Exporting Raymond is an entertaining documentary about a clash of cultures that occurs over a sitcom. Phil Rosenthal is the creator of the popular CBS show Everybody Loves Raymond. He was recently invited to visit Russia so they could adapt the show for their audiences. The results were a strange and sometimes funny mixed bag.
I have to confess that I’ve never watched Everybody Loves Raymond and am not a fan of sitcoms. I simply cannot watch anything with a laugh track. It seems like an oxymoron if you have to tell people when to laugh. So, for me the main interest of this documentary was watching the inner workings of creating television and, of course, the cultural issues.
From the start, there were difficulties in adapting the show in Russia. The show portrays a down to earth, middle class American family, and, as it soon became clear, Russia is not quite the same. This resulted in many frustrating attempts at communication between Rosenthal and his Russian counterparts. For example, a costume designer informs Rosenthal that Russian women like to dress up, but he can’t fathom a housewife looking like she’s going out to a nightclub.
This type of debate was amusing, though I also found it a little perplexing. Rosenthal seemed unable to accept that the show couldn’t be transplanted “as is” and still be popular with Russian audiences. Why does he care so much about realism when we’re talking about a sitcom?
Looking at it from the other side of the coin, I wondered why the Russians were even interested in this show in the first place if it was so culturally alien to them. The problems were deeper than simply how the characters dressed. Apparently, the character of Raymond was too passive for Russian audiences, who don’t like to see men pushed around by their wives, even in jest (at least according to the Russians who Rosenthal dealt with on this project).
There are some interesting insights into how Russian television operates. Apparently, actors must work much harder than in America, and the same people must work around the clock on different sets. We can assume they earn considerably less money too.
Exporting Raymond is a documentary that will appeal to a variety of people -obviously to fans of the show; those with an interest in culture clashes, and anyone who would like an inside look at the entertainment industry.