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'Raymond' Co-Star Garrett Ends Salary Strike

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By Steve Gorman

Los Angeles (Reuters) -- Now that they've all gotten raises, everybody loves Raymond again.

Ending a salary revolt that stymied production for the upcoming eighth season of CBS television's top comedy, actor Brad Garrett will return to the set of "Everybody Loves Raymond" on Wednesday, more than two weeks after he walked off the job demanding more money, the network said on Tuesday.

His return comes after CBS and other profit participants in the show, including star-producer Ray Romano, agreed to give up a portion of their own "backend" shares in the series to sweeten the deals of his four disgruntled co-stars.

Three of the supporting players -- Patricia Heaton, Peter Boyle and Doris Roberts -- had accepted the multimillion-dollar profit-sharing offer and returned to work last week in time to film the sitcom's season-opening episode without Garrett, according to a source close to the situation.

Garrett, meanwhile, had held out until he clinched his own deal.

"We've been told that Brad is returning to work (Wednesday), and we look forward to welcoming him back," CBS spokesman Chris Ender said. He declined to comment on details of how Garrett and the Viacom Inc.-owned network had come to terms.

But the source told Reuters that Garrett negotiated a significant increase in his per-episode salary as well as a small stake in the series' backend profits. The deal was first reported on the Web site of entertainment trade paper The Hollywood Reporter.

Garrett, who plays jealous big brother Robert opposite Romano's lead character, Ray Barone, had previously been the lowest paid of the supporting cast members with a salary pegged at $4 million a year, or about $166,000 per episode.

That's a fraction of Romano's earnings, reportedly valued at nearly $2 million per episode under a renewal deal he struck in May that made him the highest-paid actor on U.S. television.

The Hollywood Reporter earlier said the network had offered to raise Garrett's per-episode salary to $250,000, on top of a newly granted stake in the show's profits. It said the half-percentage point given to each of the three other co-stars would be worth at least $5 million over the next few years.

Both sides in the salary squabble started out playing hardball, with Garrett, who won an Emmy last year, refusing to return to work without a new deal, and CBS ordering him written out of the script for the season premiere.

The situation was further clouded when Heaton, who co-stars as Raymond's tart-tongued wife, forced a delay in shooting the season premiere by calling in sick for several days earlier this month. Boyle and Roberts, who play her in-laws, reportedly did the same last week.

But production on the second episode was said to be back on track this week with a small part left in the script for Garrett in case he returned in time for Thursday's taping.

"Raymond" is a major cash cow for CBS and its producers, reportedly expected to generate upward of $500 million during its first five years of syndicated reruns. Last season, the show ranked as the fourth most watched scripted series on prime-time TV and the No. 2 comedy behind NBC's "Friends." It was the No. 1 sitcom on CBS.

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