In the case of many television series that last as long as "Everybody Loves Raymond" did (nine outstanding seasons, to be exact), a considerable slump in the writing and a decrease in passionate acting are to be expected some time after the youthfulness of the first few seasons have passed. With this groundbreaking show, however, Season 7 contains as much momentum as any previous year in its run, and an entertaining crop of episodes are available for fans in this upcoming DVD set.
"Raymond's" seventh season maintains the similar low-key, hilarious formula without going overboard for "better" ratings--an impressive trait that has left the series as one of the classiest contemporary shows you can hope to find. This 2004-2005 year opens with the Barones taking drastic actions to clear up the Debra/Marie feud that left everyone hanging at the end of Season 6. From there, Robert starts dating a girl who seems perfect until the family learns about some of her strange snacking habits, and Frank has a heart-to-heart with little Ally after an incident at the supermarket finally shows him how his behavior impacts his grandchildren. There is a special wedding proposal (complete with lots of squad cars and Marie-style shrieks), a few important invitations get botched (compliments of guess who?), one of the Barones lands in jail (here's a clue: it's the very last person you'd expect), a suitcase on the stairs temporarily interrupts the flow of daily life, and the Robert/Amy relationship finally receives its overdue glory in a humorous and equally touching 2-hour season finale. Oh, and don't forget that this is the year that we meet Amy's family for the first time--which, in itself, is more than enough said for fans :)
With this DVD set, the same side-splitting bloopers will be available, as well as select-episode commentaries for "Counseling," "Meeting the Parents," "Baggage," and "Just a Formality." (I was surprised they didn't do a commentary for "Robert's Wedding," since that was such a special landmark episode, but the ones they picked were still good.) Some new voices on those commentaries will include Anna Romano (none other than Ray's real-life wife) and Monica Horan, whose priceless facial expressions and sweet demeanor make Amy McDougal a welcome new regular in the show's star lineup. Be sure to listen also for Fred Willard and Chris Elliot, who portray Amy's hilarious know-it-all father and weird-as-sin younger brother. That being said, Season 7 is the typical entertainment that you would expect from Raymond. An impeccable script, brilliant acting, and that on-the-nail connection with real life make this what it is--top-notch quality that you will want to remember forever with these DVD releases. And the best news of all? Some of the best is still to come with Seasons 8 and 9, both equally wonderful and well-written. The entire series should undoubtedly be out within the next year, and that is some of the greatest television you could ever preserve.
Note: As another reviewer here has already pointed out, the classic "Robert's Wedding" episode (and the first season finale of the series that isn't a flashback sequence) does NOT include the short epilogue that shows all the main characters joining Robert and Amy on the dance floor. It's a very short scene but an important one, and I was disappointed to see that they left it out. Aside from that, though, everything on the DVD looks pretty good. As always, the commentaries are one of the best reasons to purchase the DVD's. Not many television series offer this option on their DVD releases, and "Raymond" does this for about 4 episodes every season. Ray Romano and Phil Rosenthal have had consistent enthusiasm with every commentary track they've done, and they're a pleasure to listen to.