How do you make a very American sitcom funny for a Russian audience? This is the question that Phil Rosenthal asks throughout his documentary 'Exporting Raymond.' Rosenthal was the creator of 'Everybody Loves Raymond,' the long-running popular sitcom starring Ray Romano. Several years ago, he was asked to assist in creating a Russian version of the TV show ... and he brought a camera crew with him to document the process. The results are often funnier than any fictional situation comedy.
Rosenthal opens the movie in America, showing us footage of 'Everybody Loves Raymond' to demonstrate how it was shot (for later contrast), even taking us to his parents' house before he leaves for Russia. He jokes that his parents' house was often the inspiration for much of the humor in the American sitcom ... and a scene with his parents demonstrates that he is not exaggerating. In Russia, he has to face all kinds of cultural barriers to getting what he considered a "naturalistic" sitcom off the ground. The costume designer wants the stay-at-home mom to dress in trendy fashions; the writers want over-the-top humor; the network execs don't like the actor whom Rosenthal thinks is the obvious choice for the title character in 'Everybody Loves Kostya.'