Everybody Loves Raymond hits me in the perfect feel spot: A sitcom show set in the 1990s (and extends into the early 2000s) that is about husband-wife strife, with in-laws adding shenanigans to comedic effect. Simple to understand. Easy to convey. And laugh-out-loud funny quite often through its nine seasons I binged these last few months.
Patricia Heaton as Ray’s wife, Debra, was a force to be reckoned with because she had to be to stand opposite Ray’s in-laws. First, his overbearing, overprotected and overly critical mother, Marie, as played by Doris Roberts. Secondly, the also overbearing, wise-cracking and mean, Frank, as played by Peter Boyle. And then the yet again, also overbearing, somewhat off his rocker, brother, Robert, as played by Brad Garrett.
Some of the best moments from the series occurred when Heaton was firing up against them or Ray or all of them and giving it right back to them.
I loved her in this show and she instantly become one of my favorite sitcom characters.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t shower some lover onto Garrett as well; it’s hard to imagine the show without him as Ray’s brother, always complaining about Ray getting more love from the folks. I also loved the subtle gag of him being in love with Debra. That was hilarious throughout the series. I feel like they drifted some with his character in later seasons when he cheats on his eventual wife, Amy (played by Monica Horan), but the overall idea of him being a wacky character, who yells to comedic effect, was always there.
However, the true stars of the show and who I want to give particular love to are Doris Roberts and Peter Doyle. I said it’s hard to imagine the show without Garrett, but there is no show without Roberts and Boyle. They mean everything to the show’s success. They’re just so damn funny. Marie almost seems like a mafia boss to the rest of the family (and the way she can arch her eyebrows to give that look when someone goes astray is hilariously effective) while Frank’s wisecracks are often directed at her and not wanting to be married to her.
But think about this: When the show started in September 1996, Doris Roberts was already 70-years-old. Peter Boyle was 60-years-old. Which, I never would have guessed that she was 10 years older than him; I would’ve figured it the other way, with all due respect to Boyle, he didn’t age as well as she did!
So, by the time the show ended, which I believe the final episode was shot in January 2005, but would air in May of that year, Roberts had just turned 80-years-old just 16 days prior and Boyle was 69-years-old.
Roberts was 80-years-old! Watch that final episode again, if you haven’t and tell me you think she looks 80 and I will call you a liar. I would’ve guessed 65? Maybe 70? She’s ageless and a legend.
Unfortunately, Boyle would die shortly after the show wrapped in 2006, but Roberts would go on to live another 10 years, dying in 2016 at the age of 90. She even starred in more shows in that 10-year span.
Even more than my marveling at Doris Roberts’ age and ability to still perform at the highest level on a huge network sitcom is that she parlayed that into real-life advocacy, apparently testifying before a United States Congressional panel on ageism in September 2002 about age discrimination in Hollywood.
In her testimony, she said, “We have not, however, changed our attitudes about aging or address the disabling myths that disempower us. I would like the word “old” to be stricken from our vocabulary, and replaced with the word “older.” My contemporaries and I are denigrated as old — old coots, old fogies, old codgers, old geezers, old hags, old timers and old farts.”
Again, imagine that show without her. Imagine thinking she couldn’t contribute. As she later notes in her testimony, she was one of the few able to still land parts.
My all-time favorite sitcom is King of Queens, which is amusing because it’s sort of an offshoot of this show (which now might be my second favorite sitcom!), and it debuted in September 1998.
When that show debuted, Jerry Stiller, who played the iconic Arthur character (the father to Carrie, played by Leah Remini, and another in-law dynamic with Doug, played by Kevin James), he was 71-years-old! He’d already just done some Seinfeld work, too, as George’s dad.
King of Queens also lasted nine seasons, so when the final episode wrapped, Stiller was 79-years-old! And again, he was still performing at the top of his game, if you ask me.
Roberts, Boyle, Stiller — absolute legends, who gave me so much laughter and smiles.
And heck, we just unfortunately lost Betty White right before she turned 100-years-old. One of my other favorite sitcoms, which I still need to finish, is Golden Girls starring White, Bea Arthur and Rue McClanahan, all legends as well, although they were younger, incidentally, at the time of the show in the 1980s (all in their 60s, I believe).
Older stars can still perform at a high level and there’s no reason to think they can’t. This stigma seems even more pronounced among women, as they get older, with the cliché miscasting of an older male actor with a younger actress as his “wife” instead of casting two similarly aged people.
I wanted to take this time to offer my praise of older stars in Hollywood and let’s hope we continue to see older stars getting roles both on the small and big screen. They can and do contribute a lot.
Doris and Peter, you’re both freaking awesome. Thank you for the laughs.