Countdown To 'Raymond' Farewell

6947170 - In this Aug. 26, 2010 file photo, pianist Liu Wei takes off one of his socks to play a piano before his practice session in Shanghai. The musician who lost both arms in a childhood accident and plays the piano with his toes won "China's Got Talent," performing his version of James Blunt's wistful lovesong "You're Beautiful" to a packed audience at the Shanghai Stadium, on Sunday, Oct. 10, 2010. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko, File)
AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko
"Everybody Loves Raymond" wasn't hip, wasn't cool and missed out on the magazine covers that usually fawn over flavor-of-the-season TV shows.

Instead, it settled for a nine-season run; consistently high ratings; a total of 12 Emmy Awards, and the rare virtue of leaving before, not after, it ran out of laughs.

CBS' family comedy finally is getting the attention it deserves, including those elusive cover stories and the manic network marketing push that befits the end of a hit show.

But what counts for creator Phil Rosenthal is what's symbolized by the photos on his office wall of Jackie Gleason of "The Honeymooners" and Sid Caesar and Imogene Coca of "Your Show of Shows" - humor for the ages.

"We have something far more valuable in every way, something of lasting value, something you might watch with your grandkids," Rosenthal said during production of one of the final episodes.

Series star Ray Romano, a standup comedian turned actor, echoes the sentiment.

"This is my legacy. This is what I'll be remembered for," said Romano, watching the show wind down.

The 210th and final episode airs 9-9:30 p.m. EDT Monday, May 16. It's preceded by a one-hour "Raymond" retrospective at 8 EDT.

The show's departure, on the heels of "Friends," "Frasier" and "Sex and the City," increases the sitcom shortfall. This year, "Everybody Loves Raymond" is the only top 10 comedy and just one other, "Two and a Half Men," also on CBS, in the top 20.

The network is saying a reluctant farewell: It was Rosenthal and Romano's call to end the series and with an abbreviated 16-episode season, which they said reflected how many stories were left to tell.

As with most enduring sitcoms, "Everybody Loves Raymond" was rooted in simplicity: A husband, wife and kids and the extended family that infringed on their lives, welcome or not.

There was bickering, rivalry among adult siblings, grudging affection and various family crises, usually minor, for Ray and Debra Barone, played by Romano and Patricia Heaton. He brought to the marriage his meddling parents (Doris Roberts and Peter Boyle) and sadsack brother (Brad Garrett).

The marital push-and-pull between Ray and Debra has been at the show's center.

This season, Ray experimented with rejecting his wife's bedroom advances after deciding she was nicer to him when he played hard-to-get.

Debra's furious when she discovers the game.

"You had me convinced I was a fat, ugly old lady," she tells Ray.

He fires back: "You felt bad 'cause I turned you down, what, three times? Try being rejected 40 or 50 times for the last 10 years. How do you think that feels, huh? You're talking to the president of the Fat, Ugly Old Ladies Club. Welcome! Have a doughnut!"

For Romano, "stories I can relate to and identify with" are what he values in comedy, whether standup or sitcom.

"That's what we brought to this show. It's what I think is the one thing appeals to the audience: They see themselves and then you have to make it funny," he said.