Filmed at Universal City Studios by Worldwide Pants Inc. and HBO Independent Prods. Executive producers, Phil Rosenthal, Stu Smiley, Rory Rosegarten; co-executive producers, Stephen Nathan, Kathy Ann Stump; producer, Stewart Lyons; co-producer, Lew Schneider, director, Michael Lembeck; writer, Rosenthal; Love is a lot to expect given the confining primise spelled out in this sitcom’s pilot. “Everybody Loves Raymond” aims to turn standup comic Ray Romano into a suburban Jerry Seinfeld, reflecting on life as the father of a 5-year-old girl and twin boys approaching the terrible twos. Chances are he’ll have to settle for the adoration of comedy club auds or fans of Comedy Central’s “Dr. Katz: Professional Therapist,” on which he had a recurring role.
Friday slot following “Dave’s World” is double-edged: The logical, desirable lead-in raises the danger of redundancy. Still, it’s a family night or nothing for this one.
Romano, who has an amiable, even serene, presence, plays a character with a killer job as a New York sports columnist and no major neuroses. There’s also no sign of a stellar wit or unique personality, but he’s easy to identify with. Assembling children’s toys, as Ray is doing in the title sequence, triggers sympathetic frustration rather than laughs.
Ray’s wife (Patricia Heaton) is a harried homemaker exasperated with his meddling parents who live across the street in a Long Island hamlet. She doesn’t want her in-laws over on her birthday, and Ray must break the news. Mom and Dad (Doris Roberts and Peter Boyle) drop by unannounced, rile and kids and use the remote access code to listen to messages on their favorite son’s answering machine.
Ray’s brother (Brad Garrett), a 40-year-old police sergeant, lives with his folks and resembles a morose gorilla. Jealous of his popular sibling, he has strange habits like always touching food to his chin before eating it.
Writers will have to add dimensions beyond domestic pandemonium and squabbles. Peak in exec producer Phil Rosenthal’s script is Ray’s admonition to his buddy: “My kids aren’t fish, OK? You can’t just sprinkle food over the crib and leave.”
Look for stunt casting with sports figures and road trips to various stadiums. Parents could be responsible for some humorous pickles; Boyle’s diabolical air has been incorporated into his character.
Michael Lembeck’s unhurried direction lacks distinction. Production has a washed-out look with functional, Ikea-style furniture underscoring the attempt to squeeze every last laugh out of the average American living room.