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Showtime Tag-Team: ‘Dexter’ Prepares to Exit, ‘Ray Donovan’ Makes an Entrance
June 28, 2013  | By David Bianculli  | 1 comment

Enlivening a suddenly lackluster TV summer, Showtime this Sunday brings back Dexter for one last lap, while launching its newest drama series, Ray Donovan. Plan to watch both…

I review both shows on Friday’s Fresh Air with Terry Gross on NPR, so you can catch my full reviews, and clips of both shows, on air, or on the Fresh Air website.

Here, though, I’d like to quickly elaborate on two points only touched upon in my Fresh Air reviews. One, that the title character in Ray Donovan has parental issues that rival those of Tony Soprano in The Sopranos. And two, that Dexter suffers, at the start of its eights and final season, from some momentum-slowing plot points.

Regarding Ray Donovan, which stars Liev Schreiber as a Hollywood go-to trouble fixer and Jon Voight as his just-out-of-jail father, their dynamic – the dad’s a loose cannon of the highest magnitude, and the son hates him for both past and present betrayals – is the most Oedipal, anxious one on television since Livia leveled Tony with a dismissive sneer and a snarling, sarcastic “Oh, poor you!”

It’s going to be great to watch – partly because, when the two actors share the screen in Ray Donovan, your loyalties and sympathies are oddly divided. Sometimes’ Voight’s Mickey Donovan just seems like a newly released ex-con trying to fit in and find meaning in what’s left of his life. Other times, he’s all id, all bad news, and maybe even evil incarnate. Either way, their dynamic alone makes Ray Donovan, premiering Sunday at 10 ET on Showtime, a show to add to your weekly viewing list.

As for Dexter, this series, too, starts with a dynamic contribution from a veteran performer. Charlotte Rampling (right), in a season-long guest stint, plays a psychologist who’s a specialist in psychopathic behavior – and who, it turns out, knew Dexter’s father quite well.

Michael C. Hall, as Dexter, doesn’t know what to make of her, and is understandably wary. Yet her pseudo-maternal approach both unnerves and soothes him, and makes for a much more believable, and engrossing, byplay than the still-continuing drama between Dexter and sister Deb (Jennifer Carpenter), which has gotten less credible, and less captivating, over time.

Also, just to point out something that bugged me when watching Sunday’s season premiere (at 9 p.m. ET): Why doesn’t Dexter text? He spends several scenes unsuccessfully trying to reach his sister’s cell phone, but its mail box is full, and he’s frustrated because he can’t leave messages. So why not text? My daughter’s cellphone message mailbox has been full since about 2008, but texting still reaches her.

I’m just saying. And if my mind is wandering to places like that while watching the season premiere, then Dexter isn’t starting off on the strongest footing for its final lap…

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Dexter not texting may or may not be unbelievable. My wife has a cell phone but she's never texted and never will.
Jun 30, 2013   |  Reply
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