The Fourth Season
Everybody Loves Raymond is based on the work of stand-up comedian Raymond Romano. The series itself is basically about an oddly arranged family, which makes for a great sitcom. Romano plays Ray Barone, a not-so-typical sports writer, husband, and father of three. He happens to live across the street from his neurotic parents and just plain weird brother. His wife is Debra Barone (Patricia Heaton). In past reviews I have commented that she is not particularly funny on her own, but since season three I have noticed she has been getting quite a few good jokes in. The couple also has three kids, a girl Ally and twin boys Geoffrey and Michael. They have never really been a big part of the show, but this season has a few episodes about them. Of course, they all more or less lead back to Ray and Debra. The other characters include Ray's father Frank (Peter Boyle), 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 (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 (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 jealousy 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. For more details about this series please refer to my first season, second season, and third season reviews.
This season has a lot of great episodes. I can't think of a single one I didn't enjoy. The situations continued in the same tradition as past seasons, very funny. The stories continue to take an episodic approach, with a few underlying story arcs. Overall this season was better than season three. Heaton was pregnant during season three and consequently there is a little less focus on her. But she comes back in this season funnier than ever. I was really impressed how she handled herself. While in the past reviews I've mentioned she wasn't a terribly funny person on her own and it was more her interactions with the rest of the cast that made her delightful, it's apparent I was wrong. Heaton is a funny gal and this season shows her off great. The first episode "Boob Job" is clear proof of this. In this episode Ray and Debra go to a school parents' night. At the event, the host shows Debra her new boobs. When Debra tells Ray, he gets a little excited and Debra reveals she might be interested in it. Heaton is great and she makes each second she is on screen funnier than the last.
In the tradition of past seasons, there are constant jokes between Marie and Debra. The two have never really gotten along very well and Marie is constantly picking at everything Debra does. Telling her she can't cook, clean, or care for the kids. This love-hate relationship has made up for some great jokes in previous seasons. In this season we also great some funny episodes like "Robert's Divorce". This episode is the season finale and it goes into the Barones' past when Debra and Ray first moved in across the street from Marie and Frank. It is here we learn why Marie is the way she is. This episode is also great because it is really about Robert and describes more about who he was. There is also "No Thanks", which is a rough Thanksgiving episode. It is unlike the Thanksgiving fiasco in season three and more about what happened the following Sunday. Marie, Debra, and Robert's girlfriend Amy spend the day cooking together. That should be fun!
Another good joke revisited from past seasons is dealt with in "The Christmas Picture". This is an awesome episode. Ray finally finds the perfect gift his mother, a family portrait. (Remember how awful the fruit of the month club idea was and other such gifts?) Well, this episode revisits the old joke that Ray can never find his parents the right gift. The good of this episode comes from when the family tries to get their portrait taken together. There are just too many other things going on for everyone to get along for the picture.
There are also a fair amount of jokes about Raymond. Sure we all think everybody loves him, it's in the title right? Well, not exactly. In "Cousin Gerard", Fred Stoller guest stars as Ray's cousin Gerard. Ray does a favor for Marie and he hires Gerard to help him edit his book. Gerard turns out to be this amazingly annoying guy, who drives everyone crazy. Stoller also did a fantastic job with his character. Soon it comes to Ray's attention that there are too many similarities between himself and Gerard. To his surprise, he finds out, like Gerard, he is annoying and his family tolerates it because they love him. Ray's reaction to it is great and it leaves Robert looking like he's reached nirvana.
Like past seasons Ray also makes a goof of himself. In "Debra's Workouts", Ray and Debra are having more sex than he usually gets in a good month. He's excited about the ordeal (who wouldn't be?), until he finds out everyday they have hit the extracurricular activity in the bedroom that Debra had aerobics class with a hunky guy. Ray will do anything to get the truth from Debra, even if that means going to aerobics class. "The Tenth Anniversary" is another great one where Ray and Debra find out he taped over their wedding tape with a super bowl game.
Something slightly different about this season was a little more focus on the kids. They are older now and as such, there are a few episodes that have the kids getting into a little trouble. In "Hackidu" Ally trades all of her Hackidu cards (a card game like the Pokemon craze) for a single card. Ray makes Ally get her cards back. Later Ray finds out he made a big mistake and must go through hoops and bounds to get it back. "Bully on the Bus" is another funny episode about Ally. Ray comes to believe Ally is getting picked on by her schoolmates on the bus. Since Ray used to get picked on a lot as a kid, he's determined to stop it. Unfortunately, he finds out Ally is the bully. "Left Back" is a hilarious episode with the twins Geoffrey and Michael. According to the tests, Geoffrey is a bright aspiring student. Michael on the other hand, needs to stay back a year in pre-school. There are just some great comments made about the situation from the family and some other fun developments into Ray's past.
Something else that made this a great season started off with "Sex Talk". In the episode Debra and Marie have a talk about the frequency in the bedroom with Frank and Marie. The episode is simply funny to hear what kind of activity goes on in there. Also it sets a tone for the remainder of the season with some great jokes about sex. There is also a couple of interesting story arcs, mostly about Robert. The first is his relationship with Amy. They continue on a shaky path, breaking up and getting back together. Perhaps the funniest comes from "Robert's Rodeo". In it, he gets gored by a bull. While in reality this would be tragic, in this show it's funny. Robert get stuck with the horns of a bull in his ass (or upper thigh as he likes to call it) and it sets up some great situations and jokes for the season.
Overall, I thought this was a solid season. The characters continue to have a great chemistry together, the stories are funny, and the dialogue is well written. Season four of Everybody Loves Raymond is a lot of fun and fans of the series (or good slapstick comedies) should really enjoy this one. It comes highly recommended.
1. Boob Job
2. The Can Opener
3. You Bet
4. Sex Talk
5. The Will
6. The Sister
7. Cousin Gerard
8. Debra's Workouts
9. No Thanks
10. Left Back
11. The Christmas Picture
12. What's With Robert
13. Bully On The Bus
14. Prodigal Son
15. Robert's Rodeo
16. The Tenth Anniversary
18. Debra Makes Something Good
19. Marie and Frank's New Friends
20. Alone Time
21. Someone's Cranky
22. Bad Moon Rising
23. Confronting the Attacker
24. Robert's Divorce
Previous season releases of Everybody Loves Raymond have come in full frame color. With this season filming was shot for high-definition television and as such the video is given in anamorphic 1.78:1 widescreen color. The picture quality is quite good and looks much better than previous season sets. There are minor traces of grain and slight hints of edge enhancement. There is also some minor aliasing (not a lot, but still a few scenes with it). In general colors look right on. Overall it's a nice looking picture.
The audio comes in the standard 2-channel Dolby digital stereo sound track with language options in English, Spanish, and French. The sound quality is good with distinct and clear dialogue. The track typically sounds a little flat, but that's expected with dialogue driven tracks. There is also little advantage of taken of the stereo setup, with little distinction between channels. This release also comes with subtitles in English, Spanish, and French.
The extras included with this box set are made up of audio commentaries, deleted scenes, and a bloopers reel. There are a total of four commentary tracks. Each track includes Ray Romano, Phil Rosenthal, and one more person.
The first is for "Boob Job" and has Lew Schneider with Ray and Phil. Schneider wrote the story for the episode based upon a real event in his life. They talk about the Schneider's experience as a writer and with the story. There is also some other non-related talk (about Heaton's boobs), which is pretty funny. The next commentary is for "Robert's Rodeo" and has Brad Garrett joining Ray and Phil. The discussion focuses on the story at hand and also digresses with a few funny jokes. Garrett acts a goof and shows he's just a funny guy.
The next commentary is for "The Tenth Anniversary" with Aaron Shure. Shure wrote the episode and based it on a real life event. Just recently he did this to his wife. He taped over their wedding tape and on their first anniversary they found out. But instead of sports it was an episode of Everybody Loves Raymond. The commentary was pretty dull. They talk about how Shure became a writer for the show, which includes some talk about him being a circus clown and other such things. "Bad Moon Rising" has Patricia Heaton. Along with Ray and Phil they get down to the details about the episodes. We find out Patricia has PMS during the commentary recording (oh the irony) and the episode was voted most popular by viewers.
The deleted scenes are for episodes "Boob Job", "You Bet", "Sex Talk", "The Sister", "Cousin Gerard", "No Thanks", "Left Back", "The Tenth Anniversary", "Alone Time", "Bad Moon Rising", and "Confronting the Attacker". The bloopers reel (12:40) is a standard montage of goofs during filming. It can be good for a hearty laugh. Overall there were a nice set of extras. The commentaries were enjoyable and deleted scenes and bloopers reel were worth a laugh.
I thought this fourth season of Everybody Loves Raymond was a great addition to the series. The stories were funny, the characters continued to be great together, and it leaves me with the general impression that the show only gets better with time. I love how the Barone family can turn everyday situations into a riotous laughfest. This season is a must own DVD release. If there are any complaints from me, it's just that it was not long enough.