Welcome to a new Sitcom Tuesday! Malcolm In The Middle will commence in September, so during the month of August, I’m excited to set the figurative table by resurrecting entries from this blog’s decade-long run. Here’s how it works: I’ll provide a link to a piece that I first published many seasons back, and then I’ll offer a bit of updated commentary. But, as I always caution, please be gentle; this early article is from a long time ago, and my standards have changed as I’ve changed — I’ve improved as a thinker, a communicator, and a television-watcher.
So, let’s revisit… The Ten Best EVERYBODY LOVES RAYMOND Episodes of Season Six: https://jacksonupperco.com/2019/06/18/the-ten-best-everybody-loves-raymond-episodes-of-season-six/
Everybody Loves Raymond is a rarity in that the season I consider its best — the one that has the highest number of classic episodes, thanks to stories that do the best job of comedically examining the central conflict at the heart of its premise, which is the idea that Ray Barone is caught between his new family (embodied by Debra) and his old family (embodied by Marie) — actually exists in the latter half of its run. Now, as long-time readers know, I say a sitcom is typically at its peak when the dwindling novelty of a premise intersects with the rising understanding of how to best use the characters — and that generally happens around Season Two or Three (perhaps earlier if it’s more premise-driven; perhaps later if there are character or cast issues that must be addressed). The reason it takes Raymond so long to get there is due largely to a first year that’s quite generic, offering unoriginal ideas typical of a patriarch-led suburban family sitcom, and then, once Season Two figures out the central conflict and starts to create ideal episodes, Patricia Heaton’s pregnancy limited the narrative possibilities that could occur during Three. As such, the show couldn’t ascend into greatness until Season Four, which launched a period of almost universal excellence, culminating in Six’s finale, where Debra and Marie have stopped speaking. (The last three years of the show are all pretty good too — relative to most long-running sitcoms’ quality — but they’re a cut below, for the premise has essentially been fulfilled.) In this regard, the best years of Everybody Loves Raymond are the three in the middle, from 1999-2002, with 2001-2002, in particular, being my pick for its peak. And indeed, Raymond will remain relatively strong for the duration of its run — the most enduring of all these turn-of-the-century multi-cams that I’m rerunning here before our look at the decade’s new fare. It is as much — if not more — part of the ’00s as it is the ’90s, and while I don’t think there are many shows that successfully replicated its relationship-specific understanding of the domestic comedy, it certainly sparked a spate of patriarch-led suburban family sitcoms, which were plentiful in the early 2000s. Raymond was always the best of this lot.
Come back next week for another early ’00s rerun! And stay tuned for a new Wildcard!