Published January 13, 2015
They were everybody's favorite "real" family: The parents fought, they lived in a seemingly normal house, they looked like people we know and they made us laugh.
After nine seasons, 12 Emmy Awards and consistently high ratings, CBS' "Everybody Loves Raymond" (search) said goodbye Monday night. Star and executive producer Ray Romano (search) and creator Phil Rosenthal (search) wanted to end the show while it was still funny.
But that doesn't mean Romano — who plays sports writer and family man Ray Barone — isn't sad about moving on. Peter Boyle (search), Ray's crass but lovable TV father Frank (best known for his favorite saying, 'Holy crap!'), told FOX News that the show's leading man shed a few tears after the final episode.
"We had a little wrap party when we finally did the final episode, and it was very moving and touching, and Ray and Phil even cried. Even Ray cried, and he doesn't cry easily," Boyle said Monday morning.
Doris Roberts (search), who plays Ray's famously meddlesome mother Marie, told FOX News that even though Romano became the richest sitcom star in history during the course of the show, he never became a prima donna.
"He never changed. He never had a star turn. He never used his celebrity. He just is the same guy. He's terrific, and I admire him for that. I really do," Roberts said.
Every week on "Raymond," bickering, grudging affection and various (usually minor) family crises have unfolded for Ray and his stay-at-home-mom wife Debra Barone, played by Patricia Heaton (search).
Ray brought his intrusive parents, who live across the street, and his sadsack brother Robert, played by Brad Garrett (search), to the marriage — and many of the dramas involved the extended family.
But the show centered on the marital push-and-pull between Ray and Debra. This season, for instance, Ray experimented with rejecting his wife's bedroom advances after deciding she is nicer to him when he plays hard-to-get. Debra is furious when she discovers the game.
"You had me convinced I was a fat, ugly, old lady," she tells Ray.
He fires back: "You felt bad 'cause I turned you down, what, three times? Try being rejected 40 or 50 times for the last 10 years. How do you think that feels, huh? You're talking to the president of the Fat, Ugly, Old Ladies Club. Welcome! Have a donut!"
For Romano, "stories I can relate to and identify with" are what he values in comedy, whether it's stand-up or sitcom.
"That's what we brought to this show," the comedian said. "It's what I think is the one thing [that] appeals to the audience: They see themselves and then you have to make it funny."
The show is based on Romano's life: He and his family lived near his parents, and his older brother was a police officer who often muttered darkly that, while he faced criminals and bullets, "Everybody loves Raymond." One difference: the TV family lives in Long Island, N.Y.; Romano grew up in Queens.
"What I didn't know about the character or his family, I filled in with the character of mine," Rosenthal said.
When actress Monica Horan (search), Rosenthal's real-life wife, joined the cast as Robert's future wife, even her family became grist for the mill. Georgia Engel and Fred Willard played her parents.
Through all the plot and cast changes, the show's creators stayed focused on the old "write what you know" mantra.
"It's the happy, or unhappy, marriage of our families. Ninety percent of what you see on the show happened to me or Ray or one of the other writers," Rosenthal said.
The show's departure — on the heels of "Friends," "Frasier" and "Sex and the City" — increases television's overall sitcom shortfall. This year, "Everybody Loves Raymond" is the only top 10 comedy and just one other, "Two and a Half Men," also on CBS, in the top 20.
Talk of an "Everybody Loves Raymond" spinoff is on hold until after the networks present their fall schedules later this month, Rosenthal said.
In the meantime, he dismisses the conventional wisdom that TV comedy is washed up.
"I have to believe that we might be able to write another sitcom. And if not us, someone else. Everything is dead until someone comes up with a hit."
Indeed, the series was a hard sell in the mid-'90s, when networks wanted endless incarnations of NBC's "Friends," about pretty young singles looking for love.
"People didn't jump up and down when we told them the premise of the show, a guy lives across the street from his parents," Rosenthal said. "They were all saying, 'Make it hip; make it edgy.'"
The show wasn't hip, wasn't cool and missed out on the magazine covers that usually fawn over flavor-of-the-season TV shows.
Instead, it settled for a nine-season run, steadily high ratings, a dozen Emmys and the rare virtue of leaving before, not after, it ran out of laughs. The show, which debuted in 1996, has ranked among the top 10 programs since the 2000-2001 season.
While other sitcoms have exited with an expanded finale, Rosenthal rejected that approach, eager to remain true to the half-hour format. He's closed-mouthed about details — although, as Romano tells it, he and Rosenthal wanted to be faithful to the show's spirit.
"Every week it's just a new episode in our life," Romano said. So there's nothing to wrap up, no leap in which a character dramatically breaks out of his or her routine.
"But there's a pressure to have a good episode and for it to have some emotional resonance, a little bit more than normal without going too over the top with life-changing moments, which we're not going to do," he said.
Rosenthal acknowledges the need for a satisfying ending.
"I feel a great obligation to not disappoint. ... Even if you've had a great run and end badly, there's a little bit of taint on it. The series is a whole unto itself and has to be treated as a body of work."
"It goes out as it came in — on top," he told FOX.
The 210th and final episode of "Everybody Loves Raymond" airs Monday at 9 p.m. EDT. It's preceded by a one-hour "Raymond" retrospective at 8 EDT.
FOX News' Lisa Bernhard and The Associated Press contributed to this report.