HBO // 2000 // 750 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Russell Engebretson (Retired) // January 11th, 2006
"Don't fight here; it's the Coliseum." -- Marie Barone scolding Ray and Debra in the "Italy" episode.
The cast of Everybody Loves Raymond includes 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), along with occasional appearances of Monica Horan (Robert's ex-fiancée, Amy). By the fifth season, the show's actors have honed their ensemble skills to near perfection, which allows the series to attain a seeming effortlessness and grace that in fact derives from a rare mix of hard work, talent, and clear directorial vision.
The fifth season boasts many of the strongest episodes aired throughout the series' nine-year run. In an audience poll, "Wallpaper" was voted the third most popular episode; the double-length "Italy" places the cast in Rome and other Italian locations for the series' most impressive cinematography; several hilarious episodes follow Robert's romantic misadventures as he tangles with two former girlfriends and his predatory ex-wife; on a more serious note Debra tries to deal with her parents' divorce in "Separation"; and father-son conflicts come to the fore (with a surprising revelation about Frank Barone's supposed retirement) in "Frank Paints the House." Three of my favorites are "The Canister," "Silent Partners," and "Ray's Journal," but the list is almost arbitrary because there are so many standout episodes in this season.
Here's the list of contents:
* Italy, Part 1 and 2 (includes audio commentary)
Marie surprises the family with a trip to Italy.
* Wallpaper (includes deleted scene)
Frank and Marie enter Ray and Debra's house in a new way.
* Meant To Be (includes deleted scenes)
Robert chooses between three girlfriends.
* Pet Cemetery
Ray loses Ally's pet hamster.
* The Author (includes deleted scene)
Ray dreams his book will be published.
* The Walk To The Door
Ray finds out he and an old girlfriend will be attending the same event.
* Young Girl (includes audio commentary)
Debra expresses her opinion about the girl Robert is dating.
* Fighting In-Laws (includes deleted scene)
Debra's parents visit for Thanksgiving.
* The Sneeze
Debra must deal with Ray after somebody sneezes in his face.
* Christmas Present
Ray wants Debra to let him go golfing.
* What Good Are You?
Ray wonders if anyone thinks of him as useful.
* Super Bowl (includes deleted scene)
Ray takes his friend Gianni to the Super Bowl.
* Ray's Journal
Ray discovers that Marie read his childhood journal.
* Silent Partners (includes deleted scenes)
At dinner, Ray and Debra find they have nothing to say to one another.
* Fairies (includes deleted scene)
Ray and Debra's twin boys are to be fairies in the school play.
* Stefania Arrives (includes deleted scenes)
Marie arranges a surprise visit from Stefania.
* Humm Vac (includes deleted scene)
Ray buys Debra a new vacuum.
* The Canister (includes deleted scenes and audio commentary)
Marie believes Debra has her favorite kitchen canister.
* Net Worth
Ray lends a friend some money.
* Let's Fix Robert
Robert finds out that the women he's dated are trashing him.
* Say Uncle
Robert has plans to take the kids to the zoo.
* Separation (includes deleted scene)
Debra gets a surprise visit from her mother.
* Frank Paints The House
Marie makes Frank paint Ray and Debra's house.
* Ally's Birth
Ray escorts Ally to a father/daughter dance.
* Bonus Material:
The fifth season premiere takes place in an elegant, small town about forty minutes driving time from Rome. Raymond -- who is unhappy about the Italian vacation -- catches a cold and proceeds to bitch and moan throughout most of the episode. Near the end of the trip, he finally wakes up to the reality of his lovely surroundings and does his romantic best with Debra as repentance for his boorish behavior. This episode also introduces Robert's love interest, the curvaceous Italian bombshell Stefania (Alex Meneses), who is aptly compared to a young Sophia Loren. (Show creator Phil Rosenthal mentions in the commentary that she is actually Mexican/Romanian.) Some viewers found the episode syrupy and mawkish, devoid of the irony and sharp humor that infuses most of the series. Softy that I am, I liked it. The cinematography is gorgeous, and it's great to see the cast released from the confines of their California sets (although the interiors were still shot in Burbank) and free to crack wise surrounded by the beautiful Italian out-of-doors locations. Although the "Italy" episode veers into sentimentality, it provides a dose of sweetness to counter a few of the more darkly comic episodes, especially the funny but bitter "Christmas Present."
"Christmas Present" is not your typical festive offering of television-style holiday cheer. Most folks have heard the old joke about how to distinguish humor from drama: If some poor fellow trying to impress a girl slips on a banana peel and lands on his butt hard enough to fracture his coccyx, that's comedy; if the same happens to you, it's a tragedy. Of course that's a huge over-simplification, but quite a number of the Everybody Loves Raymond episodes, stripped of their comic overtones, would be as incisive and devastating as a short story from James Joyce's Dubliners (some episodes even end with their own secular epiphanies). "Christmas Present" finds Ray trying to one-up Debra with a gift that will make her feel guilty for buying him a lesser gift. If Debra feels guilty enough -- or so Ray supposes -- she will allow him to go on a golf trip with his brother Robert. The scheme backfires when he discovers that what he thought was to be his present (a garish necktie) was actually intended for his brother. Ray projects his manipulative guile onto Debra and accuses her of craftily buying him the perfect gift (a DVD player with a stack of discs) just to make him feel guilty. According to Raymond's contorted logic, his guilt allows Debra -- who complains about Ray's excessive TV watching -- to continue playing the part of a martyred wife. After all, argues Ray, the DVD player is designed to enhance TV viewing. In the end, much to Raymond's chagrin, Debra -- in her moment of epiphany -- agrees with him. She tells Ray to forget the golf trip (which she had no problem with before Ray's outburst), take more responsibility for house chores, and finish up the Christmas dinner while she takes a nap; she says to allow things to continue as usual would only perpetuate her role of self-martyrdom. Man, talk about stomping all over the Christmas spirit.
"The Canister" is closer to a typical TV sitcom; it's what Rosenthal calls a caper, a type of farce where something small happens that spirals out of control. He says, "It's more plot-driven, but hopefully it's still based in character, and all the comedy still comes from character." Marie loaned a cherished canister (that belonged to her mother) to Debra, and asks for it to be returned. In the face of Marie's badgering, Debra finally loses her temper and heatedly insists that she gave the canister back to Marie months earlier. In an unprecedented move, Marie apologizes to Debra. Naturally, the canister turns up at Debra's house (her daughter Ally was using it as a crayon container) and the heat is on. What I find most remarkable about this episode is how it takes a very conventional plot device yet still, as Rosenthal said, manages to generate humor from the characters' reactions. It's an excellent example of why an outlined summary of Everybody Loves Raymond would seem to add up to a garden-variety three-camera sitcom, but in fact it is anything but. I think viewers are by turns exasperated, infuriated, or charmed by one or another of the Barones because they are realistic, ultimately likeable people in spite of their many flaws.
If judged only by their length, the bonus offerings are modest; however, in terms of quality and insider history the bonus materials are quite valuable. On this season's DVD release, the deleted scenes (more than a dozen across ten episodes) are accessible from the episode selection menu, which makes it easy to view them prior to or after the regular episode. I would still like to see the cut footage incorporated back into the original shows, but this is the next best option. The blooper reel runs almost 15 minutes, and it is consistently funny. The final blooper is actually an alternate take of a scene from "Young Girl" in which Debra grabs Ray by the ear and marches him out of the house. In the blooper version, she grabs him by a more intimate portion of his anatomy. It was a hilarious take, but I guess it was too naughty for prime time network television. Four episodes include audio commentaries, all of which are entertaining and laced with considerable information. Phil Rosenthal, the show's creator, is especially fun to listen to, and he offers entertaining insights into some of the specifics of each episode covered. It's clear from his remarks that he created precisely the kind of characters he wanted for the series, and he had clear ideas about the story arcs the characters would traverse. Overall, it's a fine set of extras.
The DVD audio (Dolby 2.0 Stereo) is bright and clear; dialogue sounds natural and is solidly anchored to the center speaker. Sound is as good as could be expected for a TV series. Picture wise, I observed some combing (a single frame) between many of the scene transitions. The combing occurred on three out of four DVD players I tried out, though I believe the problem is related to the players' shortcomings -- as opposed to an encoding flaw. Aside from that minor caveat, the picture is superb. It is an anamorphic 1.85:1 letterbox presentation that looks superior to many theatrical discs I have watched lately. The picture is spot on, with authentic flesh tones, vivid and saturated color palette, and fine shadow detail. It's easily the best TV to disc transfer I've ever seen.
I'll let Phil Rosenthal have the last words here: In the "Italy" episode aunt Colleta (Silvana DeSantis) is saying her final goodbyes to Ray, and she tells him, "Live your life." In the audio commentary, Rosenthal says, "If there's a message to the show, it's this; and it's the message that we tried to have throughout the show, even during the finale."
The Barones are so not guilty.
Review content copyright © 2006 Russell Engebretson; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* Top 100 Films: #46
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (French)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (Spanish)
Running Time: 750 Minutes
Release Year: 2000
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Three Audio Commentaries with Series Creator Phil Rosenthal, Ray Romano, Patricia Heaton, and Writer Tom Caltabiano
* Deleted Scenes
* DVD Verdict Review of Season 1
* DVD Verdict Review of Season 2
* DVD Verdict Review of Season 3
* DVD Verdict Review of Season 4