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Commentary | Why Showtime made a bad call in canceling 'Ray Donovan'

It's wrong for a network to cancel a long-tenured television show without giving it a proper send-off. That's "Ray Donovan," a show taken too soon.
Credit: Showtime

ST. LOUIS — Here's the thing about television shows and their futures: It can end at any time. Futures aren't guaranteed. 

When the season finale airs and ends, it can possibly be the series finale. That's part of the cutthroat nature of show business. Hundreds of pilot episodes never even make it to the air, after all, living their entire life on a shelf in a warehouse or executive branch of a building. 

But when a show like "Ray Donovan" is one of the network's longest-tenured shows, running seven seasons, you don't cancel it without giving the creative team the proper amount of time to create a fitting ending. Showtime made a bad call in canceling this drama series last week after the seventh season aired towards the end of January. The final shot of the show will now be Ray digging a hole out in the middle of the woods with the storylines of the main cast members scattered and incomplete.

Audience Devotion to Ray Donovan Intact 

That's not a good way to wrap up one of your oldest and most durable shows. As far as I am concerned, the viewership was still strong. People were still watching and talking about Liev Schreiber, Jon Voight, Kerris Dorsey, Eddie Marsan, Dash Mihok, and Pooch Hall. The show had a devoted following and juice left in its knees for another round. 

Season 7 was a stellar piece of storytelling, acting, and lent the show a full-bodied feel that had been missing for years. Finally, viewers got to see how the Donovan family angst was planted and grew its angry legs. We got to see what happened to the Donovan sister, Bridget, whom we only knew jumped off a building at a young age, torturing her brothers' existence for life at what really happened. The old and the new were tied together into one cohesive force, which could have set up some intriguing routes to take in Season 8. 

But now, there will be no Season 8. That's it. The show is over. And for what? So we can get 3-4 new series that probably won't even last past Season 3. 

For a comparable, "Shameless" will receive two more seasons after its star, Emmy Rossum, departed the show. She was the glue that held the show and its storylines together for nine years. She left and the shoe got a tenth and now confirmed finale eleventh season. Did you hear about Season 10 of that show? No, because nothing really happened worth remembering outside of Lip being a dad and Ian and Mickey getting hitched. A star left that show, and it got two more rounds. Meanwhile, the "Ray Donovan" cast is still all involved, committed, and ready to go.

Ray Donovan Team Speaks Out

According to David Hollander, the series showrunner, the creative team behind the show was never given any indication that this season would be their last. In an interview with Vulture, Hollander said the possibility for another season is still out there due to the actors under contract, the sets being up, and the storylines being there for the taking. He expressed shock at the cancellation. They had one more season in mind and it was going to wrap everything up. Why not let Hollander and Schreiber finish off their vision for the show? Imagine someone binging it, knowing there is no real ending. What a shame. 

You see, this is what I love to do with my reach and influence. I like to complain about the shows that didn't get enough coverage or time. I told everyone I knew about Cinemax's "Banshee," which ended on its creator's terms. I shouted at DirecTV for canceling the MMA drama, "Kingdom," way too soon. I use my flame to keep the torch going for the shows who have been wronged. More often than not, it's appreciated. Schreiber acknowledged my support on Twitter with a share and a lovely message. 

I do this because sometimes, a show isn't given enough coverage or attention due to its non-flashy nature. "Ray Donovan" handled fragile yet important issues with non-flashy care. One of the connective tissues that tied the show together was the long term effects of sexual abuse and abandonment. Mickey (Voight) abandoned his wife and kids at an early age, and when that predicament is blended into the batter of this concoction, powerful television can be made along with a good silver lining of entertainment. Why did Ray rage against the machine? Take his childhood on and get back to me.

The Great Things About Ray Donovan

I liked that this show didn't have to beat you over the head with its message every single episode. It moved to its own beat and featured some of the actors' greatest work. There was a dark methodology to the proceedings that was attractive and bold. Schreiber has never gotten a stage this big in his career, and he didn't waste it. Voight made an irredeemable man watchable. This is the best I've seen Marsan, and he's put out some good work.

The same goes for Hall, Dorsey, and Hall. Susan Sarandon had a great run. Katherine Moennig and Steven Bauer were fantastic in their runs as Ray's associates. Peter Gerety polished off a solid season this past year as a key cog in Ray's past. Paula Malcomson, so good on HBO's "Deadwood," added a signature touch and gravitas to the show while she was around. Everyone felt authentic.

Showtime made a bad call in canceling it. I hope they reconsider. This is only the beginning of my ranting. If it doesn't publish here, I can put it somewhere else. I'll find space for what I care about. As my friend and gifted director Paddy McKinley always urges me, I'll keep the flame strong for "Ray Donovan." A great show that didn't get a proper send-off.

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