Tuesday, September 21, 2004

End of Everybody loves Raymond

End begins for lovable ‘Raymond’
By Joshua Klein
For RedEye

All good things must come to an end. After years of success, the beloved sitcom "Everybody Loves Raymond" on Monday began its ninth and final season.

Ironically, now also is the best time to start playing catch-up, as the first season of the show has just made it to DVD. RedEye spoke to the show's star, Ray Romano, about the beginning, the end and some things in between.

It must be odd to have the first season of "Everybody Loves Raymond" come out on DVD just as the show starts its final season.
It's a little nostalgic. We had to watch and do commentary on it, so I got to relive the whole first season again. You get to see different hair. And different weight.

Especially Brad Garrett, who plays Ray's big brother Robert.
Oh, yeah! Brad went through something like a 50-pound weight swing. During the hiatus of the first year, he lost 50 pounds, so the second year you see a big difference. And Patty [Patricia Heaton, who plays Ray's wife] was pregnant toward the end of the first year. It's fun to see how we've changed. There's a bittersweetness to it, I guess. We seem so young and innocent. (Laughs.)

A huge number of shows never make it on TV, and most of those that do are terrible.
In the beginning, it was just a big ball of confusion. I didn't know anything. I didn't even know if I could do it, if I could make the transition. Was the show going to be the type of show I was looking for? I wasn't even concentrating on what we had until about ... not far in, about the fourth or fifth episode. I just got a glimpse of this chemistry and the potential of all this. You really have to get lucky to have all of this work: the writing, the acting, the casting. It was about the fifth episode where I remember telling my friend--my writer friend who I took from New York to be on the staff; we shared an apartment--"I really think there's something there, something a little bit magical." Even then, even if you have that, it doesn't mean you're going to be on. The audience may not come, the network may not give it time. But I saw that little spark.

So you knew it would last?
Towards the end of the first year ... the first year is weird, because the audience members that come in don't know who you are or who your character is. They're not laughing when Marie [Doris Roberts, who plays Ray's mom] walks in the door and sees someone else baby-sitting for the kid, because there's no history. The laughs are hard to come by. You have to trust that it's funny and trust who these characters are. But towards the end of the first year, you saw that the audience was invested in these characters. Then when we made the move from Friday to Monday, and we held onto that Cosby audience, that's where we kind of allowed ourselves to think, well, maybe we've got something here that might last.

A lot of people have pointed out that what makes "Everybody Loves Raymond" work is that, even though your name is in the title, each character can support an entire episode.
Yeah. The star whose name is in the title is lucky he had those people surrounding him! (Laughs.) You're right, every character is rich and defined, funny on their own, and you can sympathize. You like them. Even if you hate them, you like them. You love to hate them. That's a testament to the writing and acting. You've got to catch it in a bottle. You've got to get lucky.

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