The Big Picture
- The characters in Everybody Loves Raymond are over-the-top and often engage in cruel behavior, making the show difficult to watch in today’s context.
- Robert Barone is constantly picked on by his father and brother, leading to feelings of inferiority and suffering.
- Frank Barone treats everyone horribly, especially his wife, displaying a lack of empathy and constantly slinging insults. However, the show still remains a beloved sitcom.
When Everybody Loves Raymond premiered on CBS back in 1996, it didn’t seem like it was going to be anything special. It was another sitcom starring a standup comedian (Ray Romano) turned actor you probably hadn’t heard of. He was given a family, and put in a house that looked just like all the other sitcom houses. The characters bickered, they had annoying parents and in-laws, but after thirty minutes, they’d make up and come together, only to do it all over again the next episode. It’s a tried and true formula, but one that’s not always that exciting.
Everybody Loves Raymond did okay in the ratings the first few years, but from Seasons 3-9 it stayed around the Top 10 in the ratings. That jump strangely happened when Seinfeld went off the air, as if Americans needed a new gang of self-centered smartasses to laugh at. The Barones were crazy, from the grandparents on down, but we loved them. They were hilarious, and the brilliance of the show was rewarded with near-yearly nominations for Outstanding Comedy Series, finally winning in 2005. Two decades later, however, some of the Barones’ behavior, while still funny, makes us cringe a little more than it used to.
There’s an Open Meanness Lurking Inside ‘Everybody Loves Raymond’s Standard Sitcom Tropes
One heartbreaking part of what makes Everybody Loves Raymond difficult to watch now is simply the brutal passage of time. Peter Boyle and Doris Roberts, who played Ray’s parents, are both gone. Even one of the twins who played his sons, Sawyer Sweeten, tragically lost his life at just the age of 19. But beyond the real-life mourning, there are parts of the actual show itself that aren’t as easy to tolerate as it was twenty years ago.
The characters of Everybody Loves Raymond are over-the-top. Raymond is self-absorbed, a bit of a dolt who frequently comes up short of making his wife feel loved and respected. His brother, Robert (Brad Garrett), is a kind soul, but he’s got so many issues that even a therapist would look at him in wonder. Then there’s Ray’s parents, Frank and Marie, who live across the street. Frank is a grump who never wants to talk about feelings. Everything is a joke to him. He’d rather just watch TV. Marie is an extremely overprotective mother, constantly walking into Ray’s house without even knocking, and always insisting that she’s right about everything. Only Ray’s poor wife, Debra (Patricia Heaton), seems normal. That over-the-topness of the characters can lead to some rather cruel moments, with everyone so lost in their own wants and worries that they hurt everyone else. While Everybody Loves Raymond is far from cruel like, say, Married With Children was, there’s still a lot of pain to be found in the characters while we laugh at their antics.
Robert Barone Is Picked On Mercilessly by His Father and Brother
The main pin cushion in Everybody Loves Raymond is Robert. The oldest Barone son might be strange, but still, he’s a good soul, a cop serving his community, but he feels unappreciated. Ray, the baby, is the apple of his mother’s eye. She obsesses over and spoils him, even though Robert lives with her, his life having fallen apart after a devastating divorce. It makes Robert understandably jealous to be ignored. The title of the show comes from a frustrated Robert mumbling “Everybody loves Raymond” in early episodes. It drives him crazy to be in Ray’s shadow. “Everybody loves Raymond. I go to work, people shoot at me. Ray goes to work and people do the wave. Then he sits down, has a hotdog, doodles on a piece of paper and they give him a trophy.” There’s no escape from his inferiority complex either, in being a grown man living in the house he grew up in with his crazy parents. “I’m a cop and live with my parents. I’m on a constant diet of human suffering.”
That suffering is not just from how he feels, but how he is overtly treated. It’s not just from being ignored or being second best. He’s teased, a lot. He’s made fun of for being so tall, for being single, for being weird, and for his quirks, such as him always having to touch a fork or spoon to his chin before he takes a bite of food. Yeah, it’s a funny visual gag. Brad Garrett is hilarious in the role and won several Supporting Actor Emmys for it, but beneath the laughs is a man suffering, whose cruel family only makes it worse. Only Debra is always kind to him.
It finally gets better for Robert when he meets the forever love of his life in Amy (Monica Horan). He gets out of his parents’ house for good, he finds a purpose, and he finds someone who looks at him and truly sees him and puts him first. He’s still teased, but he’s stronger. He’s not so strong though to not be crushed when he goes to Amy’s parents to ask to marry their daughter only for them to tell him no. The kindest, best, and bravest person in Everybody Loves Raymond is so often treated the worst.
Frank Barone Treats Everyone Horribly, Especially His Wife
No one is more cruel than Frank Barone. He’s like the living version of Jeff Dunham‘s Walter puppet, a perpetual grump who only cares about himself and slings digging insults left and right. A gregarious person he is not. “There’s only some people I hate,” he says, “the rest I tolerate.” He flies off the handle easily. One episode sees him losing his mind on a grocery store clerk (Jeff Garlin), embarrassing himself and his family. He barely even tolerates his own wife, Marie, the mother of his children. He teases her often, but we laugh, because, hey, that’s who he is. Plus, maybe Marie deserves it. She’s so self-centered and nosy and refuses to accept that anyone else could ever be right about anything, so perhaps she brings it on herself. Or just maybe she was turned this way, clinging to her youngest son and her own opinions because she didn’t have a loving and supportive husband to cling to.
One rather rough episode has Frank screaming his lungs out at Marie, telling her it’s her job to take care of him. It’s brutal, even for him. Still, the studio audience laughs, maybe because they don’t know how to respond, but again because we accept Frank for who he is, even when no one should. You can see where Robert’s neurosis comes from. You can also see how it’s affected Ray in his own marriage. He’s not mean like his father, but he often disrespects Deb, not being there for her, making fun of her cooking, or being inconsiderate and taping over their wedding video. We laugh because he’s being a lovable idiot, but he’s not all that lovable to Deb.
These moments make Everybody Loves Raymond hard to watch, but it doesn’t make it unwatchable. Ray might keep messing up with his wife, but he always apologizes. Every night he looks at her as if she’s the most beautiful woman he’s ever seen, and even after having been married for so long, he’s excited anytime he gets to be intimate with her. As for Frank, one episode explains that he comes from a long history of emotional and physical abuse. He might yell, but he would never think about raising a hand at his wife or kids. A rather poignant moment first starts with Frank in another hard-to-watch tirade, getting so mad that he purposely breaks Marie’s glasses. He later feels horrible and tells Marie he loves her. “You don’t need glasses to see that.”
Everybody Loves Raymond can be hard to watch in 2023 with how we look at emotional and verbal abuse. The show is funny in how the characters act, but if you were to remove the laugh track, it turns into a very awkward drama. Still, despite those parts that haven’t aged so well, Everybody Loves Raymond is one of our greatest modern sitcoms, with a family that might be dysfunctional but who always turn to each other in the end. You don’t need glasses to see that.