Like it or not, Everybody Loves Raymond has earned its spot alongside TV’s most successful sitcoms, including The Cosby Show, Roseanne and Seinfeld. These shows not only ran a long time, but they also shared a common origin — all were based on the persona of the popular stand-up comics who starred in the series. This method may have produced hits in these cases, but it’s no guarantee. To really beat the odds, there has to be something more.
In the case of Everybody Loves Raymond, the largely American audience saw themselves in the on-screen families. Fans have been sitting down each week, for more than 200 episodes, to a funnier, wackier version of their own families. As this ninth and final season hits DVD, it’s time to ask, did the show end too soon, too late or right on time?
I’ve never been a real fan of Raymond. Though I’ve enjoyed the odd episode during the past decade, it has been a long time since I watched one all the way through. So while die-hard fans will be saying goodbye with this ninth season DVD set, I’m just getting reacquainted. Imagine my surprise, then, when the season’s two opening episodes turned out to be re-runs for me. I thought it had been years since I’d seen this show. So is my memory faulty, or is Raymond just a forgettable show?
Everyone and their hamster knows what the show’s about — nothing. Not Seinfeld “nothing,” but close enough. It’s about a guy and his crazy family involved in — like Seinfeld — any situation that might seem plausible for an episode. The humour nearly always revolves around Raymond Barone’s version of the bumbling father archetype, whose understanding of his wife’s moods begins and ends with the assumption that it must be her “ladies’ time of the month.”
Having zipped through these last 16 episodes of the series, I’m reminded why I never became a regular viewer. The reasons include the above archetypal characterization, of course, but also the show’s slow pace. Sounds odd for a sitcom, but these actors, who are all capable of really delivering a good line, generally take way too long to do it. I understand they have to pause for the live audience’s laugh-track, but that only accounts for maybe a third of the lines. The rest of the time, there’s no reason for the slow delivery, and it only makes the other characters work harder to act between the lines, which usually means a lot of standing or sitting around holding a particular facial expression, or no expression at all.
That said, this season does have some truly hilarious moments. Every few episodes, I found myself laughing out loud at a great one-liner or perfect moment in a scene. Examples include Ray’s mom mistaking a piece of livingroom exercise equipment for a “sex machine,” and Robert’s soft-spoken, mousy mom-in-law admitting she might have to fight her husband if she doesn’t let off steam with a secret habit. Out of 16 episodes, a quarter were legitimately hilarious, half were slow but amusing, and another four were dead weight. That’s a pretty solid average, even for a mega-hit show.
That helps answer the question of timing. When the camera finally pulls away for the last time, from the entire Barone family spontaneously sitting down to a shared breakfast, fans have been treated to a ninth serving of Everbody Loves Raymond, and it’s a just dessert.
Everybody Loves Raymond – The Complete Ninth Season is presented on four discs, with all 16 episodes in 1.66:1 widescreen format. Overall, the episodes have made a nice transition to DVD. Colours are rich and vibrant, without any noticable bleeding, and the picture is sharp and well-detailed. However, there is an issue that pops up on some of the faster cuts, where a ghost of the first shot hangs around a split-second too long after the second shot has appeared. Most viewers may not notice — I was, after all, watching with this review in mind — but for those who pay attention to every little detail, it may prove a minor annoyance. Thus, I declare this video presentation to be nearly great.
There are no such annoyances with the audio. Presented in a standard Dolby Digital 2.0, Raymond’s nasal bumbling, Robert’s bassoon-like rumbling and all of the other dialogue sounds nice and clear. The live-audience laugh “track” fills out the reactions without becoming overbearing, and the run-of-the-mill soundtrack maintains a lively backdrop. It might have sounded better in 5.1 surround, but this 2.0 mix definitely does the job.
Audio is also available in French and Spanish in Dolby Digital 2.0.
Everybody Loves Raymond – The Complete Ninth Season arrives on DVD with a great set of bonus material that suitably enhances the viewing experience. Here’s the breakdown:
- Audio Commentaries: offered for eight of the 16 episodes, these tracks feature Ray Romano, series creator Phil Rosenthal and a rotating group of supporting folks gabbing about the show. They do more chatting than scene-by-scene commentating, but fans will likely enjoy hearing them anyway.
- Deleted Scenes: available on most of the 16 episodes, one or two deleted scenes round out the story for those who like to see what almost made the cut. In most cases, the scenes were obviously unnecessary and/or unamusing, but there are a few gems that must have been cut only for time. Definitely worth checking out.
- Bloopers: when the title screen, “Bloopers 04-05 season” played for this featurette, I thought I was in for a lot of laughs. Then I discovered there are only two bloopers here, running a total of about two minutes. What gives?
- The Last Laugh: this 40-minute behind-the-scenes featurette was aired prior to the series finale, as a primer for the end. It covers the shooting of said finale, with cast and crew interviews and plenty of highlights from the entire series. Even though many likely saw this when it first aired, it’s a great addition to this set and a nice send-off for the series.
With its ninth season, Everybody Loves Raymond went out on a high note, well before fatigue could take over. You may not care for its brand of humour, but there’s no denying Raymond‘s success. As for this DVD set, fans will be happy to know it does justice to their series’ last hurrah.