Thesps not at first episode's table reading

Things are getting a little strange on the set of “Everybody Loves Raymond.”

Yesterday marked the start of the production on the show’s eighth season, but neither Patricia Heaton nor Brad Garrett showed up for the first table read. Heaton called in sick, according to the network, while Garrett’s character of Robert Barone isn’t a part of the first episode’s plot.

Of course, in Hollywood, things aren’t always what they seem.

According to industry insiders, reps for Garrett informed CBS a few weeks ago that the actor wouldn’t be showing up to work until the network opened up talks on renegotiating his current deal. Garrett pulls down under $200,000 per episode, less than any of the five main stars of the show, and is seeking a pay hike (Daily Variety, July 29).

Rather than risk any production delays or cost overruns, the network and producers decided before the first table read not to include Garrett’s character in the season premiere. It’s unclear if subsequent episodes include Garrett.

As for Heaton, the actress isn’t seeking any more coin — so it’s possible her absence Monday was simply due to illness.

Still, Heaton and the show’s supporting cast haven’t made any secret of their desire to see “Raymond” continue next season, something series star Ray Romano and Phil Rosenthal appear to be leaning against. If “Raymond” won’t be back next year, the actors all stand to lose out on a huge sum.

As of late Monday, a CBS rep said the table read has been rescheduled for today, with taping of the season premiere now pushed back a day to Friday.

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