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Archive for Thursday, February 16, 2012

Some love ‘Raymond’; some don’t

February 16, 2012

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Does humor travel well? Can it survive translation? Should it? What’s the difference between the American sense of funny and humor abroad?

I was hoping to answer some of these questions by watching “Exporting Raymond” (7 p.m., HBO), a 2010 documentary about TV producer Phil Rosenthal and his efforts to supervise the creation of a Russian language version of his hit show “Everybody Loves Raymond.”

On one hand, you would think that a show about a bickering couple with children living too close to their in-laws would have universal appeal. But Rosenthal is faced with Russian translations of his work that put great emphasis on the children, something CBS’ “Raymond” rarely did.

He quickly becomes embroiled in the politics of Russian show business. A network executive nixes his casting decision just to show Rosenthal who’s boss. Later a coveted performer’s acting mentor talks his protege out of the Russian “Raymond” because he believes that appearing in a mere sitcom would be bad for his career, even his soul.

‘‘Exporting” has moments of insight and looks into another society’s culture and sense of humor. But too much of the film is filtered through Rosenthal, who often comes across as a little grumpy, self-important and less than curious about his hosts. Rather than open a window on Russian culture and television, “Exporting” offers yet another glimpse of Hollywood entitlement.

• Speaking of Hollywood entitlement, Jack’s encounter with a mugger inspires him to run for mayor on “30 Rock” (7 p.m., NBC). This is a clear reference to actor Alec Baldwin’s flirtation with the idea of doing just that.

• Tonight’s episode of “The Office” (8 p.m., NBC) offers viewers a more immediate chance to see if humor styles from abroad translate into American success. U.K. sensation Catherine Tate joins the cast as a corporate big shot.

• In another sweeps cameo role, Louis C.K. guest-stars as Leslie’s ex on “Parks and Recreation” (7:30 p.m., NBC).

• “The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” (8 p.m., Bravo) offers a “Lost Footage” installment for those who think they’ve seen everything.

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