Exit Ray, Stage Left:

"Everybody Loves Raymond" says goodbye after 9 years.

On May 17, 2005, we almost lost him.

"Him" is Ray Barone, the main character on the show "Everybody Loves Raymond", the popular sitcom about a sportswriter (Ray Ray Romano), his jealous older policeman brother (Robert Brad Garrett), overbearing but loving mother (Marie Doris Roberts), rude, cantankerous father (Frank Peter Boyle) who live across the street and his loving wife who can't stand his parents (Debra Patricia Heaton).

The season finale, which lasted only half an hour unlike most sitcom finales, featured Ray having to get his adenoids removed. His whole family awaits the end of his surgery. Then, a nurse comes out and informs them that they're having trouble getting Ray to wake up from surgery, and that his blood pressure was dropping……….and 30 seconds later, a doctor comes out and says he'll be fine. Everybody realises that they all do love Ray, and in a way it makes them closer.

There was also a 1-hour special called "The Last Laugh" (which aired before the series finale) that talked about the filming of the last episode. Among other things, Patricia Heaton and Doris Roberts both delayed the filming of the last episode because they lost their voices.

Over the past 9 years, viewers have shared special moments with the characters, such as Robert and Amy's wedding, Ray and Debra finding out they're going to have a baby, and even more so the everyday moments that seem so ordinary, yet so much more real. With every new season, we laughed and cried with them, we shared their jokes, we saw ourselves and our families reflected back to us in what they said and did. And maybe that's why we loved them so much. The message of "Everybody Loves Raymond" was 'No family is perfect. You don't have to agree all the time.' It was the times that everybody got it right that stood out, because they happened so rarely. Every episode was a gem.

Now, we will have to rely on syndication and imagination to remind us why we love the show. It's clear that the cast will miss it; the sincere emotion that Debra showed when she watched Ray eat a bowl of ice cream in his pyjamas for all the world like a little kid on Saturday morning, and the way that the rest of the cast choked up when they thought Ray was going to die weren't just their TV faces. Perhaps the last scene says it best; it features all the characters, back to normal after the initial shock of Ray's near-death experience. Theoretically, it could go on forever this way. And for die-hard fans it just might.