The Liev Schreiber series ended Season 7 with several unresolved plotlines, and executive producer David Hollander saying, "This was in no way a series finale."
As television continues to evolve, it's actually getting more and more rare to have the ax pulled on a series without at least allowing its creators a chance at wrapping up their story. Especially if it's a long-running series like "Ray Donovan."
And yet, the show's cast and creators were every bit as stunned as its fans when Showtime announced they were pulling the plug after seven seasons, despite the season ending with several loose threads showrunner David Hollander was intending to resolve in an eighth and final season.
"This was in no way a series finale," Hollander told Vulture of how they closed the season, despite the network saying while announcing its cancellation that they were proud "the series ended amid such strong viewership and on such a powerful note."
If the Liev Schreiber-led series was still getting strong viewership, then why pull the plug? Long time TV aficionados might recognize that "Ray Donovan" was heading into its eighth season. Throughout television history, it has been common practice for the cast of a new series to sign a seven-year contract.
That's why many long-running shows have ended after seven years after contract negotiations fail. This is especially true when a show becomes a hit, because suddenly the cast starts looking for a much bigger payday and you end up with things like the cast of "Friends" famously getting a million dollars an episode for their final season.
"Ray Donovan" was largely expected to come back for an eighth and final season to wrap up Schreiber's storyline, but even before the decision was announced, the actor was urging his fans to reach out to Showtime and let them know they wanted another season. Was this a sign of tense contract negotiations, or was the network just balking at a pickup for another reason?
While Hollander admitted he has no idea why the ultimate decision was made, he suspects it at least has something to do with the recent merger of CBS and Viacom, similar to how Disney began to make sweeping changes after its Fox deal went through. The network also recently pulled the plug on the long-running "Shameless," though it did get an eleventh and final season pickup, while "Homeland" is heading into its own eighth and final season.
Whatever the reason, they clearly gave no indication to Hollander or the writers. "We had no indicator that the show was ending," he told Vulture on Wednesday. "We were behaving creatively as though we were in mid-sentence. And so, there was no sense that this was going to be a completion."
After seven successful years of getting quick pickups by the network, Hollander admits they were feeling confident yet again. "We were used to being a show that was not cancelled," he said. "We never thought we would be cancelled." In fact, he said it was often the network urging them to come back for another year.
In fact, part of his frustration is the fact that the cast and crew were feeling pretty burned out after Season 6, and for that season they did craft what could have been a satisfying ending only to get pulled back in for a seventh season, and now an unsatisfying ending for all involved.
As for how they would have wrapped the series had Showtime given them the episodes to do so, Hollander said they would have juggled two stories, offering up the continuing backstory of Ray's family running parallel to current events. "The pivot we had been making narratively was to move the backstory into the present and run it concurrently," he explained.
"So there were actually two stories to be told: What happened then, really, and how will that impact what happens now?" Hollander continued. "The next step was what happened with Ray and Mickey in the '90s, which would have been the creation of Ray Donovan as a character and as a fixer."
As for the hope of another network stepping up to let them finish their story, Hollander isn't giving up hope, though he knows it's likely an uphill battle as they'd need someone willing to "absorb the risk" of such a costly final season.
"I would never say never. It is much easier to do in the now," he said. "The sets are still standing. The people are still contracted. The mechanisms are in place. Once we tear down the sets and put the costumes away… it's a lot of actors who are in demand."
He also offered an apology to the show's loyal fanbase for not giving them an ending. "You could spin it one way and say that it's hard to satisfy an audience with a finale, not that I didn't want to try," he said. "I always want the opportunity to try. I just wish I had."