Showtime bets 'Ray Donovan' will be summer success for years

Fri Aug 30, 2013 5:58pm EDT
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By Mary Milliken

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - From the FBI agent tripping on acid to the action film star marrying a transsexual, the Sunday night Showtime drama "Ray Donovan" has served up its share of bizarre twists.

In the tale of a ruthless yet morally conflicted Hollywood "fixer" played by Liev Schreiber, "you never know where it is going to go," executive producer Mark Gordon says.

What the premium cable network does know is that "Ray Donovan" - now heading into the final three episodes - will be its biggest show in its first season. Ratings are outpacing the current record holder, domestic terror thriller "Homeland," by almost 40 percent.

The show already has been renewed for a second season, and CBS Corp-owned Showtime Networks Inc has bet on "Ray Donovan" as its next big showcase.

Popular serial killer drama "Dexter" concludes next month after eight seasons, and "Homeland" embarks on a crucial third season after a more lukewarm reception to season two.

"We are trying to have one anchor show each of the four seasons of the year," said David Nevins, Showtime's entertainment president. "I think 'Ray Donovan' has already established itself as one of the anchors. It will probably be our anchor in the summer for years to come."

Building a stable of strong shows is key to Showtime's strategy of developing original programming to compete with HBO and Netflix, which have come to be known as much for their own productions as for running Hollywood films.

Early reviews for "Ray Donovan" were mixed, though most critics praised Schreiber and Oscar winner Jon Voight, who plays Ray's menacing father, Mickey, a Boston mobster jailed 20 years for a crime he did not commit.   Continued...

Actors Liev Schreiber (L), Jon Voight and Elliott Gould (R) of the show "Ray Donovan" listen to questions on stage during the Showtime panel presentation of the 2013 Winter Television Critics Association Press Tour at the Langham Huntington Hotel in Pasadena, California, January 12, 2013. REUTERS/Bret Hartman