"Everybody Loves Raymond"(8 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 synch 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.
The half-hour finale will be preceded by "Everybody Loves Raymond: The Last Laugh" (7 p.m., CBS), an hour-long retrospective of clips and highlights, featuring interviews with the cast, crew and writers.
Tonight's other highlights
- Sean Astin and Leelee Sobieski star in the TV movie fantasy "Hercules" (7 p.m., NBC), produced by special effects wizard Robert Halmi, Sr.
- A domestic crisis on the season finale of "Nanny 911" (7 p.m., Fox).
- Charlie makes his decision in the three-hour "Bachelor" (7 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" (9 p.m., CBS).
Flex needs his ex's help on "One on One" (7 p.m., UPN) ... Matt discovers Mary's big news on "7th Heaven" (7 p.m., WB) ... Shear talent on "Cuts" (7:30 p.m., UPN) ... In vino veritas on "Girlfriends" (8 p.m., UPN) ... Ephram prepares for his European sojourn on "Everwood" (8 p.m., WB) ... Dee Dee helps the cat lady on "Half & Half" (8:30 p.m., UPN).
Ray Romano and the Dave Matthews Band appear on "Late Show with David Letterman" (10:35 p.m., CBS) ... Jay Leno hosts Ryan Seacrest and music by Dierks Bentley on "The Tonight Show" (10:35 p.m., NBC) ... Robin Williams and Nigella Lawson chat on "Late Night with Conan O'Brien" (11:35 a.m., NBC).