Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Hats off to... Everybody Loves Raymond

Ray Romano
Up until this week when Channel 4 INSANELY binned it off in favour of the lamentable According to Jim, one of the most consistently ace US comedies of recent years filled the channel's coveted 7.45am spot. 
Everybody Loves Raymond, from David Letterman's Worldwide Pants production company, ran from 1996 to 2005 and starred Ray Romano, a stand-up of some repute, in the title role. 
He plays a sports writer who lives in Long Island with his wife Deborah (Patricia Heaton - phwoar!) and kids. Over the road is Ray's mum and dad, Marie (Doris Roberts) and Frank (Peter Boyle), and Ray's older brother - the real star of the show - Robert, played by Brad Garrett, also a successful stand up. He's the less successful son who resents how easy his brother has it. 
Garrett is a superb comic actor, as seen when he played the demented mechanic in Seinfeld. He has that hangdog look but also he's massive, and his timing is dead on. In the last two series Robert marries Amy (Monica Horan) and I think moves out of his parents' gaff, although it's difficult to remember. Hey this is free, I'm not checking). 
The situations are apparently based on the real life experiences of Barone, co-creator/producer Philip Rosenthal and the writing staff, with the other characters loosely based on family members of Barone and Rosenthal. 
Like Seinfeld, the main character is often the one around which the real humour revolves, with the other characters often getting the bigger laughs. And also like Seinfeld it's the dialogue and delivery that makes it a cut above. 
When you see this and compare it to almost any British comedy of the last 10 or so years, maybe The Office and Peep Show excepted, there's no comparison. Even something like The Trip, which has been good and got ace reviews, is hugely lacking on laughs compared to the good American stuff.
Most of Raymond takes place in his house, a lot of it in his kitchen, but it doesn't seem claustrophobic. There are a few episodes where they branch out - the trips to Italy and the Superbowl - but unlike, say, Friends with their abysmal London/Vegas episodes, Raymond can make the jump.
To give it the gist, Ray loafs about, Deborah gets on at him, Marie makes digs at Deborah's domestic skills, Frank abuses everyone, but mainly Marie, and unfortunate things happen to Robert, who splits up with Amy every so often. And that's about it.   
What sets it apart slightly is that it's pretty family-friendly stuff but doesn't seem twee. There are some ace lines:

Frank: 'What's for brunch, Marie?'
Marie: 'Ham. 
Frank: 'Excellent. I shall put on my ham pants.'

But also real moments of affection between characters who are always at each other's throats, yet it doesn't seem schmaltzy, which some Yank sitcoms do. Yes, YOU, Scrubs ('I guess deep down we all want to be loved.' Of fuck off, wanksplat.) 
There are also some good recurring characters too: Amy's parents, Hank and Pat MacDougal (the superb Fred Willard, scene stealer from lots of Christopher Guest films, and Georgia Engel) and their weird nerdy son Peter (the also ace Chris Elliott) are particularly good. Doug and Carrie Heffernan (Kevin James and Leah Remini - phwoar!) from King of Queens occasionally feature as well. 
So that's it. Get it watched, you puff.

Eric Cantona
Stacey Solomon
Jim Broadbent

1 comment:

  1. His guest appearance in The Simpsons as Ray Magini, was genius. One of the funniest people on the planet.