saga — may finally earn his place as a household name and leading man. That's the one Hollywood tale this series might make the most worth our time.

Image: Showtime