After two weeks of cast walkouts and sickouts, the entire bickering Barone family is back at work on "Everybody Loves Raymond," which will now cost a little more to produce because some people didn't know when to stop talking.
Brad Garrett, who plays Raymond's brother Robert Barone on the CBS sitcom, had refused to show up for work last week to do the first episode of the new season, saying he wouldn't come back until he got a big raise. The network responded by writing him out of the first episode.
But production got gummed up anyway when Patricia Heaton, who plays star Ray Romano's wife, called in sick, as did Doris Roberts and Peter Boyle, who play Ray's parents, Marie and Frank Barone.
All of them wanted more money to do the show's eighth, and presumably final, season.
This may have been the result of news reports, dating back to last May, pronouncing Romano the highest paid actor in television, thanks to a new deal he'd signed for the coming season that would give him an annual salary in excess of $40 million. The new pact put Romano just ahead of Kelsey Grammer, who had been the highest-paid actor on TV, which is ironic, given his show's ratings.
This game of one-upmanship is nothing new in the entertainment industry, fueled by agents, attorneys and managers who stand to get more clients when their contract negotiating prowess is broadcast to the industry in news reports about a star's new contract.
But while Romano's new contract may have been a slap to Grammer, it irked Garrett, who was sitting there with his paltry $150,000 per episode salary -- about $4 million a year. Garrett was by far the lowest paid supporting actor on the show, on which Heaton was said to be earning about $450,000 per half-hour episode, while Roberts and Boyle got slightly less.
"CBS elected to make a one-year deal with Ray Romano making him the highest-paid sitcom actor ever," Garrett's reps told reporters two weeks ago.
"Ray deserves every penny," Garrett's peeps continued, adding that "at the same time . . . CBS has refused to talk to us. Brad earns less than 10 percent of Ray's salary and is the lowest paid member of a grossly underpaid supporting cast. All Brad wants is compensation commensurate with what other similarly situated actors have made in the past and are making today."
Heaton, Roberts and Boyle, while making considerably more than Garrett, weren't happy either. It wasn't just that their salaries required them to work a full month in order to be able to purchase outright a decent house in Brentwood, while Romano could buy a new pile north of Montana Avenue in Santa Monica every week if he wanted to. There was also this unfortunate tendency of series creator Phil Rosenthal to tell the press each summer that the coming season could be the show's last.
"When it's over, it's over. You don't want to get repetitive and I've never seen a show get better after seven seasons," Rosenthal pronounced to Variety at the start of last season, which, coincidentally, was the show's seventh.
He gave similar talks this summer in re this coming season, leading CBS CEO Leslie Moonves to say at the Television Press Tour in July that "it may very well be the last year for 'Raymond' but we hope not."
This is understandably upsetting to those supporting cast members who had signed two-year deals before Romano closed his record-breaking one-year pact, and who had been counting on a ninth season to provide them a nice couple-a-mil bump to their salaries.
It's easy for Rosenthal and star Romano to talk about wanting to quit while they're on top; their deals give them a cut of the show's very successful rerun business. "Everybody Loves Raymond" will keep on giving to these two men for years to come. No such future was awaiting the supporting cast members of the show.
Until this week, when the network and the production companies behind the show, including David Letterman's Worldwide Pants and HBO Independent Productions, agreed to cut them in on that action. As of yesterday, everyone was back at work; Heaton, Roberts and Boyle with their same salaries but a cut of the syndication take, Garrett with a salary said to be around $250,000 per episode and a cut of the rerun money as well.
To commemorate the occasion, statements were issued all around:
"We had a big contract negotiation. Now it feels like a hit show," said Rosenthal.
"Brad was gone?" Romano said in his prepared response to a question asked by an imaginary someone as to how he felt about Garrett's return.
"I'm thrilled to be back working with the best cast on television," Garrett said in his statement, adding, "CBS, Ray and Phil really stepped up to make this happen. I'm looking forward to the new season where I'll take the art of overacting to a whole new level."
Added CBS: "Brad returned to work today and everyone at CBS is thrilled to have him back."