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15 Facts About Everybody Loves Raymond

Over the course of nine seasons, Ray Romano endeared himself to audiences as Ray Barone, a Long Island sportswriter juggling work and family, including his parents and older brother, who live right across the street. Here are some facts about the Emmy Award-winning series, which debuted 20 years ago today.

1. THE SHOW BEGAN AFTER RAY ROMANO DID A STAND-UP SET ON LATE SHOW WITH DAVID LETTERMAN.

"I was doing stand-up for 12 years," Romano recounted to Larry King in 2005. "I did my first stand-up spot on Letterman and then the following week his company called me up to say, 'We want to try to develop a show based around what we saw.'"

2. ROMANO DIDN'T LOVE THE TITLE.

“It was a title that, first of all, the critics ... it invites hatred,” Romano explained. “It came about from a sarcastic comment my brother made, who is a police officer. And he said, ‘Look what I do for a living, and look at Raymond—yeah, everybody loves Raymond.’ So we used it as a working title. And it just grew on CBS, and we couldn't get rid of it.”

3. DORIS ROBERTS THOUGHT SHE WOULD BE TOO BUSY TO EVEN AUDITION.

Doris Roberts was busy directing a play while the Marie auditions were taking place. The play’s producer made sure to have her available for 3:30 one fateful Monday. She beat out over 100 other women for the part.

4. PETER BOYLE WAS PERFECTLY ANGRY AT HIS AUDITION FOR FRANK.

Peter Boyle had trouble just getting into the studio lot. He then couldn’t find a parking space. Then he went into the wrong building. By the time he reached Romano and show creator/showrunner Philip Rosenthal he was, in his own words, “enraged”—and perfectly in character for Frank Barone. The topper of it all was that, according to Romano, the CBS president was going to give Boyle the gig anyway.

5. CBS OFFERED CAROL FROM FRIENDS THE PART OF DEBRA.

Jane Sibbett (Ross’s first ex-wife on Friends) declined the role once she discovered Romano was both unaware she had been offered the role by the network, and that Romano was pushing hard for Patricia Heaton to play his on-screen wife.

Maggie Wheeler, who played Janice on Friends, auditioned for the role of Debra, too. She ended up playing Debra’s friend Linda over the course of the series as a consolation prize. Heaton wasn't officially cast until one week before the pilot began shooting.

6. RAY IS OLDER THAN HIS "OLDER" BROTHER.

Brad Garrett, who played Ray's older brother Robert, was 36 when the series first started. Romano was a few months shy of his 39th birthday.

7. PHILIP ROSENTHAL'S WIFE GOT USED TO STORIES FROM HER MARRIAGE BEING WRITTEN INTO THE SHOW.

Monica Horan—who played Robert’s on-again-off-again girlfriend and eventual wife Amy—was married to the show's creator, Phil Rosenthal. She got used to her arguments with Rosenthal ending up in scripts. Horan told People about an episode where Debra has PMS: "I'm hearing lines from conversations I had with my husband. Ray was telling Debra to take medication, and she was telling him she needed a hug. I was like, 'Whoa.' I was crying, then laughing, then crying. It was surreal."

"Ninety percent of everything you hear on the show has been said to me or Ray Romano or one of the writers,” Rosenthal admitted in the same article. Horan claimed her favorite line to Rosenthal is, “You can say the right thing on TV, but why can't you do it in real life?”

8. THE NAMES OF THE TWIN BOYS WERE CHANGED AFTER THE FIRST EPISODE.

In the pilot, the kids were known as Matthew and Gregory, but were subsequently turned into Michael and Geoffrey for the rest of the series. Romano’s own twin sons are named Matthew and Gregory; he decided that art was imitating life a little too closely and asked for the names to be changed. Matthew and Gregory not only got new names, they got new actors to play them: Rosenthal cast Sullivan and Sawyer Sweeten as Michael and Geoffrey, respectively. They were the real-life brothers of Madylin Sweeten, who played their TV sis, Ally.

The inclination to separate fact from fiction never seemed to apply to Ally, who kept her character name despite being based on Romano’s real daughter, also named Ally. Not only that, the real Ally (Alexandra Romano) played TV Ally’s friend Molly on the show.

9. RAY’S BROTHER WAS A POLICE OFFICER, WHOSE COLLEAGUES MADE FUN OF HIM.

“Well, my brother was—he is a retired cop now, but at the time he would take a lot of stuff from the other cops," said Romano. "They think it's a documentary.” While Garrett put his own spin on the character to differentiate Robert Barone from Rich Romano, there was a point where Ray's brother—an NYPD sergeant—moved back in with their parents.

10. PATRICIA HEATON’S FATHER WAS A SPORTSWRITER, LIKE RAY BARONE.

Chuck Heaton was a sportswriter for The Cleveland Plain Dealer for 50 years. He’s mentioned in the season one episode “Recovering Pessimist” when Debra runs down a list of Ray’s competition for a Sportswriter of the Year award: “Chuck Heaton’s big story this year was 'too much violence in boxing.' Thanks for the scoop, Chuck.”

11. PETER BOYLE’S CAREER WAS ALLUDED TO TWICE IN THE SAME EPISODE.

In “Halloween Candy,” Frank gives the same speech about mortality he famously gave to Robert De Niro’s character in Taxi Driver (1976). He also dressed as Frankenstein’s monster, a nod to his work in Mel Brooks’s Young Frankenstein (1974).

12. THE SHOW MADE ROMANO THE HIGHEST PAID ACTOR ON TELEVISION.

Romano made $1.7 to $1.8 million per episode during the last two seasons of Raymond, surpassing Kelsey Grammer's $1.6 million per episode salary for Frasier at the time.

13. THE SERIES ENDED WHEN THE WRITERS RAN OUT OF IDEAS.

“We ran out of ideas," Rosenthal told The A.V. Club of why the show came to an end. "If you worked for me, I would say to you, ‘Go home, get in a fight with your wife, and come back in and tell me about it.’ And then we’d have a show. But after nine years, if we kept that up, our wives would leave us. And in California, that’s half. So we made sure that we got out before that happened.”

14. THE SERIES FINALE TAPING WAS DELAYED BY ONE WEEK.

Patricia Heaton fell ill, and by the intended showtime her voice was completely gone. The audience was sent home, and told to return seven days later.

15. RAYMOND IS LOVED ALL OVER THE WORLD.

The Voronins, or Воронины, the Russian adaptation which Rosenthal attempted to help, was Russia’s number one comedy, and performed original episodes after going through all 210 of the American installments. Local-language versions of the show were also produced in Egypt (Close Doors); Israel (You Can’t Choose Your Family); the Netherlands (Everybody Is Crazy About Jack); Poland (Everybody Loves Roman, which was canceled after four episodes), and the Czech Republic (Everybody Loves Rudy). In the United Kingdom, a pilot was shot (The Smiths).

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The Mystery Science Theater 3000 Turkey Day Marathon Is Back
Shout! Factory
Shout! Factory

For many fans, Mystery Science Theater 3000 is as beloved a Thanksgiving tradition as mashed potatoes and gravy (except funnier). It seems appropriate, given that the show celebrates the turkeys of the movie world. And that it made its debut on Thanksgiving Day in 1988 (on KTMA, a local station in Minneapolis). In 1991, to celebrate its third anniversary, Comedy Central hosted a Thanksgiving Day marathon of the series—and in the more than 25 years since, that tradition has continued.

Beginning at 12 p.m. ET on Thursday, Shout! Factory will host yet another Mystery Science Theater 3000 Turkey Day marathon, hosted by series creator Joel Hodgson and stars Jonah Ray and Felicia Day. Taking place online at ShoutFactoryTV.com, or via the Shout! Factory TV app on Apple TV, Roku, Amazon Fire and select smart TVs, the trio will share six classic MST3K episodes that have never been screened as part of a Shout! Factory Turkey Day Marathon. Here’s hoping your favorite episode makes it (cough, Hobgoblins, cough.)

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11 Bite-Sized Facts About Cannibal! The Musical
Troma Entertainment
Troma Entertainment

Back in their film school days, the creators of South Park made a twisted tribute to Rogers and Hammerstein. Cannibal! The Musical is (very) loosely based on the life of Alfred "Alferd" Packer, an American prospector who resorted to eating his travel companions in the harsh winter of 1874. Below, you’ll find a buffet of bite-sized facts about this weirdly upbeat black comedy. Bon appétit!

1. IT ALL STARTED WITH A GAG TRAILER.

In 1992, Trey Parker was studying film at the University of Colorado, Boulder, where pretty much everyone knows all about the legend of Alfred "Alferd" Packer. Indeed, when a new restaurant opened up on campus in 1968, the student body chose to name it after this famous man-eater. The restaurant’s slogan? “Have a friend for lunch.” As a joke, Parker rounded up some of his fellow film majors and spent three days shooting a phony trailer for a nonexistent movie called Alferd Packer: The Musical. Included in the ensemble was Matt Stone, with whom Parker would go on to create South Park.

Once the Alferd Packer promo was finished, those who worked on it weren’t sure if they could turn this concept into a feature-length picture. Fortunately, the trailer was a huge hit. “People thought it was really funny,” Parker told The Denver Post, “so we went around … and said, ‘So do you want to invest?’” Thanks (for the most part) to donations from a few CU grads with wealthy parents, Parker and his co-stars amassed a $100,000 budget.

2. LIANE THE HORSE WAS NAMED AFTER TREY PARKER’S EX-FIANCÉE.

At age 21, Parker was all set to marry his high school sweetheart. “We had plane tickets, the dress was bought, the church was paid for,” Parker shared on the DVD commentary. Then, about a month before the wedding, he caught his bride-to-be with another man. Devastated, Parker broke off the engagement and came up with an unusual way to get even. “I really wrote this movie for her,” he said.

A major character in Cannibal is Liane, Packer’s beloved horse, who leaves him for another rider. The two-timing equine was named after Parker’s former fiancée. Some artistic license was taken here, as there’s no proof that the real Packer ever owned a horse named Liane—or that he ever wistfully sang about being on top of her.

3. AN AVANT-GARDE LEGEND WAS CAST IN A MINOR ROLE.

World-renowned for his experimental filmmaking, the late Stan Brakhage taught off and on at the University of Colorado, where he met Parker and Stone. The two convinced him to appear in Cannibal! as George Noon’s father, who gets about two minutes’ worth of screen time.

4. PARKER’S DAD WAS IN IT, TOO.

Just like Stan Marsh’s dad in South Park, Trey Parker’s father, Randy, is a geologist. In Cannibal! The Musical, he portrays the Breckenridge judge who sentences Packer (played by Trey) to death.

5. “SHPADOINKLE” WAS MEANT AS A FILLER WORD.

In addition to penning the Cannibal! script, Parker also wrote the film’s musical numbers. The first of these is “Shpadoinkle Day,” an offbeat tribute to “Oh, What a Beautiful Morning” from Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Oklahoma! Parker knew that the first verse had to include a positive, three-syllable word, but couldn’t think of any that fit. So he used the made-up term “Shpadoinkle” to plug the gap until he could come up with an alternative. However, the creative team liked “shpadoinkle” so much that it stayed put and became one of Cannibal’s running jokes.

6. THEY SHOT IN THE COURTROOM IN WHICH PACKER WAS ACTUALLY TRIED.

On April 6, 1883, Packer was put on trial at the Hinsdale County Courthouse in Lake City, Colorado. Over the next few days, he admitted to dining on two of his dead travel companions—one of whom he supposedly killed in self-defense (the other died of natural causes). Packer was found guilty of murder, but avoided the hangman’s noose by fighting for a second trial, which took place 30 miles away in Gunnison. This time, he was charged with five counts of voluntary manslaughter and sentenced to 40 years in prison. However, while Packer languished behind bars, public opinion slowly turned in the cannibal’s favor. Under near-constant pressure from The Denver Post, Governor Charles S. Thomas pardoned Packer in 1901.

More than 90 years later, Parker filmed the trial scenes of Cannibal! The Musical at the still-standing Hinsdale County Courthouse. About halfway through the movie, the judge delivers a big speech in which he sentences Packer to death. His on-screen monologue was copied word-for-word from the court transcript of that 1883 Lake City trial.

7. AS THE MINERS SING “THAT’S ALL I’M ASKING FOR,” YOU CAN SEE PARKER MOUTH THE WORD “CUT.”

It goes by fast, but you can see Parker call "cut" to end the shot at the 3:06 mark in the clip above.

8. PARKER USED A PSEUDONYM FOR THE OPENING CREDITS.

Parker billed himself as "Juan Schwartz" in the cast of Cannibal because, according to the movie's website, "Trey doesn't like seeing one person's name plastered all over a movie's credits." Since he is properly credited as writer and director, he likely felt the additional acting credit was a bit too much. Incidentally, Packer called himself “John Shwartze” while evading the law before his arrest.

9. A FEW SONGS WERE DELETED.

The original cut of Cannibal! The Musical ran for two and a half hours, but thanks to some major-league editing, the runtime was reduced to a breezy 93 minutes. “There were fights about that from the get-go, but I give credit to Trey for being the toughest critic,” producer Jason McHugh told MovieMaker Magazine. “He had the maturity to know that a musical comedy about cannibals can’t be two and a half hours long.”

In the streamlining process, two musical numbers got the axe. The first was a quick little dirge called “Don’t Be Stupid,” wherein some nameless miners tell Packer’s group to postpone their journey until springtime. The other was “I’m Shatterproof,” a rap/funk song that Packer, hardened by his recent ordeals, delivers during a bar fight. Also deleted was a reprise of “When I Was On Top of You.”

10. COMEDY CENTRAL WOULDN’T BROADCAST IT.

Cannibal! was distributed by Troma Entertainment, an independent production company best known for creating The Toxic Avenger series. When South Park began to emerge as a major player on cable TV, Troma’s co-founder, Lloyd Kaufman, assumed that Comedy Central would jump at the chance to air some of Parker and Stone’s earlier work. Instead, the channel flatly refused to air Cannibal.

Kaufman was sent a rejection letter from Comedy Central, which read: “Thank you for submitting and re-submitting Cannibal! The Musical, but it is simply not up to our standards for broadcasting.” Troma forwarded a copy of this dispatch to Parker. Today, it’s prominently displayed in his office—at Comedy Central!

11. IT HAS BEEN TURNED INTO A STAGE MUSICAL ON MANY OCCASIONS.

Can’t get tickets to The Book of Mormon? Perhaps you can catch a live reenactment of Cannibal! The Musical instead. Since 1998, the movie has been seen more than 60 stage adaptations. There’s no “official” version of the theatrical show. As such, acting troupes that might be interested in performing Cannibal! have to write their own scripts based on the original movie. 

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