Wednesday, September 26, 2012

SEINFELD - Season 7, Episode 16 - The Doll

“The Doll”

First Script Read: Sunday, January 21, 1996
Filmed: Wednesday, January 24, 1996
Aired: February 22, 1996
Nielsen rating: 22.2
Audience share: 33
Directed: Andy Ackerman
Writers: Tom Gammill and Max Pross

One of the skills that make Tom Gammill and Max Pross such hilarious Seinfeld writers (and translated well when they moved to The Simpsons after this season) is their ability to write a visual gag. Here's a sampling of classic scenes they wrote that barely require dialogue to be funny (Note: directors Tom Cherones and Andy Ackerman also deserve some credit for pulling these scenes off):
Season 5, Episode 3 - "The Glasses" - George and a blind man, in bathing suit and underwear, respectively, run out into the street chasing a guy George thinks stole his glasses.
Season 5, Episode 15 - "The Pie" - The repeated image of various characters shaking their head "no" without giving a reason for their refusal when offered a dessert.
Season 6, Episode 3 - "The Pledge Drive" - Various characters eating their candy bars and other desserts with a knife and fork.
Season 6, Episode 10 - "The Race" - The climactic race between Jerry and his nemesis, Duncan Meyer, set to the Superman theme.
Season 7, Episode 10 - "The Gum" - My personal favorite, Jerry, Kramer, and Lloyd Braun sitting in Jerry's apartment chewing gum.

This episode revolves around the hilarious visual effect of a doll owned by Susan that looks exactly like George's mother. The prop department deserves a lot of credit, but it is Gammill and Pross who contributed the idea in the first place. The resemblance is disturbing for both the characters who recognize it and the audience watching at home. Ultimately, the doll meets a spectacular demise when Frank Costanza encounters it and tears its head off.

Meanwhile in this same episode, Frank puts a pool table in George's old room. There's a memorable montage of him and Kramer finding the room far too small to allow them to play; their sticks bang into walls and windows, and they barely have enough room to move around. Later, when Kramer swaps his stick out for the Maestro's baton, there is another montage of him cleaning up on the table.

The Maestro adds to the visual comedy by informing Frank, Kramer, and Jerry of his habit of taking his pants off when he sits down in order to keep the crease sharp. There's no sitting down in the billiard room, but Kramer, Frank, and the Maestro take their pants off anyway. Estelle finds the trio pants-less and listening to classical music. Her horror at the spectacle completes another classic scene.

I have focused a great deal on the writing throughout Seinfeld's brilliant run, and its easier to recap the dialogue from the episodes. But the actors, particularly Michael Richards, and the writers, particularly Gammill and Pross, were also brilliant at visual humor, making Seinfeld the classic series it was.

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