If TV writing were meant to be a step up from being an out-of-work actor, Phil Rosenthal didn't have such great luck at the outset. He labored on four shows in the early 1990s that failed to crack the two-year mark. (Do "Down the Shore," "The Man in the Family," "A Family for Joe" or "Baby Talk" ring any bells?)
Then came stand-up comic Ray Romano, the inspiration to create a sitcom called "Everybody Loves Raymond" - and pay dirt.
This week marks the latest DVD chapter for the dysfunctional-family classic, with the release of "Everybody Loves Raymond: The Complete Sixth Season" (HBO Video, $44.98). And to hear Rosenthal tell it, the creative parallel closest to "Raymond," even if it's not obvious or even comedic, involves another entertainer with East Coast roots (both Romano and Rosenthal hail from Queens).
"When I was doing 'Raymond,' I used to like to say, 'We'd like to be the Bruce Springsteen of sitcoms,"' Rosenthal said. "You'd never know that by watching our show. The way he (Springsteen) has influenced everyone who's a fan - to do good work - that's how he influenced me."
Rosenthal (who still vacations with Romano) added that he has no regrets about signing off while the show still felt fresh: "I'm very happy that we got out on our terms because we want to be able to watch the show with our grandkids and not have them say, 'This is the one Grandpa did for the money."'
The new "Raymond" DVD features 24 episodes, deleted scenes, bloopers and six audio commentaries spanning five discs. It also includes what's billed as "the No. 2 fan favorite" episode, "Marie's Sculpture." And No. 1?
"The PMS episode entitled 'Bad Moon Rising"' from Season 4, Rosenthal said. "I wrote it with Ray. We were working on some story, and we went home and things 'weren't great.' I came in the next day and complained about it, and Ray said, 'That's exactly the same thing that happened to me."'
As for life beyond "Raymond," Rosenthal is dabbling in the world of acting again. James L. Brooks plucked him to play Pietro in 2004's "Spanglish," and he's going out on auditions.
"Now do I think I'm going to quit writing and become an actor? No way," he said. "I know where my bread is buttered. But I'm interested in writing, directing and acting. It's all great. And after the success we had with 'Raymond,' it's all gravy."