“Everybody Loves Raymond” — 6th Season

By Jae-Ha Kim

Everybody Loves Raymond has always been a show about a dysfunctional family that somehow manages to pull it together when it matters. Rather than growing tired in its sixth season, the sitcom manages to entertain viewers as it delves into the characters’ often unpleasant characteristics: Raymond’s (Ray Romano) spinelessness when it comes to his mother; Debra’s (Patricia Heaton) simmering anger with her interfering mother-in-law; Marie’s (Doris Roberts) insulting backhanded compliments, Frank’s (Peter Boyle) chauvinistic treatment of his wife, and Robert’s (Brad Garrett) increasing jealousy where Raymond is concerned.

The season’s opening episode sets the tone for the year’s 25 episodes. At a school function, Michael (Sullivan Sweeten) reads his story to a rapt audience that includes his mom and dad, grandparents, and uncle. The story is called “The Angry Family.” As the little boy talks about the extreme decibel level in the fictional home, the Barones turn beet red. It’s a story about them, they think, and they’re horrified and embarrassed.

Robert can’t get beyond the fact that he wasn’t included at all in the child’s project. (They later learn that a cartoon was the inspiration for Michael’s boisterous storybook family.)

The show works at its best when combining pathos with humor. Unsatisfied with their sex life, Raymond complains to his wife, “So you can stay up to read, but you can’t stay up two minutes for sex?” Debra, who can be so outspoken, is unable to express her sexual desires to her husband. Ray finally breaks the ice by asking, “Are you going to tell me what you want?” Debra purrs back, “I want you to help me with the laundry.”

Raymond is not above putting his needs above his wife’s. When Debra decides to run for school president, he sabotages her chances so he won’t have to stay home alone with the kids. With his hangdog features and dry delivery, Romano (Ice Age) does an admirable job as Ray–a grown man who longs for the simplicities of his childhood when his mother took care of everything.

Of course, that affection comes with a price.

“I don’t want you in the middle,” she tells him during a family spat. “I want you on my side.”

Unlike the perfect families depicted on The Cosby Show or The Brady Bunch, the Barones are flawed. They bicker, simmer, and stew.

But most importantly, they laugh.

May 9, 2006

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