'Raymond' Renewed By CBS

It's time for Ray Romano to drop the underdog act: CBS has just announced a $140 million-plus deal for the comedian's series, Everybody Loves Raymond, to continue for two more years.

Raymond, which was just voted Best Comedy Series at the TV Guide Awards, will now stay on the air through the 2002-2003 season. Over the next two years, say insiders, CBS will pay slightly less than $3 million an episode for the series about the feisty Barone family.

CBS has built its Monday-night comedy block around the top-rated series, which stars Romano, Patricia Heaton, Doris Roberts, Peter Boyle, and Brad Garrett. Currently in its fifth season, Raymond has evolved into a powerhouse performer for the network, says Variety.

"Everybody Loves Raymond is a rare example of a series that truly gets better every season," CBS Television President and CEO Leslie Moonves tells Variety. "Without a doubt, it is the crown jewel of television comedies and a major source of pride for everyone at CBS. We're thrilled to have it on the network for at least another two seasons."

Raymond begins syndication this fall and is likely to deliver the best syndie ratings for a CBS show since M*A*S*H some 20 years ago.

This season, Raymond's ratings are up 23 percent compared to last year.

Reuters/Variety contributed to this story.