Will Ray Stay of Will He Go?

The creator of Everybody Loves Raymond, one of TV's most popular sitcoms, is threatening to fold the show.

"You mine for gold as long as you can, but when we're out of stories, the show is over," creator Phil Rosenthal told Variety

The show will start its seventh season this fall. Star Ray Romano inked a two-year deal in June 2001, paying him roughly $900,000 an episode. 

Rosenthal's comments raised eyebrows in the industry yesterday because it could appear that he's playing the "contract card" — trying to up the ante for a better deal for a show that's a valuable commodity to CBS. 

"It sounds like posturing to me," said TV analyst Stacey Lynn Koerner, senior vice president of Initiative Media. 

"We haven't heard anything from [star] Ray Romano or any of the other cast members. I would take it with a grain of salt." 

Still, Rosenthal insisted the possibility that Raymond would end after this year was real. 

"The decision won't be made over money," says Rosenthal. "I love [CBS chief] Les Moonves and they've been incredibly supportive," he told Variety

"But when it's over, it's over. You don't want to get repetitive, and I've never seen a show get better after seven seasons." 

Koerner said Raymond is vital to CBS' Monday-night comedy lineup, which also boasts King of Queens, Becker and Still Standing — a new sitcom causing lots of buzz. 

"I think CBS wants to lose Raymond as much as NBC wants to lose Friends, " she said. 

"I think it's the beginning of a dialogue," Koerner said. "But what kind of dialogue we don't know at this point. 

"There's no reason for [Rosenthal et al.] to abandon Raymond unless they feel it's hit its stride and they want to go out on top."

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