The First Season
Everybody Loves Raymond isn't your average sitcom. It's based upon the comical work of stand-up comedian Raymond Romano, which in turn is based upon some of the more hilarious aspects of his real life. This provides an interesting twist, because Romano has a few stories to tell that are really funny. The series was developed after Romano began to get a lot of attention as a stand-up comic. (The bonus features cover this in detail.) The series itself is pretty entertaining and the first season does very well introducing the cast and setting up the show's overall format. It's pretty much a look into the daily lives of the Barone family. Of course, this family is a little absurd in the ways they live and act. In other words, there are plenty of great laughs in this first season DVD release. The series doesn't have very much in terms of a plot. The plotline in each episode is fairly dry, dealing with similar issues that just about every other sitcom tackles. For instance there are episodes that cover issues like lying, family problems, envy, and jealousy. However, the way that the cast delivers their dialogue and interact with each other is what really makes this a special series.
As mentioned earlier, this series revolves around the stand-up comedian-turned-actor, Raymond Romano. In this series, Romano takes on the role as Raymond Barone. He's your not-so-typical sports writer, husband, and father of three. He also happens to live right across the street from his neurotic parents and just plain weird brother. Romano brings a lot to his character, which is mainly a comical personality. Romano is a really funny guy. It really doesn't matter what he's talking about, since he just has the kind of voice that makes you laugh. His wife in the series is Debra Barone (Patricia Heaton). I wouldn't say that her character is particularly funny on her own, but she does provide some interaction with Raymond that provides a few quick laughs. The couple also has three kids, a girl and twin boys. They don't add a whole lot to the series, because the show's focus just isn't on them. However, they get a little camera time. This results in a few laughs, because the kids just do and say some pretty cute, yet funny things.
Living across the street we have the parents and the older brother. Frank Barone (Peter Boyle) is a really funny guy. He's role is Raymond's father, a cheapskate who lacks a way with words. His straight to the point demeanor makes him a really unique guy. The funniest part about his role is his interaction with his wife Marie Barone (Doris Roberts). The two have a love-hate relationship and are constantly ragging on each other. It's an extremely funny relationship. Finally, we have Robert Barone (Brad Garrett). He's a police officer who has always lived in the shadow of Raymond. It's really fun to hear his sarcastic comments about how everybody loves Raymond. The added jealous also makes for some great situations that should leave you laughing. Overall, the series has a strong cast, with each character bringing a fair amount to show's comical aspect.
There are some great interactions between the characters that help make this a good series. For instance, Frank and Marie are annoying beyond words for Raymond and Debra. Yet since they live right across the street from them, they never seem to be able to get away. It's one of the most important aspects of this show. You'll find yourself laughing about it over and over again. Adding upon that last topic, Marie doesn't always show her direct love for her daughter-in-law. Resulting, we have some great comedy that comes from Marie constantly telling Debra how to be the perfect housewife.
Overall, this season had some pretty entertaining episodes. At times, I was laughing so hard I fell to the ground. Now that's comedy. One of my favorite episodes of season one was "Your Place or Mine?". In this episode, Frank and Marie run into some slight marital problems. This leaves Raymond and Debra going off the wall when they get caught in the middle of it. There's also a great Thanksgiving holiday episode, "Turkey or Fish" that really shows how crazy a special day like this can get with the Barone family. In "Fascinatin' Debra", Dr. Nora, a radio psychotherapist was interested in interviewing Debra for a book she's writing. Of course, once Dr. Nora meets the rest of the family, all bets are off. The season finale also provides a really great episode and explains why Raymond and Debra decided to move in across the straight from his neurotic parents. It's a great look into the past of the Barone family.
While some television series start off a little shaky in their first season, I felt that the first season of Everybody Loves Raymond was done very well. Sure, the plotlines are a little hollow and seem like every other sitcom, but it has a wonderful cast and some hilarious dialogue that really make this series a winner. Fans should be happily delighted to have the first season on DVD and newcomers looking to laugh beyond control should as well. This first season is very entertaining.
2. I Love You
3. I Wish I Were Gus
4. Standard Deviation
5. Look Don't Touch
6. Frank, the Writer
7. Your Place or Mine?
9. Win, Lose or Draw
10. Turkey or Fish
11. Captain Nemo
12. The Ball
13. Debra's Sick
14. Who's Handsome?
15. The Car
17. The Game
18. Recovering Pessimist
19. The Dog
21. Fascinatin' Debra
22. Why Are We Here?
The video of Everybody Loves Raymond – The Complete First Season is in its original television aspect ratio of 1.33:1 full frame color. The picture quality is very good, with detail looking very sharp and clear. The picture is substantially better than most television DVD releases, housing only a slight grain. Unfortunately, everything isn't wonderful. There is also a slight issue with the frame rate. Occasionally, the frame rate will drop, leaving the picture looking choppy. This occurs far too often and is the primary reason that this DVD release received an average rating for this particular technical aspect.
The audio track in this release is English 2.0 Dolby digital stereo sound. There are also two additional tracks of the same format in the French and Spanish languages. The sound quality is fairly good, providing clean and audible dialogue. There are also subtitles in the three aforementioned languages.
I was a little disappointed with the extras in this release, simply because they were a little too serious for me. Most of them involved Ray Romano, who is without a doubt a funny guy. Unfortunately, we don't get to see his humorous side very much in the extras, whether an audio commentary or a featurette, Romano takes a serious tone. I was expecting all of the extras to be filled with his comical personality. Hence, the special features were not as exciting as I had anticipated. Still, there pretty good for the fans. First off, we have three making-of featurettes. In "Everybody Loves Raymond: How We Got Here", the featurette details some interesting facts about Romano's background and the development of the series. The featurette "Everybody Loves Raymond: Casting the Family" talks about the difficulty finding the perfect cast members. The final featurette, "Everybody Loves Raymond: On the Air" covers the show's initial beginnings, i.e. becoming a syndicated series, its success, and some background regarding the series' title. These featurettes are great for the fans and they have a lot of good insights about the show's overall development.
The next extra is actually funny. It's a short five minute clip of Ray Romano's appearance on The Late Show with David Letterman. It's also interesting, because a lot of this stand-up act can be seen throughout the first season. The last set of extras is two audio commentaries for the pilot episode and the season finale with Ray Romano and creator Phil Rosenthal. Like the featurettes, there are some good insights to the show's development, but not much in terms of humor. Overall, the special features are great for those really interested in the series, but there's not very much in replay value in them.
If you've never seen an episode of Everybody Loves Raymond, here's your chance and you'd better take it. The comedy found in this series is somewhat unique, simply because there's a wonderfully funny cast and some very witty dialogue. The awkward situations that the bizarre Barone family produces also seem to produce great comedy. There are plenty of laughs for everyone. The bottom line is that Everybody Loves Raymond for a good reason. It's a hilarious series and fan or not, I highly recommend that you give it a chance.