||EVERYBODY LOVES RAYMOND
New York sports writer is a self-absorbed, neurotic suburban husband.
1996 - 2005.
There are many people who love this surrealistic family comedy–and others who think it’s annoying and overly loud. The fans outweigh the critics: 'Everybody Loves Raymond' succeeded by mixing the long-standard formula of battling spouses, meddling in-laws and quirky co-stars into a satisfying blend that was familiar on the surface, yet had more than a kernel of truth about family ...it can be a pain at times.
Stand-up comic Ray Romano played New York “Newsday” sports writer Ray Barone, a self-absorbed, neurotic suburban husband and father living in the suburbs of Long Island (not far from New York City). His homemaker wife Debra (Patricia Heaton) is sometimes demanding and is critical of Raymond, yet loves and nurtures him. Also living with the couple (though not always seen) are their three children, daughter Ally and twin boys Geoffrey and Michael. Living across the street are the OTHER Barones–also known are the "parents from hell". Smothering, guilt-inducing, critical mom Marie (Doris Roberts) believes Debra is not the best mother and homemaker on Earth, while Raymond can do no wrong. Then there's Raymond's dad, the nasty, blunt, self-centred Frank (Peter Boyle), who always seems to make life miserable for those around him. Also a part of the clan is Ray's self-pitying and morose brother Robert (Brad Garrett), a New York City police officer who has had troubles breaking from Mom's apron strings and the shadow of his successful sibling.
It wasn’t your parent’s domestic sitcom. “Raymond” managed to find humour in small situations and the unequal relationships between the principals--not unlike the much-praised 'Seinfeld' And for the most part, the children tended to be mostly background characters without clever lines or cute facial expressions. "Raymond", after all, was designed as a domestic comedy for adults.
Ray's problem was simple: torn between wanting his freedom to do the typical "guy things", and realizing that he had a family who needs him as well. That self-centreness applied to his love life with Debra. More than once, Raymond had to literally beg Debra to have sex with him. "Won't you just once think like a man?" asked Ray in one episode. Replied Debra: "I am. I'm completely disregarding your feelings". Marie and Frank’s relationship was just as complex: They insulted each other and said hurtful things, yet in the end they stood together as a couple, flaws and all. Even the show's title had an ironic twist. If the “I” in 'I Love Lucy' referred not only to fictional Ricky Ricardo but Lucille Ball's real-life husband Desi Arnaz, not "everybody" loved Raymond. That's because Ray had to walk a thin line to make everybody happy. Sadly, the result ended with a war of words or a series of events Raymond would end up regretting. In the end, however, the family ties bent but never broke. The emphasis on family helped prevented "Raymond" from evolving into a mean-spirited parody.
A native of Forest Hills, New York, Ray Romano once delivered futon mattresses by day, and performed stand up comedy at night. (In the series, it was established that Ray and Debra met each other when he delivered a futon to her apartment.) His early success on the comedy club circuit led to appearances on 'The Tonight Show' and other programmes. But it was Romano's appearance on 'The Late Show With David Letterman' that set him toward sitcom stardom. Letterman loved Romano's stand-up routine so much, he offered Romano a deal with his "Worldwide Pants" production company. Romano was teamed with executive producer Phil Rosenthal, and the two created "Raymond" based on their respective marriages and real life experiences.
When the show premiered on September 13th, 1996, it was instantly hailed by critics. But stuck in a bad Friday night timeslot, “Raymond” looked as if it would be a victim of cancellation. (It ranked 82nd in its first season.) Fortunately, the show had a big supporter in Les Moonves, the president of CBS. He gave “Raymond” a second chance by moving the series to its strong comedy line-up on Monday nights, where it began to show signs of life and rose to 30th place. By its third season, "Raymond" found a home in the 9 PM Monday slot that was once occupied by such CBS comedy classics as and 'Murphy Brown'.
'Everybody Loves Raymond' soon became CBS' top-rated sitcom, giving its competitors a run for their money. By the fall of 2001, "Raymond" became American television’s second most-popular comedy after NBC's 'Friends'. When 'Friends' went off the air in 2004, “Raymond” became the only sitcom in the U.S. Top Ten. “Raymond” was one of several series that helped CBS win the title of “America’s Most Watched Network” in the new century.
Initially, the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences didn’t show the love to “Raymond,” but that changed in 2003, when it finally took home an Emmy for Best Comedy Series. (It repeated that achievement in 2005, its final season.) Emmys also went to Romano (once), Heaton (twice), Roberts (four times) and Garrett (3 wins). Sadly, despite seven nominations, Peter Boyle was never honoured with an Emmy for his work on “Raymond. “Raymond” also served as a launching pad for another successful CBS comedy. Ray Romano’s real-life friend Kevin James played one of Ray’s friends in early episodes. James later starred in his own sitcom, 'The King of Queens'.
Also finding luck in later years was Ray’s long-suffering brother Robert. After a number of failed relationships and a divorce, Robert fell in love with Debra’s good friend, Amy MacDougall (played by Monica Horan, the real-life wife of show creator- producer Phil Rosenthal). He wanted to marry her and asked her parents for her hand. But the very religious Hank and Pat MacDougall (Fred Willard and Georgette Engel) refused to allow the marriage (they learned virgin Amy lost her “innocence” while dating Robert). Eventually, the pair wed and the MacDougall family became part of the “Barone Zone.”
By the fall of 2003, Romano was making 2 million dollars an episode–more than 'Frasier’s' Kelsey Grammer or any one of the six 'Friends' stars. Co-stars Heaton, Roberts, Garrett and Boyle “called in sick” before the new season was to start filming. But it was reportedly a ploy to squeeze more pay out of CBS. Not wanting to lose its highest-rated comedy, CBS paid up.
At the end of the 2003-04 season, Romano was again making noises about ending the show, and executive producer Rosenthal also wanted to leave if Romano decided to go. But CBS chief Les Moonves-who knew the damage a "Raymond" departure would have on his network's Monday schedule–was determined to get the pair signed up for at least one more year. And if not, he planned to spin the others off into their own comedy without Romano.
Moonves got what he wanted; the marriage of Robert and Amy gave the show new plot lines to pursue–consistently good if not instant television classics. But Romano and Rosenthal also won a victory; the final season had just 16 episodes compared with the 22 usually ordered for a normal season. But it all came to an end on May 16th, 2005, when an hour-long clip retrospective led into the final episode. Nothing groundbreaking–Raymond was briefly hospitalised to get his adenoids removed, which worried Debra, Frank, Marie, Amy and even Robert--but 32 million viewers watched. A planned spin-off with Brad Garrett was in the talking stages at CBS, but never made it to air. Garrett, however, went on to star in the Fox comedy 'Till Death'; Heaton returned to sitcom work by co-starring with Kelsey Grammer in another Fox show, 'Back To You'; it lasted only one season. Romano continues working in nightclubs and in cable; Doris Roberts continues to work and live in the home once owned by iconic screen legend James Dean. Peter Boyle died at the age of 71 in November 2006.
'Everybody Loves Raymond' was more than the sum of its parts. Sure, it was domestic comedy. But even as you laugh at the characters, you learn about their family dynamics–and realize the Barones are not that much different than your own family. Except they had their own television series. It may not have been as culturally savvy as 'Friends' or as sophisticated as 'Frasier'–two other popular comedies of the same era-- but “Raymond” belongs in the same class with those comedies. All of which proves it’s hip to be square, especially when each of the four corners fit together so well.
Questions Site Information Contact
Return to Top of Page