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From Russia With Laugh Track: Phil Rosenthal Takes His Show on the Road in Exporting Raymond

Network television’s subsistence on pre-chewed food is exploited and gently mocked in this quickie documentary from Phil Rosenthal, creator of the durable sitcom throwback Everybody Loves Raymond. Affably beleagured like any good TV dad, Rosenthal chronicles his travels to Moscow to help adapt the show for a Russian network. Once there, he milks the cultural hurdles and occasional resistance he encounters for yuks, some of them earned. Fans of the stateside series—this doc’s ideal consumers—will find its heavy-handed jokiness comfortingly familiar, along with the sentimental arc that’s established once Rosenthal finally runs out of moldy Cold War–era gags. The movie’s staleness, bland presentation, and general lack of insight into this particular armpit of globalization are no surprise given its maker’s pedigree and deep-insider status, but like its namesake, Exporting Raymond captures a few satisfyingly human moments: Rosenthal bonds with the show’s initially skeptical writers when he figures out they’re toiling on multiple series, and a visit to a military expo brings out the tender side of his stoic driver, Eldar. These scenes are undercut by Rosenthal’s habit of painting everything in freeway-size strokes, but that’s as much a part of his success as the showy populism that never quite redeems either Raymond.


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