Originally posted 7.31.08
In many ways, episode five, “Grapes”, is quintessential Franks and Beans. It has (attempts at) singing, a lesson to be learned, seemingly unrelated asides, uh…the word “ass”…
Our fifth episode takes us back to the beginnings of Franks and Beans. I’ll probably get all retrospective when we finally get to talking about episode one, but it bears at least some mentioning now because the first five episodes were filmed over the same several days. You can tell, I think, that there are a lot of similar themes being played out over these first few shows, culminating with “Grapes.”
The first shot we see in this episode is a rather ingenious one. I’m sure it’s been done before, but I like at least the idea of unconventional camera shots and angles, and having the camera sitting in a refrigerator along with the leftovers certainly qualifies. If there’s one thing that bugs me, though, it’s that due to some file size restrictions, viewers are never going to see how well this shot actually turned out. We are, in reality, filming this show with a very nice camera (not in Hollywood terms, I’m sure, but relative to other shows with zero budget we’re ahead of the game), one that records digitally and has the capability to shoot in HD, but Larry has to decrease the signal quality in the editing process to make it fit under the 256 megabyte limit enforced by the Funny or Die team (oh, how we grew to hate Funny or Die. HATE I TELL YOU!). How this first shot looked to us and how viewers can see it really illustrates the difference.
For us, it was like we were the grapes – born and raised on some sunny California grapevine, plucked by underpaid migrant workers and shipped to the extra-moist shelves of the local Foodland. For you, loyal viewers, it’s merely like you’re the grapes’ socially ostracized cousins, seeing some of the glimmer but not getting any of the communal benefits (and do you even have a Foodland?). The metaphor is weak, I know, but seriously – we could see individual drops of moisture on the playback after shooting. To see the opening shot dulled, regardless of the necessity of the matter, is a little disappointing.
As we move a little further through the episode, we come across what just may be my favorite line of the entire series – “They’re good for my libido; don’t worry about it.” For a while, this was going to be the title of the episode, but we went with something a little shorter in the end. There is no meaning to this phrase at all, at least in connection to the overall joke in this episode, and yet it still sticks out in part because of that randomness. As Larry and I were rehearsing for the conversation in this scene (we actually do practice…sometimes), it just seemed to show up unannounced. It had to be kept. I’d like to point out the nice editing work Larry did at this point, as he added in a zoom where there was none originally. It saved us from having two shots placed back-to-back that were too similar to be of any use.
Singing in Franks and Beans is nothing new, and mocking Larry for his freakishly large head in real life is likewise rather commonplace, so it felt natural to combine those two elements into this next overall joke. It should be pointed out, however, that Larry does still have all of his hair, while mine is becoming precariously thinner by the day, so I guess that’s one for ol’ Lar, and good for him. Saying that no one will ever love Larry does come off rather mean, I suppose, but – and I might just be falling for my character’s own line of thinking in saying this – I think it is easier to handle just by the fact that I’m singing the bad news. I could be wrong.
We have in this episode the first appearance of the character “Lauren”, named for a friend from grad school. This just might end up being her only appearance, as Larry’s sister (if you didn’t notice the resemblance you should probably be shot) isn’t necessarily the biggest proponent of acting in some random internet television show (for whatever reason); I had planned on using her in the episode “Mustache”, but she backed out and has turned down any subsequent requests to reprise her role. This is a shame because it limits Franks and Beans in the jokes we can tell. Well, I guess it only limits us in one area – I had planned on using Lauren as my character’s source of unrequited love, a big subplot where I would get humiliated and rejected time and time again. There’s really nothing funnier than a guy getting his hopes crushed, in my opinion, and let’s face it – we’re kind of limited with our pool of available extras as it is.
“Bring that sweet ass over here” is bound to be on a t-shirt one day…if it isn’t already, and ‘Lauren’s’ responding distain is perfect. We had to shoot this scene about thirty times before we got it right, delaying dinner at Larry’s house…and if you’ve ever been to Larry’s house, you know just how serious they take their early evening meal. Even though I ate all the spaghetti I could stuff down my gullet that night, I did so with a wary eye to those around me.
When we had finished filming this entire sequence, I thought that “Grapes” was the best episode we’d ever done. I have other favorites now, but this episode, to me, shows a lot of the promise of Franks and Beans. I really think that we’re getting better at what we do, and this episode was a step in that direction.