‘Everybody Loves Raymond’ EP Phil Rosenthal on the Show’s ‘Very Dark’ Finale: ‘There Was No Jeopardy’

When the CBS hit sitcom Everybody Loves Raymond came to a close in 2005, it was with an episode that at first left viewers cold: Ray, played by Ray Romano, nearly doesn’t awaken from what was routine surgery to remove his adenoids. The show’s creator and executive producer Phil Rosenthal revealed why he went in such a “dark” direction in ending the program.

A scene from the CBS comedy 'Everybody Loves Raymond'
A scene from the CBS comedy ‘Everybody Loves Raymond’ | Spike Nannarello/CBS Photo Archive/Getty Images

‘Everybody Loves Raymond’s cast almost lost the title character in the finale

In his conversation with the Television Academy Foundation, Phil Rosenthal discussed the show’s final episode and why he went into such a “dark” place with that last script.

“I wanted to do something we hadn’t seen before; so this is what we’re doing,” he said. And so, the finale was built around the fact that “Ray talks funny. We know that. He [on the episode] has adenoid trouble. So, he’s got to go get his adenoids out.”

Because the character of Ray Barone, he added, “is a hypochondriac and a baby,” he needs his entire family there: “It’s all about Raymond, and they’re making fun of him and what-not. Then the nurse comes out and says, ‘Mrs. Barone, he’s not waking up. He’s not responding, we’re trying to wake him up.’ Well, she breaks down and the whole family goes insane. And it’s very dark and scary, for about 30 seconds, until the doctor comes out and says he’s fine.”

Rosenthal explained why he almost had Ray Barone die

Pointing out that only this episode could have been done as the finale, the producer noted that it only worked “because there’s no jeopardy.”

If he had tried taking Ray to the point of death on any other episode, Rosenthal said, “the audience knows, ‘He’s not going to die!’ You have to write with the supposition the audience is savvy and they understand television. They know he’s not going to die if it’s not the finale. That’s why we could not tell anybody what this was. Because I couldn’t give this away, I want the audience to be scared to death. What if you lost this guy? This guy you make fun of, this pain in the ass. This guy who’s all about himself, this guy who we love ultimately. What if that happened to someone in your family? That scare, we know what that’s like. Some people, it’s not over in 30 seconds. We know what that feels like, it’s relatable.”

The beauty of that momentary scare was that it passed as quickly as it came and “the second half of the show is a regular episode of Everybody Loves Raymond.”

The legacy of ‘Raymond’ according to Rosenthal

At the time of Rosenthal’s 2005 interview, the show’s finale had not yet aired and so the idea of discussing its legacy may have seemed premature to the show’s creator. Yet the future Somebody Feed Phil star took a stab at defining what he hoped the series would mean to future generations of viewers: “Here’s what I’m most proud of. Is every show great? No, but there’s no bad ones. So that I could watch them in my old age, my kids can watch them, their grandkids can watch them on their spaceship. We didn’t make a bad one.

“There was a level of quality which I think we did not go below. If we have a legacy, that’s a nice one. You watched for a half-hour, you laughed, you forgot your troubles, you got involved in these crazy people’s lives.”

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