(Retro) Blog 01 – High School

It’s a good thing that I save my blogs as Word files, because this marks the third time that I’ve posted blogs for various episodes, and I wouldn’t want to have to do MORE WORK and write new things each time these were reposted (and besides, I’ve got about 20 more to write before I’m all caught up, anyway).

In any case, below is a behind-the-scenes look at our very first episode, “High School”, as it originally appeared on the old Franks and Beans website.  If I have anything new to add, i.e. if I can’t just leave well enough alone, I’ll type it in bold italics.  You know…for reference.

Originally posted 08.12.09

“Begin at the beginning.”  “You gotta start somewhere.”  “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”  These are all really important quotes from tremendously famous people who are all dead (the middle one might just be a general colloquialism, but…just go with me here).  As these quote-makers are all dead, and have been for some time, there’s no chance any of them were thinking of Franks and Beans when they were laying down their words of wisdom.  In fact, if you had shown Lewis Carroll episode 1, “High School”, he might have responded to it by asking “what is this fancy magic screen showing me the lives of tiny men?”  The lesson here is this: screw those dead jerks.

As you may have read in the blogs I posted on the Funny or Die website (I admit, I blogged out of order), I had plans for Franks and Beans the series to take on a different life than what actually came about.  Initially, there was to be a more sequential feel to subsequent episodes, with plot lines and characters springing from this pilot.  When I think back to it, Larry and I might have been able to actually pull it off – perhaps we could have overcome the limitations of not having a regular cast beyond the two of us and a regular shooting location beyond the living room in Larry’s house – but in retrospect, I’m much happier with the freedom that a loose continuity affords us.  If we feel like filming an episode where I dream about having no pants, then we film an episode in which I have no pants with no need to squeeze it into an existing plotline.

The first seedlings of ideas for this series came about in late 2007, after I had moved roughly 600 miles from home and was looking for a way to tether myself to the place and the people I had left behind.  It might seem odd that I would try and develop an Internet skit show after moving away from the locations, actors and equipment, but to me, it made perfect sense.  In early 2008 Larry and I began filming, and though our schedules afford us very few hours of filming, I’m happy to say that we’ve kept up with it for over a year and a half.  (Ironically, we filmed more quickly before I eventually moved back home in 2011.)

“High School”, then, is our first shot at finding out just what we were about – the episode you look back on and say “oh, that character’s hair is way too big” or “they really didn’t have the back-and-forth down at all yet”.  It’s a beginning, with all that brings with it.

We begin this episode with the “Jeff” character (perhaps based off a literary character or some such noise) running down the street for what ends up being a big portion of the entire pilot.  As I’ve explained before (I’ll repost my earlier FoD blogs here with their corresponding episodes), this wasn’t just a random sprint down the road.  When I look back on this episode, I see the potential for two possibilities here: either I was so eager to tell Larry my new plan that I couldn’t wait to get in my car (or at least walk at a more leisurely rate), or I entered every episode this way.  As it turned out, it was a one-time gag, though we revisited it in a later episode, which might end up more confusing than funny, though just the sight of me straining and trying not to fall has a certain amount of humor to it right away.  I generally consider myself to be in fair shape, but the few times I tried to run – actually run – up and down these inclines, I thought my heart was going burst through the top of my head.

In similar fashion, we planted some seeds for Larry’s character (perhaps named for Lawrence Fishburne) as we show him sleeping in his clothes due to recurring nightmares.  Logistically, this also solved the problem of waiting for Larry to change into real clothes after waking up to hear my desperate pleadings, but when I think about it, I wonder how we would have dealt with this newfound character point.  Would Larry be afraid of changing clothes?  Would he wear the same outfit forever, as if he were a cartoon character?  Maybe we could have had an episode where he rips his shirt and goes into a panic-induced coma.  I suppose there were a limited amount of ways in which we could have taken this particular development, but the what-could-have-been still remains.

What stuck from this episode and was carried forward into the series once it got under way in earnest does more than justify the existence of this episode, which may stand out as strangely plot-heavy when compared to later ones.  The loose continuity and the reliance on sight gags, word play and a singular, driving joke is what Franks and Beans evolved into, and the beginnings of that are certainly present in “High School”.  Larry’s Action Jeep speeding out of frame becomes a staple, as does the oh-so-subtle tossing of the jacket over the downstairs railing, but the basic plot, one where, most of the time, my character comes up with a head-scratching scheme and Larry’s character, the skeptic that he is, decides to see it though, is this episode’s greatest gift to the rest of the series.  Certainly, we parody ourselves and this episode in particular a good bit, but this is where we learned what Franks and Beans was about.  This continues to be one of my favorite episodes even though overall our best work is yet to come.

Our first episode also marks the beginning of our long running “NO!” ending.  This is, for all intents and purposes, a simple parody of a generic cliffhanger.  We’re taking a serious plot – one character opens a door and is shocked by what he sees! – and shooting it over and over (and over…) again.  At first, the idea was to do basically the same thing every time – Larry opens the door, yells “No!” and that’s it; no mention is ever made when the next episode rolls around.  Soon after, we realized that we could tweak the ending just a bit so we could preserve the spirit of the cliffhanger parody while still leaving room for a little creativity.  Keeping the same ending new and funny has since, after 36 episodes as of this writing, become one of the most challenging parts of Franks and Beans.  But dammit, we keep trying.

“High School” the episode is, in a few ways at least, like high school the four-year institution.  It’s awkward at times and there’s no chance of girls going out with me (seriously, it’s not like I was a leper or anything), but there’s greatness waiting to come out.  Hopefully, as we continue to release these episodes on our BRAND! NEW! WEBSITE!, that will prove itself.

As always, both Larry and I thank you from the bottom of our blood-rich hearts for taking the time to watch our stupid videos and browsing the still-in-construction site (some things never change…).  If you like something, please, leave a comment.  If you hate it, leave a comment.  If you hate it and want to fight me, leave a comment with your address and I’ll be around sooner or later to beat your ass.  In any case, we do appreciate the views and the support.  Lots more to come.  Stay tuned!

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