Everybody loves the cast of Everybody Loves Raymond.
At least that's what the producers of three new comedy pilots are hoping, with former Barone brood stalwarts Patricia Heaton and Brad Garrett leading new projects of their own as is Raymond cocreator Phil Rosenthal.
Heaton, already queen of the TNT Original Movie and spokeswoman extraordinaire, is filming an as-yet untitled half-hour ABC comedy in which she'll play a widowed mom who gets active in the PTA at her kids' school.
Family Ties alum Justine Bateman and MADtv vet Mo Collins are set to join the mix.
Garrett had been looking toward a Raymond spinoff featuring his sad-sack sibling Robert but after that sequel failed to get off the drawing board, he jumped ship to Fox. Garrett will headline a show called 'Til Death, in which he'll play a married man whose next-door neighbors are newlyweds. Of the nauseating persuasion, one can guess.
As for Rosenthal, he's keeping it all in the family with his next project, a comedy for CBS called Play Nice, about a brother and sister who run a family-owned toy company. The cast includes seasoned funnyman Fred Willard and Swoosie Kurtz.
All of these shows may be coming to a TV Guide near you in the 2006-07 season. Network execs won't set the fall schedules until May, so it's not know whether all or any of the Raymond alumni shows will make the cut.
Even if they do get green-lighted, there's the question whether Heaton and Garrett will be subjected to a Seinfeld-esque curse--being beloved and known for one role and then being unfavorably compared to it...forever. (Cue the evil laugh.) Julia Louis-Dreyfus tries to break out of the rut with The New Adventures of Old Christine, which premieres Monday on CBS.
Raymond will be a tough act to follow. Heaton won two Emmys for Best Actress and Garrett scored three for Best Supporting Actor during the show's nine-season run. As a producer, Rosenthal shared in the show's two Emmy wins for Best Comedy Series, including one in its swan-song season. The series went out in style with a finale that pulled in more than 32 million viewers.
If the three new comedies could simply divvy up Raymond's series-ending audience among them, they just might make it.