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Customer Review

on August 8, 2007
Probably not, if you're even visiting this Amazon page in the first place. As a widespread array of popular television shows are planning to release their final season DVD sets by the end of 2007 ("Full House," "Gilmore Girls," and "Everybody Loves Raymond," to name a few), they have all taken a similar path by releasing deluxe full-series collections at the same time. That, right there, is a currently growing trend that you can expect to find with every future television show that is being manufactured on DVD. When popular shows like this one reach the point where their final season is ready for release, the DVD companies must do something to keep their profits rolling. In order to reel in even the consumers who have already purchased the previous seasons, there is only one thing left to do: design some super-fancy packaging, promise a few little surprise bonuses that do not come with the original DVD's, produce a "Complete Series" set, and slap a $200 list price on it. After all, there is a slew of dedicated "Raymond" fans in the world, and for many of them, something like this is difficult to pass up.

Now that we are all starting to see how many shows are going for the complete series appeal, we can learn to know better than to impulsively buy the individual seasons as they are pumped out--that is, if we care enough about the bigger and the better. It's a matter of preference, I guess, but I have always liked the packaging that "Raymond" has used for the DVD's. It's sturdy, the discs are easily accessible, and unlike the original "Sex and the City" packaging, it doesn't just fall apart the minute you take off the shrink wrap. For that reason, I will stick with what I have and look forward to September 19, when Season 9 officially arrives.

However, if this set looks ideal to you, or if you love the show and would like to start collecting the DVD's, be prepared to shell out a good $200. These special editions look great, but they sure don't come cheap. Still, "Everybody Loves Raymond" is simply one of those contemporary classics that is worth every penny, and if you're looking for something with a solid, consistent blend of hilarity and poignancy, this absolutely fits the bill. The show began as slighty sluggish, yet brimming with potential, and the basic plot was easy for viewers to tap into. You've got the protagonist Ray Barone, a sportswriter who mostly lives up to the title of the series, but he often has a hard time pleasing his wife, his kids, his parents (who so conveniently reside right across the street), and his perpetually jealous younger brother all at once. The show was initially designed to take some universal conflicts within families, place a humorous spin on them, and perhaps prompt viewers to realize that maybe their own scenarios aren't quite so bad. Although the plot always attempts to (and typically succeeds at) depicting the reality of marriage and family life, they sometimes steer a little too far off the deep end, but that's the fun of the writing. The marital snits between Ray and Debra, Frank and Marie, and Robert and Amy are always interesting to watch, and the laughter comes just as naturally as the cringing when you observe Marie's perpetual hold on her husband, her grown sons, and her daughters-in-law. The majority of women will easily identify with Debra's frustrations against her occasionally selfish significant other, as well as Frank and Marie's apparent lack of understanding about a concept known as "ringing the doorbell when you visit your son's home." Robert's nonstop efforts to be noticed and achieve a rare edge over the lovable little brother "Raymie" (even if it's only for a few minutes) blends humor with sympathy for his character, and it's virtually impossible to keep a straight face whenever Frank blurts out one of his brilliantly scripted punch lines ("Holy crap!") Can you ask for comedy that is any better than that? After watching just a few episodes (particularly those from Seasons 4-9), it's easy to see why this has been labeled as "the sitcom of our times."

Then there are the three Barone kids, who don't take much precedence in the show, but are still worth mentioning. Ray Romano and series creator Phil Rosenthal always believed strongly in keeping the kids' screen time short and sweet, for the sake of preventing their series from sharing a similar category with shows like "Full House." Without the cutesy dialogue and professionally written, Olsen twin-style catch phrases that no real kid would ever even understand, oldest daughter Ally and twin sons Geoffrey and Michael succeeded in being a pleasure without being overused. Real-life siblings Madylin, Sawyer and Sullivan Sweeten did it just right. They were cute enough, while avoiding being too over-the-top or overtaking the whole show, and it wasn't hard to buy into them as authentic, true-to-life kids. No snappy comebacks, no smart-alecky wit, just real kids. Of course, this is the only series that could get away with having them make a quickie appearance, run upstairs, and staying away from the remainder of the episode while the adults had long, heated conversations that often led to screaming matches. How on Earth did those children manage to sleep through it when their parents were duking it out in episodes such as the Season 4 classic "Bad Moon Rising?" To those kinds of questions, we may never have an answer, but for the purpose that it served, it worked just fine, and it helped the intended plot move right along.

Through it all, though, was it that helped the magic survive for 9 consistent years? Sure, the writing was excellent and always generated well-deserved laughter from the audience, but in the end, without the acting, it couldn't have happened. Plain and simple, the formula just would not have worked if Ray Romano, Patricia Heaton, Brad Garrett, Monica Horan, Doris Roberts, and Peter Boyle did not lead the cast with remarkable precision and skill. They each had their own special little quality that they brought to the mix (e.g. Ray's endearingly nasal voice, Amy's million dollar facial expressions). By the time Amy McDougal's painfully straight-laced parents (so un-Barone) and kooky younger brother made it to the fold in Season 7, it was evident that the casting was nearly flawless. There is perhaps no other television family that worked together as well as these seasoned stars, and defying what is natural with most shows, they only seemed to get better with time. Simply stated, they all just seemed to understand exactly what the script required, and when they got in front of the camera, they executed with impressive ease. They knew what it was all about, and through the family that they created together, the show became entirely their own. Beyond just being a talented and experienced group of actors, they delivered as a convincing American family that got at each other's throats half the time, but still managed to be strong and close-knit in their own way. As perfectly spoken by beloved actor Peter Boyle, "Every character got the ball, and everyone got to score" when it came to the razor-sharp dialogue, and that's exactly how any piece of solid television should be.

With that being said, be sure to remember that this set is coming out on October 30, right in time for Halloween--and as long as we're talking about that holiday, don't forget to watch the hysterical "Halloween Candy" episode from Season 3 (whether you've seen it or not, it's some truly great stuff). If you've had a bad day at work, you're tired or just need a little break, "Everybody Loves Raymond" is perfect for the spirits and can always be counted on to lighten the mood. As for this great big, newly designed edition, the outer box is slated to look like Ray and Debra's house, with all the main characters peeking out of the windows, and all 9 seasons will be placed under one roof (in this case, literally). Special features haven't been announced yet, but I wouldn't expect anything that hasn't already been on the previous sets. I mean, I guess it's possible that they'll add a few new things here and there, but for the most part, the $200 list price on this item is for the cool new packaging, some cast photos from over the years, maybe a new episode guide......things along those lines. If you're a fan who hasn't started buying the DVD's yet, this is the perfect excuse to do so; with all the episodes arranged and sold together, it's basically a dream come true for the hard-core Barone junkies.

Maybe not everyone will agree with me when I say that it is one of the greatest shows ever made, but surely it's one of the best comedies out there, and in a society where complete series DVD's are becoming the norm, here's one of the "best bets" that will surely be watched and re-watched often enough to make the investment worth it!
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