Hit Shows That Got Off To A Slow Start: Everybody Loves Raymond


Everybody Loves Raymond is one of the most successful sitcoms of the 2000s. It was consistently one of the highest-rated series on television at the time, and has been in syndication for 25 years. However, it wasn’t always this way. Everybody Loves Raymond struggled in its first season, and while it grew in Season 2, was still far from the hit it’s remembered as today. This edition of Hit Shows That Got Off To A Slow Start looks back at Everybody Loves Raymond’s journey from flop to hit.

The Slow Start: Who’s Raymond?

Going into the series premiere, scheduling indicates that expectations were low for Everybody Loves Raymond. Its lead-in, Dave’s World, was a sitcom that was moving to Fridays due to declining ratings. Dave’s World would go on to be canceled at the end of the season. Its lead-out was a new drama called Mr. & Mrs. Smith, which got pulled from the schedule after airing just nine episodes. Raymond grew modestly from Dave for its series premiere in total viewers, but finished below it all but once in subsequent Friday airings. With Dave’s World on its way to cancelation and Everybody Loves Raymond on average not even matching its ratings, one would be inclined to believe Raymond would also be canceled after its first season. Rather, CBS saw potential in the new sitcom and moved it to Mondays for the last few episodes of its first season.

Dave’s World and Everybody Meets Raymond had the task of going up against ABC’s block of Family Matters and Boy Meets World, two sitcoms that were much more popular than they were. On Mondays, Raymond would be sandwiched between Cosby (not to be confused with The Cosby Show, but still very popular), and Chuck Lorre’s Cybill. Those were CBS’s two highest-rated sitcoms in the 1996-97 TV season, making for a massive time slot upgrade for the middling Friday sitcom. Ratings naturally improved, and a Season 2 was ordered.

Due to the Monday airings, Everybody Loves Raymond managed to finish above Dave’s World in the seasonal average. Raymond finished in a paltry 25th place on CBS in its first season out of 30 shows, while Dave’s World finished in 28th. It took the late-season Monday airings for Raymond to tie the ill-fated Mr. and Mrs. Smith, the latter of which had the benefit of only airing in the fall. 

A couple side notes: ABC actually canceled Family Matters at the end of the 1996-97 TV season, but CBS scooped it up and kept it in its same time slot — the one previously occupied by Dave’s World and Everybody Loves Raymond. Additionally, JAG briefly aired as Everybody Loves Raymond’s lead-out on Fridays. It was CBS’s first season airing the show after NBC canceled it after only one season, and eventually spawned the NCIS franchise. 

Turning Into A Hit: Some People Love Raymond

CBS kept Everybody Loves Raymond in the Mondays at 8:30 time slot in between Cosby and Cybill for Season 2. While Cybill’s ratings plummeted to the point of cancelation, Cosby continued to hold up well enough to provide Raymond a strong lead-in. Cosby came in 5th place on CBS in the 1997-98 TV season with a 9.6 rating, while Everybody Loves Raymond trailed a tad in 7th place and a 9.3 rating. 

Raymond’s rise was a gift to CBS because Cybill’s declining ratings weren’t the only problem the network had that year. CBS ended up canceling every show they aired on Mondays in the 1997-98 TV season from 9 pm to 11 pm, leaving only Cosby and Everybody Loves Raymond on the 1998-99 schedule. In need of a new 9 pm anchor, CBS turned to the show that just a year ago was a low-rated Friday sitcom. 

Everybody Loves Raymond’s third season was also the first after NBC’s Seinfeld ended. When TV Guide ran a special Seinfeld Farewell Edition of their magazine in May 1998, CBS took out a full page ad to promote Raymond. Given Seinfeld was going out as the #1 show on television, CBS angled to frame star Ray Romano as TV’s next Jerry Seinfeld. It’s hard to say just how effective the ad itself was, but nonetheless Raymond saw more ratings growth in its third season. It finished the season in 4th place for CBS with a 10.6 rating, up 14% from Season 2. 

That growth would continue further in its fourth season, where it averaged an 11.4 rating and 3rd place on CBS. Going into the new millennium, Everybody Loves Raymond had become one of CBS’s most popular series. 

Everybody Loves Raymond did not go from struggling Friday sitcom to massive hit overnight. Instead, each season it had clawed its way up the rankings to the point where CBS had an undeniable hit on their hands. 

The Hit Show: Everybody Loves Raymond

Whereas Everybody Loves Raymond spent the late 90s proving its worth, its peak years came in the 21st century. By the 2000-01 TV season, Everybody Loves Raymond was in Season 5, and CBS was building an entire night around it. They had solid successes in the 8 pm hour with The King of Queens (which would also become a syndication staple) and the new series Yes, Dear, which lasted for six seasons. Airing after Everybody Loves Raymond at 9:30 pm was Becker, in its third of six seasons. Finishing off the night at 10 pm was the drama Family Law. Of the 27 shows CBS aired that season, the Monday lineup all finished within the top 12 — Raymond in 2nd place with a 12.3 rating. It only trailed the breakout new competition series Survivor on CBS, and was competitive with NBC’s Friends in the race for #1 sitcom. CBS stuck with that lineup throughout the entirety of the 2000-01 TV season, while their competition struggled to compete, making various schedule changes along the way. 

Everybody Loves Raymond’s growth did not end there. It saw a modest increase to a 12.41 average rating in Season 6, remaining in 2nd place on CBS in the 2001-02 TV season. In Season 7, it had its first ever ratings decline, coming in 3rd place on CBS with an 11.82 average rating. That’s still four seasons in a row in the Top 3 on CBS for the show that was once struggling to find an audience on Fridays. It was also the third consecutive season that Everybody Loves Raymond finished in the Top 10 across all of television. 

The End: CBS Might Love Raymond A Little Too Much

It’s understandable that when a show is as successful as Everybody Loves Raymond is, actors have a lot of leverage when renegotiating contracts. Even so, the amount of money per episode CBS was prepared to give Ray Romano to play everybody’s favorite Raymond for Seasons 8 and 9 was staggering: $1.725 million per episode. That made him the highest-paid TV actor of all time, breaking Kelsey Grammer's record for Frasier and substantially ahead of the $1 million per episode made by Jerry Seinfeld or any of the Friends stars late in their respective series’ runs. If you’re wondering how the rest of the cast, who were making $160K per episode, reacted to Romano’s deal — they went on strike

Due to new cast contracts, led by that of Ray Romano, one can conclude that Everybody Loves Raymond wasn’t as profitable as it was in its earlier hit seasons. It may even have been a loss leader — a show that, while losing money itself, had good enough ratings to stick around and help out the ratings on the overall schedule. One classic case of a loss leader is the final season of Friends, where all six main cast members were paid $1 million per episode. 

Regardless of how much money Everybody Loves Raymond was making in its final seasons, CBS didn’t have to pay Ray Romano that staggering $1.725 million per episode salary for too long. The 23-episode Season 8 was a couple episodes less than the 24-26 Raymond had received on every other season after Season 1. The ninth and final season consisted of only 16 episodes. That means Romano made the same amount of money in Season 9 as he would have made if he had roughly a $1 million salary for a 26-episode season. 

Everybody Loves Raymond did decline a bit in its final two seasons, finishing in 5th place on CBS in Season 8 and 6th place in its final season. It was still very much a hit, with the final season steady with Season 8 in the ratings and both finishing in the top 20 across all networks. Despite starting out as a low-rated Friday series in the 90s, Everybody Loves Raymond managed to air as one of the highest-rated shows throughout the first half of the aughts. By its final season, sitcoms on other networks like Friends and Frasier had already ended and CBS was finding new hits with the likes of Survivor, The Amazing Race, and three CSI series. 

Syndication: Everybody Still Loves Raymond — But Will That Continue?

Everybody Loves Raymond was certainly a successful sitcom at the time it aired, but true success in the long-run depends on how a show holds up over time. Luckily for Raymond, it’s been in syndication longer than first-run episodes aired on CBS. Its 22-year run in syndication has included stints TBS, TV Land, AMC, and off-network syndication, allowing original fans to find nostalgia in reruns and new fans to discover it.

Unfortunately for Everybody Loves Raymond, its time in the limelight may be coming to an end. It’s unclear if it will remain in syndication beyond 2023, and streaming options for the series are slim. Despite being a Warner production, Warner has licensed Raymond’s streaming rights to Peacock and Paramount+. It used to be, but no longer is, available to stream on Netflix. 

Why Did Everybody Loves Raymond Become A Hit?

Scheduling certainly played a role in Raymond’s initial struggle and subsequent rise to hit status. Friday nights was a terrible time slot for a new sitcom on CBS, whereas being sandwiched between Cosby and Cybill gave Raymond a chance to prove its worth. 

However, even the best scheduling situation can’t save a show nobody wants to watch. Ultimately, the answer to this question lies in the title of the show: everyone indeed loves Raymond — specifically, Ray Romano. CBS took a risk in advertising Ray Romano as the next Jerry Seinfeld, but it worked. Viewers found the show and liked what they saw. Many international versions of Everybody Loves Raymond were ordered to series and flopped. One version was even pulled from the schedule. While $1.725 million per episode was an out of control salary for Ray Romano, it proves CBS noticed his star power and just how much their schedule would be impacted if he walked. A strong supporting cast certainly helped as well. 

What If CBS Canceled Everybody Loves Raymond After Season 1?

Everybody Loves Raymond’s renewal happened because of a series of events that arguably started with dramas flopping elsewhere on the schedule. Essentially, new midseason drama Orleans had flopped, and in a desperate attempt to save it CBS decided to move it to Fridays at 9 pm, historically a solid time slot for a drama at the network. They pushed JAG, which had taken over for Mr. and Mrs. Smith, up to 8 pm in the name of compatibility. That left the sitcom block without time slots. After some scheduling musical chairs, Everybody Loves Raymond found itself in the desirable Mondays at 8:30 pm time slot. This saved Everybody Loves Raymond; Orleans, on the other hand, was a lost cause.

Without an Everybody Loves Raymond renewal, it’s likely that not much would have changed the following season. Maybe George & Leo would’ve flopped in a different time slot. However, the third season and beyond is where the effects of that Season 2 renewal really start to kick in. Without Everybody Loves Raymond, it’s very possible new sitcoms The King of Queens and Becker would have flopped before they could find an audience of their own.

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