Exporting Raymond

Does Everybody Really Love Raymond?

Main Cast:  Phil Rosenthal

Director: Phil Rosenthal

When I think of American TV syndicated in other countries I just picture Jerry Seinfeld discussing nothing in Italian or the Modern Family crew being witty in Spanish.  But it appears that there’s a different way to bring our TV to the world – by making new versions based on familiar characters and scripts.  In Exporting Raymond, Everybody Loves Image of Exporting Raymond PosterRaymond creator Phil Rosenthal experiences the remaking of his show for a Russian audience.  It’s not quite what he expected…

Exporting Raymond is a clever documentary about Rosenthal’s trips to Moscow in efforts to create a Russian Everybody Loves Raymond.  It isn’t just about translating scripts – it’s about casting, rewriting and culture shock.  It’s about adapting the concept of a family oriented comedy to suit an audience more accustomed to broad, slapstick comedy.  It’s also about convincing Russian TV executives that their fellow countrymen can and will appreciate situational humor surrounding a regular family.

Rosenthal visits Moscow with some trepidation – this is not in his comfort zone.  He comments throughout the film via both voice-over narration and directly talking to the camera about his expectations and anxieties.  The reality of the rundown studios, exhausted writers and very foreign culture seem to validate all his worst fears as he tries and fails to get the Russian crew to understand the concept of Raymond.   He’s amazed, bemused and frustrated, but he’s also intent on making the project work.  We meet his parents, co-workers, driver and translator.  We learn that TV executives the world over might all have a common ancestor and that even in vastly diverse cultures the truths of life within a marriage and family are still prime fodder for comedy.

Exporting Raymond isn’t hilarious all the time.  When Rosenthal is riffing on his own expectations, his more ludicrous experiences or the vast divide between himself and the Russian crew the film is very witty.  But as we learn some of the logistics of recreating an American show with few resources, come to know the individual people involved in the project and start to invest in the success of this crazy endeavor the film evolves into something a little deeper.  There’s crossing of cultural divides, artistic compromise and admiration for these very different people sharing a seemingly (and deceptively) simple common goal.

Phil Rosenthal is a funny guy…if you like his brand of humor.  If you liked Everybody Loves Raymond you’ll like Phil Rosenthal.  And you’ll like Exporting Raymond.  If not, or if you never watched the show, you’re likely to be lost or annoyed.  Some working knowledge of the source show and its characters really is essential to enjoying the documentary.   I was never a rabid fan but have seen enough episodes in syndication for me to thoroughly enjoy seeing how much of Raymond is really Rosenthal as well as watching the Russians try to capture lightning in a bottle and reproduce the show’s success.  Overall it’s a good documentary with some laughs and some real insight into a part of the TV industry we never see.  4 stars out of 5.

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