Originally Published 1.18.09
Every time I watch this episode (not often), I reconfirm what a great idea it was, at least to me. I don’t know that I did a great job with the execution, but there are a lot of weird, funny ideas buried in “The Sweater”.
Thinking back to it, “iChat” has been one of the more successful episodes of Franks and Beans. That’s not to say that our 13th episode has garnered us fame or a huge increase in wealth (any more than our others have…that’s right, we’re rich…perhaps), but it seems to get more views than many of our other episodes. Despite having a rather awkward pause in the middle of this episode, “iChat” continues to be both memorable and popular. The question then becomes why this could be, and the answer seems to stand out – I take my pants off. Yes, after thinking long and hard for a reason (get it???), this is what is certainly causing the upswell of interest (okay, enough of that) in the episode. The next question, then, is simple. How do we replicate such success?
To this effect, we find episode 22, “The Sweater”. Although we come to the conclusion in a much different manner, the joke remains relatively the same – at some point in this episode, there will be people who are not wearing pants.
In truth, there aren’t many similarities between the two episodes in question, but there really doesn’t need to be to have the comparisons made. Look, we’re talking about simulated nudity here, the rest practically writes itself, right? Well, not exactly, but the point is a valid one.
Our scene dawns with what I believe to be the first appearance of my beloved Toyota Camry as a prop in Franks and Beans. I don’t know if “beloved” is the right term to use here, but Larry loves his Jeep so much that I feel obligated to have feelings toward my primary mode of transportation. I’m honestly just glad that the side with the missing hubcap is out of view, as it really brings out the auto negligence that many would probably otherwise accuse me with. At any rate, when my car eventually breaks (possibly in half), I can look back at this episode and feel comforted that it has at least been captured for posterity in some corner of the Internet (this has since happened).
As we needed a driveway and we needed to have Larry do something other than aimlessly stand for this scene, the basketball hoop, sad and neglected at the Franks household, served a purpose and became a small joke in and of itself. No one has ever looked at me and said “I’d be afraid to play basketball with that guy”, unless I had a gun or other weapon on me at the time, in which case the fear would be justified. Larry at least has an edge in height, though neither of us are what you might describe as “skilled”, “competent”, or even “having a better than 50 percent chance of beating young girls at a game where the hoop is twice as wide”. When Larry throws the ball over the backboard as I watch to see where it lands (it did actually travel pretty far), the underlying humor is that a game between the two of us would probably be pretty similar: I’d just stand there and Larry would throw the ball all over the place.
The main focus of this episode – the unsightly sweater – came to me as I was packing to return home for my Christmas break. As I rifled through the possibilities of what I could wear for church on Christmas Eve, it came to me: what is appropriate one day out of the year is inappropriate in every other instance.
Think about it. The sweater I have on in this episode (some of the detail of which is lost because it’s white and the sun is particularly bright) is a fluffy nightmare, and even though I’ve never been one to care much about fashion, I’d never think of wearing it outside of the house except for the stately once-a-year Christmas Eve church service. Think about it – 364 days out of the year, people would look at me like I was from another planet if I wore that thing, but on the day before Christmas, no one would bat an eye. It’s the incongruity of it all that I find funny.
The idea with this episode was to make it more and more ridiculous before finally revealing it to be a dream, which, hopefully came as a surprise without making everyone first write the entire thing off as too confusing. This is why we get the applesauce comment and the no pants gag, culminating with the wonderful effect of Larry flying out of the scene. This was one of the most difficult stunts to pull off simply because reversing film is usually so obvious that any humor is lost in the attempt. The idea behind it is easy to grasp – we’re just taking Larry jumping into the scene and playing it backwards. Quite often, though, it looks cheap and dumb, just like speeding up a scene (which the Munsters made famous or infamous, depending on the overuse) has the same effect. I think, though, that we were able to do a pretty good job with this one, maybe because the only line of dialogue is “Wheeeee!” I’d like to point out, though, that I was staring almost directly into the sun for most of this shot. At then end of our various takes, I was seeing spots and my eyes were watering, but the end product is probably better than I originally hoped for.
This all leads up to the end of the episode, of course, where we’re dealing with not only the sight gag of a pantsless Larry, but the culmination of most of the visual lead up from the earlier dream sequence. If this episode succeeded in its goals, there were a few things to take in at the end, and the buildup toward the shock of seeing my character’s nightmare become reality was that much more rewarding. Plus, I just love jokes that end with uncomfortable stares and the line “…what?” Seriously, much of the stuff I write ends with that. I should probably try to be less of a one-trick-pony. Whatever.
Our “No!” ending might be one of my favorites, and not just because I’m in it (although…). Around this time I gave thought to putting an end to this style of ending, but then this one came from out of the blue, with really no preparation or forethought. If we can come up with endings of this stature, we might as well keep them going until they really fall apart. The physical humor of getting hit by a door, I think, is obvious.