Like Seinfeld and Friends, the creators of the CBS sitcom Everybody Loves Raymond decided to end the nine-year-running series while a lot of people still love Raymond. Now Raymond and his family will enter the eternity of syndicated re-runs.
Nine years ago, the vogue was to launch sitcoms based on a comedian's stand-up material. Ray Romano had a gentle, regular-guy kind of humor that translated well to TV story lines. Like other successful situation comedies, the jokes and plots became secondary to creating a cast of characters with personalities that come alive, gel with each other, and that audiences come to imagine as their friends.
Family-values watchers liked Everybody Loves Raymond with its happily married, multi-generational family. The values presented were mostly positive. And Patricia Heaton, who did an Emmy-award-winning job playing Raymond's wife, is one of the most open and outspoken Christians in Hollywood.
Some viewers think the show became more crass and innuendo-filled as the years went on. And even when the show ended with a positive message, its schtick was based on a motif that's widely imitated and widely annoying: the bickering family.
Husband and wife tease affectionately, but they also take stronger shots at each other. Both of them put down his parents, who return the favor. Then there are the sibling rivalry jokes with Ray's brother the cop, who is frustrated that nothing he does can earn his parents' approval; they always like Raymond the best. The show's title is not a PR plug, it is the brother's complaint.
Yes, this is all in good fun. Yes, it has its realism. But no one long enjoys watching families bicker. Especially when the constant carping, whining, and put-downs come from Raymond's lesser imitators, who miss the underlying warmth and manage to emulate only the dysfunction.