Thursday, April 26, 2012

The Real Borscht Belt

I just caught Exporting Raymond, a documentary from Phil Rosenthal about Phil Rosenthal traveling overseas to adapt his series, Everybody Loves Raymond, to Russian television.  The tension, and humor, mostly comes from how Rosenthal's view of the show--the more realistic, the funnier it'll be--clashes with the Russians'.

His costumer wants to put the housewife in glamorous designs.  Most of the writers and producers seem to think Russians prefer broad comedy (The Nanny is already a big hit there).  And many of the actors don't get the material.  Rosenthal would also like them to shoot in front of an audience, but the dank studio doesn't have that capacity.

Rosenthal himself is a decent writer (I read some stuff of his before Raymond and was impressed), but I always found the show fairly generic, even if he found it truthful.  You can't know, of course, how truthful the documentary is--no doubt Rosenthal shot many many hours, and was able to tell the story he wanted. He paints himself as a sad sack, not to mention a a gefilte fish out of water, but I wonder.  Sometimes what sneaks through is a very powerful, strongminded show-runner who will get what he wants if he has to fight everyone.

Perhaps this is a spoiler, but the film has a happy ending. After all sorts of problems, the show goes on the air and is a big hit.  The documentary, however, was not.  Ironic, since I like it better than the sitcom.


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