Jeff Riedel/Showtime
August 15, 2013 at 04:00 AM EDT

Just a few years ago, most people didn’t know what a ”fixer” was. But now that crisis-management types are taking over TV — Olivia Pope on Scandal, Eli Gold on The Good Wife, Sam Axe on Burn Notice — we understand what that job requires. Sort of. It’s a legal expert–slash–PR flack–slash–detective–slash–gangster who delivers devastating catchphrases right before the elevator door closes, right? That pretty much sums up the title character of the cynical showbiz drama/family saga Ray Donovan, which stars Liev Schreiber as a Hollywood fixer. (His catchphrase: ”Don’t worry, you’re in the solution now.”) At first, Ray’s just like any other guy on TV who makes famous-person problems disappear. Whenever there’s an athlete waking up next to a dead girl, or a movie star arrested for soliciting a transvestite hooker, he’ll be there. But Schreiber plays him with such quiet menace, you’ll almost believe that all he needs to do is crack his knuckles before some pretty boy starts pleading, ”Not the face!” Together with Jon Voight, who’s thrillingly twisted as Ray’s crazy ex-con father, Mickey, Schreiber helps save this show from becoming just another drama about sex scandals diverted and TMZ headlines deferred. The mounting tension between Mickey and his sons, Ray, Bunchy (Dash Mihok), and Terry (Eddie Marsan, who’s heartbreaking as a former boxer with Parkinson’s), makes for some dramatic face-offs. The sicker the scene, the more Voight relishes it, whether he’s gawking at a woman who’s breast-feeding or cracking pedophile jokes at a meeting for sex-abuse survivors. Too bad Mickey’s story is more compelling than Ray’s, which sometimes feels like a parody of tough-guy enforcer tropes. At one point, he punishes a stalker by dyeing his skin green. (Wouldn’t an old-fashioned beating with a bag of oranges have worked better?) That’s one downside of this golden age of crisis-management television: We still may not know exactly what a fixer does, but we’re smart enough to know when this isn’t it. B

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