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'Raymond' Alumni Try to Avoid 'Curse'

For nine seasons, millions of viewers loved everybody on CBS' "Everybody Loves Raymond." Now some of the key individuals behind that show are about to find out how they rate on their own.

Patricia Heaton, a two-time Emmy winner for her work on "Raymond," is starring in an untitled half-hour for ABC about a recently widowed woman who begins a new life after joining the PTA. Three-time Emmy victor Brad Garrett is toplining Fox's " 'Til Death," an ensemble comedy featuring him as a long-married man who lives next door to newlyweds.

Additionally, "Raymond" creator Phil Rosenthal and two of his top writers have joined forces on the CBS comedy pilot "Play Nice."

Heaton and Garrett's return to TV is sure to evoke comparisons to the " 'Seinfeld' curse," referring to the lack of post-"Seinfeld" success for the show's co-stars Jason Alexander, Michael Richards and Julia Louis-Dreyfus (who is awaiting this month's debut of her second post-"Seinfeld" sitcom, CBS' "The New Adventures of Old Christine.")

"It's much harder for actors than writers because the audience is attached to faces and the way it's used to seeing them," Rosenthal says. "With writers, as long as the faces change, the audience is flexible."

Except for Richards, who toplined a short-lived NBC comedy two years after the end of "Seinfeld," Alexander, Louis-Dreyfus and "Cheers" alums Ted Danson (who is back in pilot contention this year with ABC's "Help Me Help You"), Rhea Perlman, Kirstie Alley and Shelley Long waited at least three years before returning to series television.

Matt LeBlanc, on the other hand, only took the summer off in 2004 between the end of "Friends" and the start of the spinoff "Joey," which has struggled through its second season and is not expected to be renewed. Lisa Kudrow went to the cozier environs of HBO for "The Comeback" but did not connect in a major way with viewers. Matthew Perry is looking to go back to NBC in the Aaron Sorkin-penned drama "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip."

For "Play Nice," about a brother and sister who run a family-owned toy company, Rosenthal and writers Lew Schneider and Tucker Cawley turned to a "Raymond" supporting player, Fred Willard.

"Fred is a character actor, and I think the audience accepts him more easily in different roles," Rosenthal says.

So will there be a "Raymond" curse?

"I'm hoping there isn't," Rosenthal says.

Nellie Andreeva writes for The Hollywood Reporter.

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