HBO // 1998 // 780 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Russell Engebretson (Retired) // June 1st, 2005
"I don't think it's sappy. I do think it's sentimental, but in a good way; and if you don't like it, I'm sorry, but that's who we are -- we're these mush balls." -- Phil Rosenthal (the show's creator) commenting on the finish of the third season's final episode
For those not acquainted with Everybody Loves Raymond, the regular cast is comprised of five actors: Ray Romano (Raymond Barone), Patricia Heaton (Ray's wife, Debra), Brad Garrett (Ray's older brother, Robert), Peter Boyle (Ray's father, Frank), and Doris Roberts (Ray's mother, Marie). A more exemplary cast is hard to imagine; two or more of these actors together can (and usually do) carry an episode from start to finish without the benefit of a subplot.
The last episode of the series aired on May 16, 2005. It was the shows' ninth season (and was TV's only top ten comedy), so there are probably few television viewers who have entirely missed this sitcom. If you are one of the few deprived viewers, it is your duty to pop one of these discs into your player, settle comfortably into the recliner nearest the TV, and bask in the light of comedic goodness that is Everybody Loves Raymond.
The majority of the third-season episodes are not connected and may be viewed in any order; but the season does include several episodes that form a story arc about Robert's trials and tribulations as he moves out of his parents' house, breaks up with his girlfriend of two years, reluctantly reenters the dating scene, reconciles with his girlfriend, and winds up back at square one with Frank and Marie.
The season ends with a flashback story, "How They Met," which takes place 15 years earlier when Ray meets Debra for the first time as he and his boss deliver a futon to her apartment. Flashback finales were also used in Seasons One and Two, but the decision was made during the third season (according to producer Phil Rosenthal) to make the flashback episode a tradition for all the subsequent season finales.
The complete third-season episodes are as follows:
* "The Invasion"
While their house is being fumigated, Ray and Debra stay with Frank and Marie.
* "Driving Frank"
Frank hits Robert's patrol car and has to take a test.
* "The Sitter"
Ray and Debra hire the perfect babysitter.
* "Getting Even"
Ray is the auctioneer at a school benefit.
* "The Visit"
Debra's mother comes for a visit.
* "Halloween Candy"
Ray considers a vasectomy.
* "Moving Out"
Robert moves out of Frank and Marie's house.
* "The Article"
Ray gives his friend Andy criticism on an article he wrote.
* "The Lone Barone"
Ray tells Robert how difficult marriage can be.
* "No Fat"
Marie alters her traditional Thanksgiving menu.
* "The Apartment"
Robert's new apartment is populated with beautiful women.
* "The Toaster" (with audio commentary)
Ray buys the family engraved toasters for Christmas.
* "Ping Pong"
Ray and Robert recall the days of playing ping-pong with their father.
* "Pants on Fire"
Ray admits he once threw a party back in high school.
* "Robert's Date"
Robert's patrol partner, Judy, invites him out with her friends.
* "Frank's Tribute"
Frank's fellow lodge members vote him Man of the Year.
* "Cruising with Marie"
Ray and Robert buy their parents a cruise for Marie's birthday.
* "Ray Home Alone"
Ray is home alone for a weekend and has trouble sleeping.
Disc Four: * "Big Shots"
Ray takes Robert on a trip to meet the 1969 New York Mets.
* "Move Over"
Ray has trouble with the way Debra likes to sleep.
* "The Getaway"
Ray and Debra go away to a bed and breakfast.
* "Working Girl"
Debra lands a job as a copywriter.
* "Be Nice"
Ray and Debra realize they treat everyone else better than each other.
* "Dancing with Debra"
Robert needs a swing dance partner; Ray suggests Debra.
* "Robert Moves Back"
Ray and Amy learn that his neighbors saw them being intimate together.
* "How They Met" (with audio commentary)
A flashback to when Ray and Debra first met.
* Bonus Material
This is the family situation comedy against which all other family sitcoms must now be measured. Everybody Loves Raymond does not follow the formula set by, for example, The Cosby Show, which presented Bill Cosby's Hollywood ideal of an upper middle-class, late twentieth-century American family. Everybody Loves Raymond's familial comedic sensibility harkens back to The Dick Van Dyke Show with its goofy, yet sweet, perspective on the family unit: Ray and Debra Barone occupy the same playful, comedic dimension as Rob and Laura Petrie (Dick Van Dyke and Mary Tyler Moore).
There is an abundance of strong episodes in the third season. In fact, I can't single out even one weak show, so it's difficult to pick favorites. "Halloween Candy," "Dancing with Debra," and "How They Met" seem to be good choices to focus on, since they all display themes that recur throughout the sitcom's history.
"Halloween Candy" was slated to be filmed for the first season but was nixed by CBS as being too off-color. The series was so successful by the third season that the creators were given nearly carte blanche on script choice, and they made "Halloween Candy" the sixth episode: At the urging of Debra, Raymond decides to get a vasectomy, but backs out when Robert tells the story of an unfortunate fellow police officer's psychological reaction to his "wire cutting" operation -- "He could protect, but he could not serve." Instead, Raymond brings home a box of condoms (in festive colors) and is all set for his special treat that is to take place after their kids' trick-or-treat night. Peter Boyle gets to goof around with his famous Young Frankenstein role when he dresses up as the Frankenstein monster and hands out candy at Raymond's house. Can you guess what happens when he runs out of candy and has to search the kitchen for more treats (hint: festively colored candy)? In "Dancing with Debra," Ray suggests to Robert that Debra would probably like to be his swing dance partner. Debra is thrilled and happily accepts. Of course, it isn't long before the green-eyed monster visits Ray, and in the clutches of jealousy he tells Robert that Debra is only dancing with him out of pity; so at the last minute, Robert calls Debra and breaks their date for a big dance contest. When Debra and Robert learn of the deception, Raymond receives his just deserts in a marvelous confrontation scene at the dance club.
Ray Romano says in the audio commentary on "How They Met" that it is one of his top five favorite episodes, and Phil Rosenthal places it among his top three. The third-season finale episode begins with an argument between Ray and Debra as she serves lemon chicken -- which Ray complains about -- for dinner: Who was the first to ask the other out on that fateful first date? A flashback of how they met 15 years earlier follows, which features physical comedy (Ray accidentally knocking Debra onto her couch with a futon mattress), Marie's first reaction to Debra ("She's not the girl for you, Raymond"), and very funny character interactions: Debra lures Ray to her apartment on the pretext that her futon chair has a loose leg. Ray arrives dressed up and carrying his toolbox, but can't find anything wrong with the chair. The following dialogue ensues:
Debra: I thought it was loose. You know, it looks like I made too
much food here, if you're hungry.
Ray: Oh, yeah?
Debra: Yeah. You want some?
Ray: All right, yeah. Wrap it up; I'll eat it in the truck.
Debra (holding plate and staring at Ray with open mouth): You could...I mean, you could eat it here if you want.
Ray: Oh, okay.
Naturally, dinner is lemon chicken, which Ray praises to the skies. The episode ends with the framing story that brings them back to the present (with some fine finishing lines), and we watch them eating their meal as the camera dollies back to include the Barones' three children, who are also eating. All we hear is the clinking of cutlery as the scene fades to black and the credits begin to roll. This short summation doesn't do the story justice. You have to see this episode to realize what a multifaceted, flawless comedic jewel it truly is -- hilarious and poignant by turns.
There is a generous amount of extras: audio commentaries on two episodes, a blooper reel, and 20 minutes of deleted scenes. The deleted scenes are excellent (possibly just cut to make room for ads). I wish they had been spliced back into the episodes, but at least they're here to enjoy for the first time. The deleted scenes and lack of commercials are two very good reasons to own the DVD set. There is also a 69-minute extra feature of the cast and Phil Rosenthal before a small audience (the Museum of Television and Radio panel), discussing all sorts of topics relating to the third season and the show in general.
The DVD transfer (in its original 4:3 aspect ratio) is pristine, and colors are solid and vibrant. The audio is mostly dialogue, naturally enough for a sitcom, and is clear and understandable even at fairly low volume. The theme music by Rick Marotta and Terry Trotter is wonderful, by the way: The light jazz piano riffs and drum brushing are reminiscent of the late Vince Guaraldi's compositions for the animated Peanuts TV specials, but the theme has its own jaunty rhythm and bit of sass that sounds just right for the series.
This is an indispensable DVD set for fans of the show, but it is also a worthwhile acquisition for anyone who likes family-oriented sitcoms. The shows are a joy to watch even after several viewings. I would recommend only a handful of TV shows as worth buying in the DVD format, and Everybody Loves Raymond: The Complete Third Season is one of them. It's a keeper.
Despite their altercations, contrary attitudes, and general cussedness, Raymond and family are free to go; otherwise, the court would have to find all families guilty as charged. Besides, the Barones display enough generosity, decency, and love for one another to tip the scales of justice in their favor.
Review content copyright © 2005 Russell Engebretson; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (French)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (Spanish)
Running Time: 780 Minutes
Release Year: 1998
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Audio Commentaries with Ray Romano and Series Creator Phil Rosenthal
* Deleted Scenes
* Museum of Television and Radio Panel Discussion with Cast and Phil Rosenthal
* Official Site
* DVD Verdict Review of Season 1
* DVD Verdict Review of Season 2