By Ken Tucker
Updated September 20, 1996 at 04:00 AM EDT

Playing a harried husband, a father of three whose own harrying parents live across the street, Ray Romano radiates a resigned helplessness that makes for one of the more charming characters of the new season in Everybody Loves Raymond. The joke of the title is that everybody loves Romano’s Raymond Barone a little too much — especially his parents (the terrific Peter Boyle and Doris Roberts), who meddle in his life to the point of listening to his phone messages and going through his mail. The constant interference and visits from Raymond’s folks are played for both laughs and tension. They adore their grandchildren (”Let me smell their heads once more!” begs Boyle), but they get on the nerves of Raymond’s wife (Patricia Heaton). Yet another stand-up comic with his own show, Romano has a low, thick voice — he sounds as if someone just hit him over the head with a mallet. But the voice is deceiving, because Romano is also a chatty, likable wise guy, and in Everybody he jokes and teases wonderfully with Heaton and Brad Garrett (who plays his lunkhead policeman brother). While Everybody doesn’t yet have top-notch writing, Romano manages to communicate something distinctive: He plays a beleaguered family man, but one who’s happy about it. Not a dope and not a weasel, he’s a fellow accepting his responsibilities. Ain’t that unusual? B+