Everybody Loves Raymond – The Complete Sixth Season comes to DVD in an impressive 5-disc edition. As a newbie to this fine series, I was surprised – and thrilled – to see the widescreen presentation. It is a nicety not often given to TV shows, and it looks spectacular, but I’m getting a little ahead of myself here. The show, as a lot of you know, is about sports writer Ray Barone, and his nut-job parents, who live directly across the street. One must either appreciate Ray Romano’s humor, or experience the same…family woes, to truly appreciate this series – and if you do, then you’re in for a real treat. Included in this set, is the number two fan favorite episode “Marie’s Sculpture,” which centers around an abstract that isn’t so abstract, made by Ray’s mom in her sculpting class. While this episode is very funny, I think the show is at its best when Ray’s wife Debra (Patricia Heaton) and his mother Marie (Doris Roberts) are going at it Romano-y-Romano. The show never resorts to stale mother-in-law jokes, opting instead to pull its laughs from the characters and their interactions with one another.
Of course, no serious talk of Everybody Loves Raymond can be complete without mentioning the terrific jobs Brad Garrett and the always reliable Peter Boyle do with their brother and father characters, respectively. The two are dichotomies of one another. Robert is the ever insecure older brother, who is always left out of even the most mundane family activities. He’s the kind of guy, who has to fight for every ounce of attention – and affection – his mother gives him, and his large, staggering frame only serves to drain a little more humor from the tank. Frank (Boyle), on the other hand, is so self-confident he just doesn’t give a damn about others’ opinions – and why should he? Father knows best, at least in his eyes. Taking a back seat to all the goings-on is Ray Barone (Romano). Romano subscribes to the Seinfeld school of sitcoms here by letting the stellar supporting cast do all the hard work for him. His character is like Frank – and why shouldn’t he be, everyone loves the guy – but he doesn’t have to resort to the same over-the-top performance because he understands Boyle is already doing it so well. These five individuals will make you believe they’re related, and they will do such a good job of it that, if you give the show a chance, you will notice comments, events, and subtleties, that exist in your own family. It’s very possible you won’t like this show the first time you try to sit through it. But stay married long enough, and you’ll really start to appreciate it.
Okay, before I go crazy from not mentioning it, Everybody Loves Raymond is presented in a sharp 1.78:1 presentation with strong colors and deep blacks. I’m not sure if the other five sets are given this treatment, but from the strength of this transfer, I’m sure I will soon find out. There isn’t a hint of grain or edge enhancement. For once, we have, in HBO, a studio, who wishes to give its product the best possible treatment. Fans of the show should rejoice, as the studio has actually gone above and beyond the call of duty, instead of spitting out a fuzzy full frame as quickly as possible. After looking at the early Sex and the City discs, I have to wonder why HBO can’t put the same effort into all their releases – but with that said, kudos to a job well done.
These 24 episodes are treated to three 2.0 tracks (English, Spanish, and French). English 2.0 is undoubtedly the way to go for the unadulterated performances of these fine actors, but all three tracks carry a strong dynamic sound, high in volume with equal strength given to both music (love the NFL Films-type opening) and the dominant component of dialogue. The only annoying thing is the standard laugh track, which accompanies each episode, but that really is a minor complaint. Good comedies certainly don’t need tracks that tell viewers when to laugh – Raymond is no exception. But at the same time, one can’t go too hard on HBO, as they’re presenting these episodes as they originally aired, only with enhanced audio and video.
The First Six Years Retrospective is too short, but it certainly delivers fun facts and information from the folks, who made this series happen. Along with the six commentaries featuring Ray Romano, creator Phil Rosenthal, Doris Roberts, and the series writing team, this featurette really brings value to the set. This isn’t your standard Happy Days recordings ripped directly to DVD with no fanfare. HBO has once again gone to great lengths to honor a show that, while not in the Top 5 greatest sitcoms of all time, certainly delivers the laughs. Last but not least, there are some amusing, albeit too short, bloopers and deleted scenes.
If you never thought you could like Everybody Loves Raymond – or even if you gave it a shot and didn’t care for it – take it from a recent convert. The show grows on you. Just because you didn’t like it once doesn’t mean you won’t grow to love it down the road. I’ve always been more of a Seinfeld man, and I still find that show to be the greatest of all time. However, in all my Seinfeld haughtiness, I turned my nose down at Raymond for a long time – but as life moves on, I’m realizing this show is one acquired taste that grows sweeter by the minute. A startling A/V presentation (for a sitcom) accompanies this collection, and the special features are not to be denied either. At just under thirty bucks, these sets are worth the expenditure.
Special Features List
- Six audio commentaries with series creator Phil Rosenthal, Ray Romano, Doris Roberts, and writers Tucker Cawley, Mike Royce, Lew Schneider and Steve Skrovan.
- Bloopers and deleted scenes from the series.
- The First Six Years Retrospective – A look back at the first six seasons of Everybody Loves Raymond with celebrity interviews.