These three crime dramas are for those who miss The Sopranos, to which all of these serials can be compared (though none is as good as The Sopranos). While each of these shows gets only ***+ (that’s all I gave The Sopranos as well), the first two are better than all of the network serials mentioned in my last review. Indeed, the primary reason the first two series get only ***+ is because they are crime dramas and such shows just don’t sit well with me. In order of how much I like them:
Ray Donovan (first season) (2013 - )
Liev Schreiber is terrific as Ray Donovan, a ‘fixer’ who grew up in South Boston and now takes care of problems for people in L.A. who have lots of money. But can he fix his own problems when his father, Mickey (Jon Voight), gets out of prison after twenty years and moves to L.A.?. While Ray doesn’t know that his father is working with the FBI to get him, he does know that he hates his father and doesn’t want him near his family. Meanwhile, Ray’s three brothers (Terry - Eddie Marsan; ‘Bunchy’ - Dash Mihok; Daryll - Pooch Hall) are dealing with problems of their own, and Ray’s wife, Abby (Paula Malcomson) is increasingly unhappy with Ray’s lifestyle. Created by Ann Biderman, this Showtime drama is full of deeply-drawn eccentric characters, intelligent writing and brilliant acting (Schreiber, Voight and Marsan are exceptional). The biggest problems I have with Ray Donovan are: Mickey, who comes across as one of the nastiest people on the planet; the relentless violence (though at least it’s a slow-paced show); and the overall darkness of the story.
Brotherhood (2006 - 2008)
Another Showtime crime drama about an Irish family from New England, Brotherhood, created (and written) by Blake Masters, tells the story of the Irish-American Caffee brothers in Providence, Rhode Island: Tommy (Jason Clarke) is a politician with his sights on high places and Michael (Jason Isaacs) is part of an Irish mob. Each thinks they are less corrupt than the other and believes they are making the city a better place. Holding the family together is their mother, Rose (Fionnula Flanagan). The other key character is Tommy’s wife, Eileen (Annabeth Gish), who is having an affair. This intelligent, well-written series again features deeply-drawn characters and great acting, especially by the four actors just mentioned. Its biggest flaw is the lack of sympathetic characters.
Magic City (2012 - 2013)
Created by Mitch Glazer for Starz, Magic City tells the story of Ike Evans (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), who owns a magnificent hotel in Miami in 1959, but only because he’s made a deal with the local mob boss, Ben Diamond (Danny Huston). Other key characters include Ike’s wife, Vera (Olga Kurylenko), and his two adult sons, Stevie (Steven Strait) and Danny (Christian Cooke). While the writing (especially the predictability of the plots), acting and character-development are a major step down from the previous two shows (though I did enjoy Morgan’s character and performance), Magic City does have a much more beautiful setting, both in terms of time and place, and is more stylish than the other two shows.