Lee Mack to star in UK remake of Everybody Loves Raymond

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Everybody loves Everybody Loves Raymond. At least that seems to be the thinking behind a proposed UK remake of the hit US sitcom that Channel 4 use to fill their breakfast time schedule alongside the immeasurably superior Frasier.

Plans are well advanced for the UK version, with Lee Mack in the Ray Romano role as a smug and idiotic sportswriter living in suburbia opposite an overbearing (psychotically so in the US original) mother. Catherine Tate will also star in the pilot, presumably as the mother, as the wife is a fairly likeable and emollient character.

Mack has written the pilot for the BBC, closely based on the US show, relocating the action from New Jersey to leafy Cheshire. It seems like a desperate attempt to come up with a mainstream family sitcom to fill the hole left by My Family, an unaccountably popular primetime hit for the BBC.

At its peak in the States, Everybody Loves Raymond was a mass-audience phenomenon. It was on air for ten years from 1996 to 2005 The star, producer and co-creator Romano was paid $1.7 million an episode despite being, by some distance, the worst actor in the show.

The sitcom was lifted above its scripted mediocrity by the larger-than-life performances of three of its principals. Doris Roberts was frighteningly convincing as the passive-aggressive domineering mother Marie, while Peter Boyle and Brad Garrett were superb as the cynical misanthropic father and grudging, klutzy brother. They made a generally bland sitcom eminently watchable.

Mack, who is at least as bad an actor and as irritating a personality as Romano, will need to cast the show very carefully to capture any of that magic. The portents are not great. British attempts to copy American hits like Curb Your Enthusiasm or The Larry Sanders Show have flopped badly.

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