HBO // 1996 // 6180 Minutes // Rated PG
Reviewed by Judge Bryan Pope (Retired) // December 1st, 2007
"Laymond, gaymond, go awaymond."
Everybody Loves Raymond: The Complete Series is bigger than Ray Barone's nose. 'Nuff said.
There really is such a thing as too much togetherness. Just ask sportswriter Ray Barone (Ray Romano) and his wife Debra (Patricia Heaton), who are trying to raise their three children in a sane environment despite constant intrusions from Ray's parents (Peter Boyle and Doris Roberts) and police officer brother (Brad Garrett).
In the pantheon of great television comedies, some ensembles stand head and shoulders above the rest. The Mary Tyler Moore Show. M*A*S*H. Cheers. Friends. Add to that list Everybody Loves Raymond, a comedy that elevates family squabbling to the level of high art. It's bust-a-gut funny but with enough sharply observed truths to make you squirm. All nine seasons have already been released in individual sets. If you own all nine or are at least halfway there, go away. Read our review of Live Nude Girls or Lighthouses of North America instead. Except for an "autographed" script and fancy packaging, this giganto-sized set brings nothing new to the table.
But if you haven't picked up the individual seasons yet, you're in for a treat. All 210 episodes are here on 44 discs that have been efficiently grouped by season, naturally. The discs and packaging are all clearly labeled and color-coded to prevent seasons from inadvertently getting mixed by, say, one's over-eager seven-year-old son. And, of course, there's the muy distinctive cardboard box that houses (so to speak) the whole shebang. A tad garish for my taste, but fun and infinitely sturdier than cases for the individual sets.
New to the package is a hardback reproduction of the finale's script with all ten scribes' signatures...sort of. Don't expect genuine autographs. Rather, the signatures are imprinted on the cover as part of the artwork. Nice touch, but a script of a comedy show -- one of the series' weakest entries, no less -- doesn't exactly blow wind up my skirt.
Otherwise, the extras are all holdovers from the previously released sets, and they're terrific. Thirty-nine excellent, entertaining commentaries featuring Romano, series creator Philip Rosenthal and various members of the cast and writing team; bloopers and deleted scenes; an early appearance by Romano on The Late Show with David Letterman; The First Six Years retrospective; The Last Laugh: Behind-the-Scenes Interviews with the Cast and Producers; and two Museum of Television & Radio panel discussions with Rosenthal, Romano, cast and writers.
Now, about the show. If you do as I did and embark on a marathon viewing of all 210 episodes, understand that it will be an exhausting endeavor on several levels. Obviously, there's the time factor. More than 100 hours is an awfully long time to spend doing any one thing, even if it's just watching television. Even more exhausting, though, are the huge, can't-catch-your-breath belly laughs the show elicits. I'm not sure which I found funniest -- Raymond's ongoing battle with his arch nemesis, the soccer-and-PTA-mom-from-Hell Peggy; Raymond's reaction to Debra's news about her parents heading "down the path of divorce"; or the revelation about Pat MacDougall's bad habit. Speaking of Pat, how wonderful to see the delightful Georgia Engel rip into her own sheepish persona.
If you're like me, you'll laugh until you cry watching Raymond. If you're involved in a long-term committed relationship, particularly one that has resulted in children and/or meddlesome in-laws, odds are you'll also identify with this comedy of terrors more than you'd care to admit. Rosenthal serves up an endless parade of little things that make families tick and even the sturdiest of marriages teeter on the brink of disaster. Roberts' Marie -- such a dear -- is a textbook study in passive aggressiveness. She's every daughter-in-laws' worst nightmare and the perfect foil for level-headed but hot-tempered Debra. Their ongoing battle is one of the show's many highlights. So is Robert's not-so-thinly-veiled jealousy when it comes to all things Raymond ("Look, up in the sky! It's bad husband!"). And then there's Frank's ability to take tough love to hilarious, but borderline abusive, heights. I mean, holy crap!
The best joke, of course, is Raymond himself. Romano proves to be quite the skilled actor, perfectly embodying a whiney ("The only reason Debra keeps me alive is to open jars and kill bugs"), lazy, spineless, self-involved husband and father who is loveable only on the rare occasion. Seriously, it is very hard to love Raymond.
What a testament to this great show that, even after nine years, we still do.
Seasons one to three are provided in their original full-frame format. Beginning with season four, the show is presented in 1.78:1 widescreen anamorphic. Picture quality is mostly very good, although I detected some occasional edge enhancement and grain, particularly in earlier episodes. However, colors are crisp and clear, making for an overall very pleasing presentation. Stereo soundtracks are provided on all episodes. The stereo is put to little use, but the dialogue is crystal clear and works well. English, Spanish, and French subtitles are provided.
You haven't invested in individual seasons and are on the fence? Take the plunge. You can pick this set up for around $150, a bargain next to the $25 to $30 you'll pay per season. A nice transfer and healthy bundle of extras make it worth your money.
If it's true that comedy is tragedy plus time, then Romano and Rosenthal are hereby acquitted. Clearly, they've suffered enough.
Review content copyright © 2007 Bryan Pope; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic (Seasons 4-9)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (French)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (Spanish)
Running Time: 6180 Minutes
Release Year: 1996
MPAA Rating: Rated PG
* Deleted scenes
* Ray Romano's Late Show with David Letterman appearance
* The First Six Years retrospective
* The Last Laugh: Behind-the-Scenes Interviews with the Cast and Producers
* Two Museum of Television & Radio panel discussions
* 39 audio commentaries
* Season One Review
* Season Two Review
* Season Three Review
* Season Four Review
* Season Five Review
* Season Six Review
* Season Seven Review
* Season Eight Review