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Phil Rosenthal

Creator: Everybody Loves Raymond, I'll Have What Phil's Having

Too often disruption means new — something that’s never existed. But can a disruption be a return to the past? Phil Rosenthal, creator of Everybody Loves Raymond and I’ll Have What Phil’s Having, certainly thinks so.

“To me, disruption is an interruption,” Rosenthal explains. “And the film industry needs to be interrupted… but that doesn’t require something new.”

The 56-year-old entertainer raises eyebrows and gesticulates lavishly as he hones in on Hollywood’s tendency to prioritize looks over content.

“I grew up on shows like The Honeymooners, All In The Family and Mary Tyler Moore,” he continues. “Shows that were more like plays than like sitcoms… But now it’s become about the illusion of entertainment — dangling something shiny to mollify an audience into thinking 22 minutes went by fast.”

Rosenthal has spent two decades campaigning for “old fashioned” television. With Raymond, he ignored requests to make the series as “hip” and “edgy” as its ’90s counterparts. (“You’ve seen me, Mr. Hip and Edgy.”) And with his season-old show, What Phil’s Having, he’s differentiating himself from the adventure model exemplified by hosts like Anthony Bourdain to create a new type of travel series: one that inspires the everyman to travel.

Television for the everyman

Phil Rosenthal - Creator of Everybody Loves Raymond
It's more about the illusion of entertainment — dangling something shiny that mollifies an audience into thinking 22 minutes went by fast.”

To exemplify Rosenthal’s disruption, we must first travel back in time.

“In the 1990s, Seinfeld was the show to imitate,” Rosenthal remembers. “Then Friends popped — essentially a younger, hotter version of Seinfeld — and everyone started imitating that.”

According to Rosenthal, that’s when things started to change. Suddenly actors were expected to not only be funny, but also beautiful.

Friends, however, was the exception and not the rule,” he says. “That cast was extremely fortunate to be as good looking as it was charming… But God doesn’t often give with both hands, and the industry underestimated what a rarity that was.”

When the humor of Friends proved too difficult to recreate, studios said: “Screw it. Just focus on the looks part.” And that’s what the business became.

“It’s an easy beeline to the superficial,” Rosenthal concludes. “That’s why content has declined. That’s why I’m tired of the industry. That’s why the Kardashians — there are no scripts; they’re just hot. And that’s all that matters.”

The "Friends" Effect

Phil Rosenthal - Creator of Everybody Loves Raymond
Phil Rosenthal - Creator of Everybody Loves Raymond
[The "Friends"] cast was extremely fortunate to be as good looking as it was charming... and the industry underestimated what a rarity that was.”

After his “nine year Raymond cocoon,” Rosenthal noticed these issues extending beyond sitcoms into all forms of television, including travel. There’s a lot of aspirational content, not inspirational content.

“Take Anthony Bourdain as an example,” Rosenthal explains. “He’s amazing, and I think a lot of people live vicariously through him. But most of us aren’t going to do what Bourdain does — aren’t going to Beirut to get shot at. I’m not saying I’m better than him, but I do think more people are like me than are like him.”

In his words, Rosenthal is the guy sitting at home, watching Bourdain and thinking, “I’ll never do that.” And much like he did with Raymond, he’s parlaying that sentiment into content aimed at connecting with — and then inspiring — the everyman.

“On my show, I’m not interested in eating crazy stuff, like lamb eyeballs, that doesn’t sound delicious to a regular person,” he says. “And when I pick locations, I start with the greatest hits — Paris, Barcelona, Tokyo. Places people will actually visit… Which doesn’t mean I won’t try anything new. It just means I’m relatable.”

The reason being: A wildly adventurous show is entertaining, but does it inspire people to travel?

“Maybe, maybe not. But I do think the best way to motivate someone is by showing them how to do something. People watch my show and think: ‘If this schleppy guy can do it, so can I.’ Then maybe they book a vacation. And isn’t that what it’s all about? That the world will be a better place if we all get a taste of one another’s experiences?”

We'll Have What Phil's Having

Isn’t that what it’s all about? That the world will be a better place if we all get a taste of one another’s experiences?”

According to viewers the world over — and, most recently, the James Beard Awards — Rosenthal is spot on.

“As a creator that’s really all you can hope for,” Rosenthal concludes. “That someone, somewhere books a vacation because of my show… that your content has not only style, but also meaning.”

Lucky for us,  I’ll Have What Phil’s Having is now streaming on Netflix (including a pretty epic moment where he shows Japanese restaurant owners how to make egg cream). Season two could start filming this fall, and in the meantime: Check out producer Eric Fleischman’s thoughts on franchise films in Hollywood.

In Conclusion

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