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 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. Although in this season she gets quite a few jokes in. The couple also has three kids, a girl and twin boys. They have never really been a big part of the show. More or less they are used to produce sticky situations for the Barone family.
Living across the street we have the parents and the older brother. Frank Barone (Peter Boyle) is a really funny guy. He 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.
For the most part, season three of Everybody Loves Raymond flows like the first season and second season. The series takes an episodic approach to its stories. The tales they tell in the third season generally revolve around Ray and him getting into one sticky situation or another. What makes this season different from the earlier ones is there is more emphasis on the other characters. This focus allows for more fun episodes with the other members of the Barone family getting into some kind of hot water. One reason for this slight change of pace was Patricia Heaton's pregnancy. Basically, the season has a little less focus on Debra and Ray interacting and more of the other characters.
Even with a little less Debra, Patricia Heaton's role was still quite good. In fact, she tended to shine even more compared to earlier seasons. Her performance was simply better. Her interactions with Ray and the rest of the Barone's continued to be quite comical. Moreover, Heaton managed to get in a few great jokes on her own. In earlier season reviews I did not feel that she never came off very comical as am individual and it was mostly her interactions with the cast that was funny, but Heaton herself is quite funny in this season. The very first episode of the season "The Invasion" is a great example of how funny she can be, where she decides to give Frank and Marie a taste of their own medicine. Another solid episode is "Working Girl". In it, Debra goes back to work and finds out working just isn't the same.
Perhaps one of the funniest stories to be introduced in this season is about Robert. There is a pretty big change for the Barone family. In "The Apartment", Robert finally moves out of his parent's house, again. What makes the episode funny is where he decides to move. Despite his new residence, his situation doesn't really change at all. The story of Robert moving out gets revisited several times in the season and each time it is very comical. Some of the other fun episodes with a strong focus on Robert include "Robert's Date", after a night of socializing with his partner Judy (Sherri Shepherd) Robert thinks he's black, and "Dancing with Debra", which is an extremely fun episode with Debra and Robert getting a chance to bond. The episode has a really great scene where no words are exchanged, but it is funny as ever.
Both Frank and Marie also get a few episodes focused on them. In "Frank's Tribute", he is declared man of the year at his lodge. However, the situation doesn't turn out to be as special as everyone really thought. In "Cruising with Marie" Ray and Marie go on a cruise together and she reveals an entirely new side. While we're used to seeing Marie overly neurotic, she becomes a social butterfly, which leaves Ray stupefied. Both episodes are pretty funny and put the characters at the center of some great situations.
In general, the season has some outright good episodes. The holiday episodes for Thanksgiving and Christmas, both offer some classic moments in the series. In "No Fat", Marie goes on a health food. Unfortunately for the Barone boys, this means their favorite day of the year is going to be a little different. Instead of the traditional turkey, dressing, cranberry sauce, dumplings, and sweet potatoes, Marie makes an entire meal out of tofu. Tofu turkey never looked so good. Yum! The Christmas episode, "The Toaster" is also quite funny. Ray thinks up a great gift to give to his friends and family. Everybody loves the gift, except Frank and Marie who never actually looked at it. Instead they traded it in for a coffee maker. The episode becomes a riot when they try to get it back. Moving away from holiday episodes, "Move Over" is just plain funny. Ray tells Debra that for the last nine years she's been causing him sleepless nights. He can't stand her touching him while he sleeps. The way she reacts makes this episode hilarious. Another great episode, my favorite of the season, is the season finale. In "How They Met", we take a look into the past when Ray and Debra first met. It's really great to see how they first met and their relationship began to develop.
Overall, I was quite happy with the third season. The balance of comedy between the various cast members was handled very well. I really enjoyed how the stories played out and especially how well the cast continued to work together. For the most part they are individually quite funny, but together they are an absolute riot. Fans of the series should be very happy with this third season release and newcomers should also really enjoy the slapstick comedy Everybody Loves Raymond has to offer.
The next very big extra is Museum of Television & Radio Panel Discussion with Series Creator and Cast (1 hour 9 mins 33 secs), where the cast and creator Phil Rosenthal talk about the show up to its third season. This isn't a bad extra, but it will probably be most entertaining for the fan. One problem I had with it was the volume control, which was not done very well. The sound typically faded in and out, as it was not professionally filmed. Finally, there are two audio commentaries for episodes "The Toaster" and "How They Met" with Ray Romano and Phil Rosenthal. I thought the commentaries came off slightly dry, but were more entertaining than the commentaries with earlier season releases. Overall, I enjoyed the extras with this release.