Scattershooting While Wondering…*"Does Everybody REALLY Love Raymond?"

*Anyone who loves sports will know the name Blackie Sherrod as one of the foremost longtime sports writers in the southwest. He coined the phrase “Scattershooting while wondering…” for his many columns running for years in the Fort Worth Star Telegram and The Dallas Times Herald among others.

This interesting little phrase allows the writer to wander off into reverie or ‘wonderland’ as she raises rhetorical or literal questions about a person or an event.

Today I am scattershooting while wondering about a number of things like:
Did everybody REALLY love Raymond? I never was drawn to this show in its first incarnation in 1996. Oh, I probably saw it a couple of times but it was just a little too pedestrian for me. I was a little more upper class than that, I thought.

Ray Barone, played by comedian Ray Romano, was just a bit too much of a simpleton– a sports writer who worked out of his basement except when he was running back and forth to his mama’s house (and her cooking) across the street. If I say he was sort of a dullard, I think you will know what I mean. How he ever convinced his cute and sassy little wife Debra–played by Patricia Heaton–to marry him in the first place is in itself a matter of great wonderment!

Ray’s family members are really the stars of this show. Mom Marie Barone–played by Doris Roberts– embodies every mother who has tried to run a son’s married life. And she cleverly used her home cooking to bribe, console, cajole and reward the various members of the family. By the way, she played that part as if it were written just for her as it may well have been.

Ray’s older brother Robert is played by actor/comedian Brad Garrett. Robbie, as Marie insists on calling him, is really the crux on which the show turns. He is the older brother (conceived out of wedlock OMG) who grew up with his precious little brother Raymond getting all the attention and everything he wanted…thus the derivation of the title, “Everbody Loves Raymond.” And nothing has changed now that the the brothers are adults. Mom Marie dotes on Raymond through food and snide remarks about his sassy little wife and kids. The children in this show are not seen or heard much which is rather a relief after all those family shows that did nothing but showcase spoiled brats.

Now comes the Emporer of the family, Frank Barone. Played perfectly by the late Perter Boyle, a classically trained actor. Frank is the next generation of Archie Bunker who was played by Carroll O’Connor in “All In the Family.” Barone is unflinchingly racist, sexist (except when Marie threatens to stop cooking for him) and as socially unacceptable as one can be on television. Like many men who consider his home his personal castle, Frank feels free to eat, walk a few steps to his recliner in the living room, sit down, pull up the footrest and proceed to unzip his pants so he can really relax! Peter Boyle made this character his own.

As I pointed out earlier, I did not find the show amusing in its first run some years ago. But time passes and things change. Now television is overflowing with breaking news shows, regular news shows, do-it-yourself construction shows, investigatory shows, crime units out the wazoo, dancing shows and mating programs like “The Batchelor” and “The Batchelorette.” Outside of sports, there is really precious little programming for simply watching or being entertained.

Now stay with me here. I really thought that, like me, everyone couldn’t stand Raymond, much less love that show. However, in the absence of programming designed for pure enjoyment instead of constantly battering the viewer, I must admit timidly and apologetically that I find myself watching the “Raymond” re-runs and rather enjoying the time spent.

Yes, the characters are over the top. Yes, they probably remind you of someone in your own family. Yes, if you are over 50, you probably can’t contain your occasional outtbursts of laughter. And, no, I doubt if everybody loves Raymond this time around either. But if laughter is the best medicine, I can at least take the show in small doses!

So if you find yourself longing for the good old days or searching for a program of gentle rather mindless entertainment, find the “Raymond” re-reuns and let the world go away.

Carolyn Gilbert