The Everybody Loves Raymond Controversy
“I hate him, actually.”
In early 2003, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) became aware of a television franchise operating under the title Everybody Loves Raymond (ELR).This franchise is more commonly known as Everybody Loves Retards because that's what the programme's characters and audience members are. Concerned over possible consumer fraud it was decided that the matter merited some looking into.
As a preliminary test, a quick phone poll was conducted. Somewhat surprisingly, it took a mere two calls to locate an individual who did not, in fact, love Raymond. In fact, the individual in question claimed to harbour a messianic hatred of the man. Fearful of reprisals, however, they refused to go on record. A similar pattern now continued. Numerous individuals were ready to admit to disliking Raymond, very few were prepared to say so in a court of law.
Finally, pollsters located a brave individual named Carol Petersen of East Hawthorne, Melbourne, willing to state under oath that she had, in fact, never taken a shine to Raymond at all.
"I always thought I was a freak," an emotional Miss Petersen later said outside the steps of a Sydney Courthouse. "I mean, I tried to love Raymond. Lord knows I tried. But his voice, that nose, that infuriating smile. The more I watched, the harder it got to even think of him as human. I felt so alone."
Matters now proceeded to get ugly. The title, lawyers representing the programme stated, was clearly ambiguous. While it may refer to the fictional character Raymond Barone, with whom viewers were acquainted - it could just as easily refer to the actor portraying him, Raymond Romano, with whom they were not. How, they asked, could anyone claim not to love a man they had never even met? Was it not also possible to claim that the title asserted that everybody liked the name Raymond? Or that everybody knew of somebody or something called Raymond that they loved? The ACCC's polling, they stated, was inconclusive.
Lawyers representing the ACCC, however, stuck to their guns. In answer to the first point of ambiguity (the Barone vs. Romano question), their answer was obvious. While someone who has never met Ray Romano cannot reliably claim to not love him, they cannot claim to love him either. As to the remainder of the defendants objections, these were brushed aside. There was, it was contended, a clear implication that the title referred to either the character or the actor. The polling stood.
Fearing that matters were rapidly slipping out of their hands, lawyers representing the programme now proceeded to call into question the character of the star witness Miss Petersen. After managing to obtain a breakdown of Miss Petersen's viewing habits, it was revealed that her favourite television programme was apparently Friends spinoff, Joey. The woman was clearly insane. The title, they claimed, merely asserted that everybody sane loves Raymond since surely no-one could hope to claim responsibility for those who were not. The evidence appeared to be damning.
An infuriated public now sprung into action. By their hundreds, individuals were surfacing to claim that they were all prepared to kill Raymond if they had to - and not because they loved him in any way, shape or form. Many more were prepared to state that, while they didn't dislike the show itself necessarily, Raymond himself really got on their nerves.
The defendants now conceded defeat.
Whilst the existence of a single counter-example to the ELR claim was clearly sufficient to destroy the programme's credibility, polling in fact showed a good deal more than this. Only a very small minority of individuals could even be said to like Raymond - Romano or Barone.
In material terms, however, there was very little immediate effect on the running of the show except that whenever the titles were run the following was written in very, very, very small print: "except for Carol Petersen and a few other people".
The producers were fined $50. A claim for damages has been filed, however, by various "People who don't love Raymond - You're not alone!!!!" style support groups for emotional trauma accruing from either the material implication the show made that there was something wrong with them for not loving Raymond or the existential angst caused by the thought that maybe they don't exist. The matter has yet to go to go to court.
Ray Romano himself has consistently refused to comment on the issue.