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Inside move: ‘Raymond’ reaching end?

Eye's deal, Romano's contract expire in May

“Everybody Loves Raymond” creator Phil Rosenthal says there’s a chance the upcoming seventh season of his hit CBS show could be the show’s last.

Eye’s deal for the skein expires in May, as does star Ray Romano’s contract. Most industry insiders believe there’s no way CBS will let “Raymond” slip away, or that Rosenthal or Romano would give up the huge paycheck an eighth season would bring.

But Rosenthal, who’s still celebrating his show’s 11 Emmy noms, insists there are no guarantees.

“I love Les (Moonves, head of CBS), and they’ve been incredibly supportive,” Rosenthal told Daily Variety. “But when it’s over, it’s over. You don’t want to get repetitive, and I’ve never seen a show get better after seven seasons.”

Rosenthal said Romano’s opinion on the matter will be key. Equally important will be whether Rosenthal and his writing staff feel there are still interesting stories to be told. A decision on an eighth season would have to be made this winter.

“You mine for gold as long as you can, but when we’re out of stories, the show is over,” Rosenthal said, adding that financial concerns won’t be a determining factor for him.

“The decision won’t be made over money,” said Rosenthal, who’s in the middle of a four-year, $50 million-plus deal with CBS and Paramount.

Some industry insiders no doubt will see Rosenthal’s comments as posturing in advance of renegotiations for an eighth or ninth season of “Raymond.”

But Rosenthal has proved before he’s not just in it for the money: After “Raymond” premiered, he gave back $16 million from Disney rather than ditch the show he loved.

What’s more, Rosenthal said he already has a good plan for generating more story ideas for “Raymond.”

“If I can’t think of anything, I can go home to my wife and pick a fight,” he said. “Then I have another few episodes.”

A CBS rep declined comment; Rosenthal’s agent did not return calls seeking comment.

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