‘Everybody Loves Raymond’: Why ‘The Oprah Winfrey Show’ Wasn’t Allowed on the Set
The CBS sitcom Everybody Loves Raymond aired its final episode in 2005 after nine seasons. The comedy revolved around the tight-knit yet dysfunctional Barone family, which starred Ray Romano (Ray), Patricia Heaton (wife Debra), Brad Garrett (Ray’s brother Robert), Doris Roberts (Ray’s mom Marie), and Peter Boyle (Ray’s dad Frank).
When media mogul Oprah Winfrey invited the cast on her show to discuss the show’s legendary run, she asked for access to the set for some footage of the actors in action. Yet show creator Phil Rosenthal turned down the talk show queen’s request.
‘Everybody Loves Raymond’ cast is in – show creator is out
Doing countless interviews on news programs and talk shows during their final season, the cast members of the sitcom were planning a stop in Chicago for a sit-down with Winfrey. When Rosenthal was told he wouldn’t be a part of the interview, he made a few calls to lobby for himself.
“‘Good news,’ says my agency,” Rosenthal recalled in his book You’re Lucky You’re Funny: How Life Becomes a Sitcom. “‘You’re invited to come to The Oprah Show and sit in the audience.'”
A seat in the audience did not sit well with the show creator, who saw the exclusion as an affront to television producers.
“‘With all due respect, I am not going to fly to Chicago to sit in the audience like Uncle Sh*ts His Pants while other people talk about how we made the show,'” Rosenthal told his agent. “This was Oprah Show policy: A filmmaker could get on once in a while, a book club writer, ok, but no behind-the-scenes television people on the couch with Oprah. Why the prejudice against TV?”
Phil Rosenthal says no to Oprah
In time, Rosenthal started to move on from the slight until he got a request from Harpo Studios.
“I decided to forget about the whole thing and enjoy a sandwich,” the TV producer explained in his trademark humor. “But the following day I received another call: The Oprah Show would like to come to the Raymond set next week to shoot some behind-the-scenes footage for use on the Oprah episode. ‘Oh, that’s interesting,’ I said. ‘No.'”
Rosenthal exercised his power in the same fashion as the talk show icon and declined the request.
“CBS publicity was dumbfounded,” Rosenthal revealed. “No? Not to Oprah? ‘The Oprah Show is allowed to have or not have anyone on their set they like,’ I said. ‘Me too.'”
‘Everybody Loves Raymond’ show creator gets a seat on stage
While he was still stung by the exclusion of being on Oprah’s stage, Rosenthal also wanted to protect how the behind-the-scenes talent would be depicted.
“Why would I let them film on the set?” he remarked. “They would just edit the footage any way they liked – the writers would probably be represented like all the adults in the Charlie Brown TV specials; off camera, with trombones for voices. ‘Waa-waa-waa-waa.'”
Rosenthal ended up getting his wish after a studio head put in a word for him. The show creator was invited to sit on the famed Oprah Winfrey couch … yet was called out from back stage during the last minute and a half of the broadcast. After all the angst of getting access to Oprah’s stage for just a 90-second appearance, Rosenthal came to some realizations.
“Is this what I had come to Hollywood 15 years earlier for – this experience?” Rosenthal wrote. “Fifteen years ago, I would’ve been happy to eat anything other than a tuna fish sandwich for dinner. Yet this was the stuff of dreams for many people. Oprah. It occurred to me that I was a boob. I learned from this little lesson in Hollywood values that I should maybe just concentrate on the work. The work is its own reward.”