Exporting Raymond (Blu-ray)
What happens when an American takes a show about a ‘normal family’ to a different country? Does the show find an audience? EXPORTING RAYMOND (2010) is a documentary that tries to answer these questions. EVERYBODY LOVES RAYMOND (Ray Romano, Patricia Heaton) ran in America for 9 years and was hugely successful. The show was actually created by Phil Rosenthal, who appears here for our extended viewing pleasure. Rosenthal was both writer and director of this documentary, and what starts as a cute and interesting story about taking his show overseas quickly becomes a fish out of water story.
The documentary opens with a quick introduction to set the scene – if you don’t ever watch television; here is your introduction to Rosenthal’s and Romano’s popular show. Rosenthal gives a pretty concise account of the show’s unlikely success and where he is because of it. Then we learn that shortly after the end of the run, a Russian network decided they would like to try revamping Raymond for their audience. They don’t want to purchase the episodes that have already been done – they want to purchase control of the show so that they can make their own episodes. Interesting history: sitcoms didn’t exist in Russia until “THE NANNY” was similarly purchased and reworked. (More tidbits on Russian television and culture appear throughout the film and in the commentary.)
The film starts strong with some neat technical bits, but turns on its head when Phil leaves for Russia. He doesn’t know exactly why he’s been asked to go – but he does believe he is the expert on making this type of television show. What he doesn’t understand are the cultural differences between Russia and the United States, so he starts to come across as being too sheltered and maybe a bit prejudiced. After watching everything, I don’t believe this is him. I think he’s actually pretty poorly portrayed in his own documentary… it made me cringe a few times. All of the uncomfortable moments are worth it, though, for a whole Blu-ray package that has become one of my favorites.
“All of our lives, we’re bogged down in specifics, in trivialities.” Phil Rosenthal tosses out this gem during the commentary, but it is such a perfect observation it deserves to be mentioned here. This is the reason that many American shows (like MODERN FAMILY) work so well. When you don’t have to worry about survival, you can spend time worrying about little things and blowing them out of proportion. That’s really what he’s trying to say throughout the movie when he talks about how relatable/universal the Raymond material is. It’s not about the words or the scripts. Raymond was about a family in their private moments.
The film takes us from the beginning and, just like Phil, we don’t completely understand how things work in Russia. We’re not sure how accurate the translations are for the actors and the Russian crew. But there are issues with how relatable and likeable Rosenthal can be. It’s a huge disservice to him and the film, because I think it’s going to turn off some people who would otherwise really enjoy it.
As it is, EXPORTING RAYMOND takes some interesting turns and provides a nice inside view of the process of revamping a show for a new audience in a foreign land. Like many documentaries, this one could be seen as a bit slanted from his point of view (especially for the way things are wrapped up in the closing minutes), but if you give it a chance I think you’ll be surprised.
Video: (1080p, 1.78:1 Widescreen) A nice looking picture, especially in some of the beautiful scenes in Russia. Not overly impressive.
Audio: (DTS-HD Master Audio English 5.1) The sound is fine, they cleaned up some pretty raw stuff from their time in Russia.
Commentary with Writer/Director Phil Rosenthal: (01:25:15) This commentary is decent once he gets going, but it certainly starts slow. Not very technical and he talks pretty steadily throughout the film about his experience. As I said above – the commentary really helps Phil to become a relatable person. I definitely recommend it if you enjoy the film.
Deleted Scenes: (11:16) 9 deleted scenes from the movie. The sound is not processed or cleaned up and the picture isn’t great on a few of them. Whether it was intentional or not – I think the first half of the scenes were removed because they make Phil appear more unlikeable. He seems more xenophobic. It is passive, more out of ignorance, but it really bothers me for some reason. The second half actually make him a bit more relatable, they probably should have been included.
Everybody Loves Kostya Episodes – These are in Russian with subtitles. If you don’t mind subtitles or are interested in seeing a different cultural take on something you might know pretty well – they’re really interesting. Not presented in HD.
“Baggage” (24:26) This is the epidsode that was originally intended to be used for the pilot, but was scrapped in favor of the other included episode.
“The Family Bed” (24:26) A funny episode, this one was ultimately chosen for the pilot.
Everybody Loves Raymond Episodes – These are great episodes. If you haven’t watched the show, check it out. You won’t be sorry.
“Baggage” (22:42) This is a great episode. It’s really interesting just how close they left the script between the Russian and American shows.
“The Family Bed” (22:48) An early episode not presented in HD, but a pretty good story.
Old Jews Telling Jokes (01:15) – Phil Rosenthal’s father, Max, tells a joke for a website. Its inclusion here is self indulgent, but kind of funny to see his Dad have some pretty great timing.
Theatrical Trailer (02:26) is included here.