While “Everybody Loves Raymond,” CBS discovered they were going to have to love series star Ray Romano enough to pay him a staggering $1.5 million an episode for next season!

As the star and network negotiated his return for an eighth season, Ray basically told CBS, “Show me the money!” a source close to the comic disclosed.

As they negotiated, Ray informed the show’s creator and executive producer Phil Rosenthal and the people at David Letterman’s Worldwide Pants, which produces the show, that he was ready to move on to movies after the end of this season, said the source.

“Ray said he was tired of doing the same thing week after week and needed to ‘start doing something else — like movies.’

“He felt that he was getting pigeonholed as the bumbling, clueless sportswriter and put-upon hubby in the show.”

But CBS was desperate not to lose the star of their highest-rated show — and the No. 2 comedy on TV behind NBC’s “Friends.”

Sources told The ENQUIRER that the network offered Ray a pay raise of more than $200,000 an episode over the $800,000 he has been getting under his current two-year contract — which would make his new paycheck $1 million an episode.

But an insider disclosed: “Ray wanted $1.5 million a week!

“Each of the stars on ‘Friends’ gets $1 million per episode. Ray wanted to be one of the highest-paid stars ever on TV.

“The negotiations went down to the wire. CBS execs were sick with anxiety over the prospect of losing their golden boy. They weren’t going to let that happen.

“And what would CBS and the rest of the ‘Raymond’ cast do if Ray had walked? Doris Roberts, Patricia Heaton and Brad Garrett are great supporting players, but there is no way they could carry the load.

“White-knuckle negotiations went on, and Ray sent a clear message to the negotiating table — he was not about to be bought cheaply.”