"How They Met"
Season 1, episode 4
Original airdate: October 4, 1996
Robert asks Ray and Debra to complete IQ tests for a criminal psychology class, then lies to them about their results as part of the experiment.
RR: It's honestly not one of our best episodes, but this was the first time we felt the audience was invested in our family. The scene where she [Patricia Heaton as Debra] puts the ice cream right on my lap was one of the longest laughs we ever had.
PR: The [cast] had to sit there motionless — like they were in a play — and just ride the laugh.
RR: [The audience was] laughing because they were invested in the story and the characters, not because of the physical comedy. I thought for the first time that we had a chance of making it.
"How They Met"
Season 3, episode 26
Original airdate: May 24, 1999
While preparing their daughter for a playdate, Ray and Debra reflect on how they met .
RR: It wasn't our first flashback. But this was great to relive because my character worked for
Claude's Futons, and Claude was [the name of] my best friend that I grew up with in New York. And I did work for his futon company!
PR: Ray and I wrote this together. It's very hard to write an origin story because you want it to be really fun and have heart. I just thought, "Ray and Patty are so great in this show." And you're laughing and crying at the same time.
RR: I'm in a wig. I remember I said in the outtakes, "I have to get this hair back to Andy Garcia."
"Bad Moon Rising"
Season 4, episode 22
Original airdate: May 8, 2000
Ray pushes Debra over the edge when he buys her a pill to "cure" her PMS.
PR: Ray and I were trying to break another story and couldn't figure it out. We were both tired and ran into each other in the hall. I think he said, "It may be that time of the month." And I said "Yeah, that happened in my house, too." And we ran back in the writers' room, very excited.
RR: There are great little moments in that episode. I like when I say that if I call Debra a "smelly tramp" in a cute way, I can get away with it.
PR: Patty submitted this episode for Emmy consideration and won. You know, we worked very hard to show the women's point of view. Ninety percent of our stories were coming from our wives telling us how stupid we were.
Season 5, episodes 1 and 2
Original airdates: October 2 and 9, 2000
Ray's travel reluctance turns to joy as the Barones go on holiday in Italy to visit relatives.
PR: I was ready to do this trip in season one. But "Italy" is so special to me because it says everything that I feel about traveling. And there's a straight line from Ray enjoying himself so much in Italy to my travel show [Netflix's Somebody Feed Phil] now.
RR: That was my first time overseas anywhere, really. My wife's family is from Sicily, so after we spent the week filming, she and I went there and actually lived what we had just filmed.
PR: We filmed the exteriors in Italy, then played them for the audience when we came back and did the interiors. So we captured their laughs as they watched it. It would have been weird if those scenes had no laughs.
Season 6, episode 5
Original airdate: October 22, 2001
Marie's first sculpture in her art class strongly resembles a female body part.
PR: CBS asked us quite often to push the envelope because they were trying to get younger and younger [viewers]. I think I speak for both of us when I say it's so much more fun to say it without saying it, but I don't think you're going to get the joke until Brad says to Ray, "Do you see what it looks like?" Then you put it together, and it's so great.
RR: Peter [Boyle as Frank] says, "I can't put my finger on it, but I like it!"
PR: Doris [Roberts, who played Marie] brought it home and put it in her garden. It's a family heirloom.
RR: I think the kids use it as a slide.
Season 6, episode 13
Original airdate: January 7, 2002
After Debra agrees to let Ray become more involved in daily decisions, he goes grocery shopping — to disastrous effect.
PR: [One of our writers] was saying at the table that his wife gave him grief about the tissues he bought. So I said, "We can do a show where Ray picks the tissues and burns the house down." Then we just filled it in.
RR: Some of our greatest shows were like this — they start off with the smallest thing and escalate, escalate, escalate.
PR: It's just a wonderful farce. A great physical show with beautiful setups that paid off.
"She's the One"
Season 7, episode 9
Original airdate: November 18, 2002
Robert's new girlfriend seems perfect... until Ray spots her eating a fly.
PR: We heard that Ray's real brother had a date with a woman and when he got back to her apartment, there were snakes.
RR: And then he went out the window! I remember thinking it would be a good scene in a movie. I also thought about what would happen if a guy was on a blind date and the woman had this impulse disorder of eating a fly.
PR: We had to work to put those disparate things together. Who would eat a fly? Frogs. So we made sure his date had frogs at her place.
RR: In the episode, I scream, "She ate it!" and I'm holding my breath so much that I almost faint because I'm hyperventilating.
PR: But as funny as all that is, it has one of the most dramatic moments ever at the end. When Robert [Brad Garrett] storms out of Ray's house [because he's so distraught about his single status], it's the only time Peter Boyle ever utters the word "son." Then, at Robert's lowest moment, at the bar, he sees his old girlfriend [Amy, played by Rosenthal's real-life wife, Monica Horan] and he ends up marrying her. It shows there's a way to do all these things.
Season 7, episode 22
Original airdate: May 5, 2003
Ray and Debra become embroiled in an unspoken three-week battle over who's going to put away their suitcase.
PR: [Writer] Tucker Cawley won an Emmy for this episode. We were going around asking people what happened at the house this week and Tucker said, "You know that trip my wife and I took? I brought in the suitcase, and it's still sitting on the stairs where I left it."
RR: The way he put it, which was very intriguing, was "I think I'm having a fight with my wife."
PR: It's that thing in marriage where you're married for a while and you know something is going on, but neither one of you will cop to it.
Season 9, episode 1
Original airdate: September 20, 2004
Frank and Marie announce they're moving into a retirement community and want to sell their house to Robert and Amy.
RR: My favorite laugh ever is when I tried to put Patty on the refrigerator [during the kitchen celebration] and she was so good. I'm not a lover of physical comedy, but when you do it right like that, it really touches a nerve with me.
PR: I had this idea and put it in a drawer, but I didn't want to do it for a finale. So instead I thought to start the season with something that you think will be the end.
RR: And it was cool to start our last season in a big funny way to show people that we hadn't run out of stories.
PR: Of course, Frank and Marie get kicked out in the next episode and move in with Robert. So how does it get worse for him? He now has to live with them again — with his wife!
Season 9, episode 16
Original airdate: May 16, 2005
Debra convinces Ray to get his adenoids removed. It all goes well, except for a moment when he fails to wake up after the surgery.
PR: The audience was savvy and knew this was the finale. So I thought that if we have a moment where Ray may not wake up from the anesthesia, the audience would feel exactly what Ray's wife would be feeling in that split-second. It's the last show — could they kill him off? That moment of danger didn't exist in any other episode.
RR: And then Doris gets in bed with me.
PR: I wanted the show to end in the middle, which is the opposite of what we usually see in finales. In the last scene, there are too many people around the table and Ray's answer is, "I think we need a bigger table." That was our philosophy of life. The closure for the audience was seeing this family we care about continue.
This article originally appeared in emmy magazine, Issue No. 8, 2021
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