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Everybody Loves Raymond - The Complete First Season



DVD Release Date: September 14, 2004 (HBO Home Video)
Color/538 min.
MSRP: $44.98
Number of Discs: 5
Number of Episodes: 22
Duration of Special Features: 90+ Minutes
Languages & Subtitles in English, Spanish, and French. Closed Captioned.
Special Features Include:
*Behind the Scenes Featurettes including interviews with the cast & crew
*The 1995 Late Show with David Letterman appearance by Ray Romano that inspired the series
*2 Optional Audio Commentaries with Ray Romano & series creator Phil Rosenthal


In 1995, stand-up comedian made a fairly routine appearance on Late Night with David Letterman, to do a stand-up comedy bit. Part of the routine, about Ray's family, inspired producer Phil Rosenthal to begin work on a sitcom concept based around the stand-up routine. A few drafts later, the fictional family of the Barone's was created. The family featured Ray, successful sportswriter, and husband of Debra (played by Patricia Heaton). The couple consistently deals with their young kids - a 5 year-old daughter and twin 2-year-old sons, as well as Ray's brother, Robert (Brad Garrett), and parents Frank (Peter Boyle) and Marie (Doris Roberts), who are always coming over at unexpected times or otherwise meddling in their business.

Memorable Episodes / Notable Guest Stars:

Memorable episodes: Obviously, the Pilot of what is now the second-longest-running sitcom currently on television, behind The Simpsons, is definitely memorable - even if the episode itself isn't even that great. Episode four, Standard Deviation is considered by many to be one of the first truly strong episodes of the series. Admittedly, that's pretty much it. The first season is considered fairly weak in terms of the overall scope of the series, so there are not that many truly classic episodes in this set. Future sets should have a FAR better variety in terms of quality episodes.

There were QUITE a few memorable guest stars in the introductory season of the series. Jean Stapleton (Edith Bunker; All in the Family) guest stars in Episode 3. NBA Great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar guests in show 6. Katherine Helmond (Jessica Tate on Soap & Mona Robinson on Who's the Boss?) appears in episodes 8 & 10. Kevin James, who would get his own show on CBS a couple of years later (The King of Queens) stops by in show 12. Baseball great and single-season home run record-holder Barry Bonds appears in episode sixteen. Two shows later, skater Katarina Witt, baseball icon Tommy Lasorda, and broadcaster Marv Albert all make guest spots. Tommy Lasorda would again appear two shows later. Skater Kristi Yamaguchi appears in episode 19, and 1997 Super Bowl MVP Desmond Howard is in episode 21.


Packaging Summary: I have absolutely zero idea as to what the technical name for the packaging is. Truth be told, it's a little reminiscent of the packaging of various Audio Books I've seen, as far as the opening/closing mechanism is laid out (book-like). Inside, the five DVDs are arranged with discs 1 and two seen when opening the set. Unfolding the set further reveals a disc index, and the other three discs. Disc one has episodes 1-5, disc two has episodes 6-10, disc three has episodes 11-15, disc four has episodes 16-20 and disc five has episodes 21 & 22.

Each disc features a different actor on the cover. Disc one features Ray, Disc two features Debra (Patricia Heaton), Disc three features a picture of Robert (Brad Garrett). Disc four has Marie (Doris Roberts), while Disc 5 features actor Peter Boyle (Frank). There is a small problem with the setup of the case, as the plastic holders for the first two discs that close together when the case is closed, tend to hinder the actual re-folding of the case. It may take a couple additional seconds to close the case than average due to this. Otherwise, it's a nice setup.

Inside the packaging is a few promotional inserts, one of which is fairly interesting. There are three insert cards. One is a request to go to a website and fill out a survey for HBO/HBO Video. (Note: As of the time of this review, that URL does not work. It should be up by launch time). The 2nd is an insert ad for the series book Everybody Loves Raymond: Our Family Album. The third's the one that really got me...Included with the purchase of the Everybody Loves Raymond is a free, 52-issue subscription to TV Guide (If you don't want the offer, you can send in the card to an alternate address for a $1.56 refund). Just send in the card, and you'll receive the magazine in your mailbox weekly for the next year. No strings attached.

Menu Design and Navigation:

The menus of the discs themselves are fairly well done. The main menu features a series of scrolling video clips playing (with audio), over the main theme. Option selection in the menus is a simple text menu below the playing clips. The Special Features, Episode Selection, and Language menus each feature a row of cast pictures with one particular picture in the foreground. With there being several menu pages per disc, and a total of ‘five’ discs, it's just an impossibility to list ALL the pictures and clips used in the set. The only flaw with the menu is that there is a lack of a Play All button. The main menu itself is nice.

Video and Audio Quality:

Episodes in the set are shown in Standard-definition 1.33:1 aspect ratio, with Dolby Surround 2.0 audio. Each episode features both audio tracks AND subtitles for English, Spanish, and French. Episodes are arranged in the set in airing order, not production order. Episodes are sourced from original broadcast - no syndication cuts here (That I could find, at least).

With exception of the pilot, which was shot on cheaper stock (in case the series didn't sell), and Disc Five (read down), the episodes THEMSELVES are in REALLY good shape (Although considering these episodes are only 7-8 years old, that's not really surprising). There are a few noticeable digital compression artifacts on the video of the episodes, but you really have to be paying attention to notice them.

Special Features:

Special features - Episodes one and twenty-two feature commentary by series star: Ray Romano, and show creator Phil Rosenthal. Each disc also features a series index detailing exactly what, in the way of episodes and special features, is on which disc. As is frequently pointed out in the index and on the disc itself...the real meat of the special features is on the fifth disc. Disc five contains all the special features except Episode 1's commentary track. Episode 22, on Disc 5, contains the set's other commentary. The disc also contains three making-of featurettes, including interviews with the cast of the show, the show creators, and the writing staff of the series. Also on the disc is Ray Romano's stand-up routine from a 1995 episode of Late Night with David Letterman that inspired the series. The First making-of featurette is approx 22 minutes, with the second clocking in at around 11 minutes and the third at almost 21 minutes. The stand-up routine is approximately five minutes long. Before commentary, that's approximately 60 minutes of bonus material outside of commentary. The box promises 90+ minutes, so they obviously are figuring in commentary tracks in the bonus material. Slightly misleading, in my book, but not worthy of capitol punishment.

Final Comments:

Closing - I've never been the biggest fan of the series, but, honestly, this is one of the better DVD sets I've seen, and having seen the entire first season now, it improves my overall view of the series. Though, not really one of the best seasons, it does set the foundation for the classic-to-come. The episodes themselves are in good picture quality, all the episodes are uncut, and the set actually delivers on the promise of genuine Surround Sound. I do have a couple of nitpicks. For only having five shows per disc, there's a bit too much digital compression for my tastes. Considering the storage space for a DVD, and a mere 5 episodes + menus on Discs 1-4, and 2 Episodes + Menus + Special Features on Disc 5, there should be virtually NO artifacts. Also, in a way, I kind of feel a little gypped that they only included Ray's stand-up routine from the 1995 Letterman episode, while leaving the traditional post-routine interview out (I personally would prefer the complete show if they really wanted to include it). For future sets, I'd honestly just recommend working on what few digital artifacts there ARE, and perhaps throwing in a couple more Ray-related TV spots in. Overall, though, the set is definitely worth the buy.

Final Numbers (out of 5 stars):

Video Quality: 4.6/5
Audio Quality: 4.8/5
Special Features: 4.5/5
Menu Design/Navigation: 4.8/5
Overall: 4.7/5

Seth Thrasher Seal of Approval

- Reviewed by Seth Thrasher on 08/27/04

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