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”Raymond” ends its nine-season run

Kevin McDonough United Feature Syndicate

“Everybody Loves Raymond” (9 p.m., CBS) signs off after nine seasons, and it goes out on top.

“Raymond” has the highest ratings of the dwindling number of network situation comedies. In fact, given the current comedy landscape of “Joey,” “Two and a Half Men” and “According to Jim,” one has to wonder if the genre can survive the Barones’ impending exit.

While “Raymond” has been given the customary tributes of a departing hit, the usual sweeps series finale hype seems a tad out of sync with “Raymond,” a show that was modest by its very nature. “Raymond” was always a little out of step with the times.

When it was launched in 1996, every comedy was trying to imitate “Friends,” which was in turn trying to imitate “Seinfeld.” Shows about nothing, about clever urban professions making glib, meaningless patter about Cocoa Puffs and makeup and breakup sex were all the rage.

What was “Raymond,” but a show about family, about the suburbs, about parents, children and even parochial school? It was anything but hip. And for a while, it was anything but noticed.

But while “Seinfeld” clones like “Single Guy” and “It’s Like, You Know” came and went, “Raymond” found a sufficient audience to survive its frequent schedule changes.

Like many, I enjoyed “Raymond” for the human scale of its many stories. Let other sitcoms tackle profound subjects, racy situations and fleeting trends. “Raymond” focused like a laser beam on how a couple could wage a silent war of nerves over a piece of luggage left on a staircase for three whole weeks.

At the same time, “Raymond” engaged in the absurd inconsistencies found only on situation comedies. Raymond was a columnist who never, ever seemed to sit down and write. Robert belonged to the police force, one of the most collegial and supportive institutions on Earth, but not one fellow officer showed up at his wedding. The Barones were Italian-Americans but only in the most generic, Olive Garden sense.

And, of course, there were the children, who could appear and dematerialize, as if by remote control.

For all of these sitcom generalities, sometimes the writers on “Raymond” could write with brilliant specificity. How could you not love a show in which Robert once had a dog called Shamsky, named after Art Shamsky, a player for the fabled 1969 New York Mets?

The half-hour finale will be preceded by “Everybody Loves Raymond: The Last Laugh” (8 p.m., CBS), an hourlong retrospective of clips and highlights, featuring interviews with the cast, crew and writers.

To honor the classic status of “Raymond,” the TV Land network will suspend its regular programming. Instead, it will air a special tribute, ” “Everybody Loves Raymond Finale Event” (6 p.m., TV Land) consisting of a room filled with 216 guys named Raymond. Each Ray will step forward, introduce himself and state the title of the episode he represents.

Believe it or not, that will fill a half hour of TV! And it sounds much funnier than a half hour of “Listen Up!”

Other highlights

Sean Astin and Leelee Sobieski star in the TV movie fantasy “Hercules” (8 p.m., NBC), produced by special effects wizard Robert Halmi Sr.

A domestic crisis on the season finale of “Nanny 911” (8 p.m., Fox)

Charlie makes his decision in the three-hour “Bachelor” (8 p.m., ABC) finale.

A rocket’s red glare has the CTU on edge on “24” (9 p.m., Fox).

A death row case requires further investigation on “CSI: Miami” (10 p.m., CBS).

Cult choice

The 1943 Western “The Ox-Bow Incident” (5 p.m., TCM) follows the action and motivations of a lynch mob as it hangs an innocent man. A game cast includes Henry Fonda, Dana Andrews, Henry Morgan, Mary Beth Hughes and Anthony Quinn.

Series notes

Flex needs his ex’s help on “One on One” (8 p.m., UPN) … Shear talent on “Cuts” (8:30 p.m., UPN) … In vino veritas on “Girlfriends” (9 p.m., UPN) … (9 p.m., WB) … Dee Dee helps the cat lady on “Half & Half” (9:30 p.m., UPN).

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