In season 5 of the classic television comedy Everybody Loves Raymond, the Barone family matriarch Marie portrayed by actor Doris Roberts announces that she has tucked away enough money to take the entire family to Italy.
Her daughter-in-law Debra, played by actor Patricia Heaton, sheepishly inquires if that includes her, Marie assures her it does, and off they went.
But did Raymond actually fly the entire cast and crew to Europe to film the two episodes titled “Italy”?
The show’s executive producer was inspired by Ray Romano
After season 1 of the show was completed, executive producer and show creator Phil Rosenthal discovered that star Romano had never done any European travel.
“I said, ‘Ever been to Europe?’” Rosenthal recalled, according to The Hollywood Reporter. “Ray said, ‘Nah.’ I asked, “Why not?’ and Ray said, ‘I’m not really interested in other cultures.’ Even his own culture (Italian). And I thought, ‘There’s an episode.’”
Throughout the show’s run, Rosenthal, the show’s writers, and Romano culled situations and incidents from their own marriages and families as material for the comedy. From dealing with PMS in a marriage to the intrusiveness of in-laws, the show covered it.
When Romano told Rosenthal he wasn’t really a globetrotter, the showrunner then seized on what he knew was a winner of an episode idea.
The cast and crew did indeed film on location in Europe. The two-parter called “Italy” were the premiere episodes of the show’s fifth season and were filmed in July 2000 in the town of Anguillara Sabazia outside of Rome. Rosenthal revealed that it took some persuasion on his part to get CBS to send everyone on the set overseas.
“We send [Ray Romano] over to Italy as Ray, and he comes back as [Italian actor] Roberto Benigni — transformed by the food, the people, the beauty, the joy of travel,” Rosenthal explained. “After some convincing of CBS and a reluctant Raymond, we filmed two episodes of Everybody Loves Raymond in Rome.”
For her part, show co-star Roberts was clearly fond of the Mediterranean country as she told the Television Academy Foundation: “I’ve been to Italy 21 times in my life.” She explained that when she was told the show would be filming in Italy, “I took my children ahead of time. My grandchildren, my son and daughter-in-law to Italy. So we vacationed before I had to go to work. It was fabulous working there.
“It was a wonderful story,” the veteran actor said of the episodes. “And you got to see Italy. We all had a great time together.”
This show is kind of a spin-off of ‘Italy’
Rosenthal credited the Italian Raymond episode for breathing life into his idea for a new series. First on PBS in 2015 as I’ll Have What Phil’s Having, Rosenthal went on to perfect his food and travel show concept on Netflix in 2018 as Somebody Feed Phil, now with four seasons available on the streaming giant.
“This is what inspired me to make Somebody Feed Phil,” he said of the Everybody Loves Raymond “Italy” episode. “It’s part food and travel but also part sitcom and — to my surprise — today, part political statement. How did that happen? Since when did embracing other people and other cultures become a liberal cause?”
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