Originally Published 3.29.09
I’m posting this from an airport in Phoenix. It feels quite business-like. This is how dedicated I am, people!
If you never knew just how self-referential Franks and Beans could get, just watch the dramatic reenactment of our very first episode in this tale of new beginnings, this springtime flower that is episode 25, “The Long Run”. In addition to sounding like a mix between a Bob Hope road movie and an Ernest Hemingway novel, this episode asks some underlying questions that “High School” left tantalizingly unanswered. Or perhaps you never asked those questions and find my assumptions unbecoming. Either way, dammit, I’ve got a story to tell, and I’m going to tell it.
“The Long Run” obviously has its origins in the beginning of the series; in many ways Larry and I saw this as a symbolic nod in the direction of everything that our self-proclaimed first season had become. As the first episode in our second season (why we chose this as our relaunching point is anyone’s guess), this episode is more than just an extended version of “High School’s” signature opening scene, but it still serves as a reminder of what came before.
Thinking back to the show’s first few days, I can remember just what I had planned for the series. The first episode, complete with character development and an easy-to-follow storyline, would be followed by a second in which the main plot – trying to get back into high school in order to reclaim some long-lost glory – would be furthered by new jokes and an expanding cast. I had plans to film in the actual high school of record (the one we drove to and quickly from in the first episode), and even a lengthy joke where Larry would point out how my ever-encroaching hair loss would make it difficult for me to pass as the average student (“I’ll wear a hat!” would have been my well planned reply).
As it turned out, putting together something of that magnitude would have been next to impossible to accomplish. If nothing else, two guys in their mid-to-late twenties walking around a high school with a video camera was sure to arouse some suspicion. And beyond that, this plan might have netted us…what, five episodes? A half dozen if we were lucky? No, the evolution of Franks and Beans into what it is now was quick and necessary. We do have recurring characters and plotlines, but by and large, the show is propelled by the “joke of the week” mentality.
“The Long Run”, in some subversive way, is the expression of that mentality in relation to the show’s original intentions. Here I am, running with an apparent goal in mind, determined to accomplish whatever I’ve set out to do, when all of a sudden I get flattened by a car. This IS the evolution of Franks and Beans. Do you get it?! Is it funny?! I hope so.
Other than being a representation of the show in general, “The Long Run” discusses some other questions that I’ve had since the first episode aired roughly fourteen months ago. In “High School”, much of the opening sequence is simply my character running as fast as he could. I think you could look at this in one of two ways – either what I had to tell Larry was so important that I couldn’t stop for anything, or this is how I arrived every time I decided to visit. The second option is, I think, the funnier of the two in a physical sort of way, and as such I had plans of mentioning my character’s exhaustive sprints in every few episodes – showing me running up the driveway or bursting in the door or what have you. Would I have had an important announcement or a new impossible challenge with every entrance? It’s possible, but as with anything, the possibilities were limited. So if nothing else, this episode again begs the question, “why does he run like that?!” Not answering it in episode 25 makes it all the better, I think.
Another connection I wanted to make, at least at first, was the importance of my message in relation to the distance I traveled. I ran for about ten seconds in the first episode with news that I thought would be life changing. What kind of message would I have if I then extended my journey by as much as I did? I wanted to raise expectations – the longer I ran the more pressing the question would be. And then it ends with a solution that is not at all satisfying, but at the same time the only one possible. An ending as abrupt as my apparent death hopefully had the desired effect: unexpected surprise. I wanted the episode to be all buildup and just a tiny bit of solution, which hopefully it was.
As the shots in the episode progressed, we see a number of different occurrences that might have the propensity to slip on by: the dog that decided to chase me the entire length of its property; the reality shot where Larry chugs on after me down the road; the many times I regretted eating right before I decided to undertake this; the similarity of the last few shots with the opening of “High School”; Larry’s masterful editing job in making all of the scenes match up even though some were filmed at different times of day.
If you’re wondering why we never actually see me getting hit by Larry in his Jeep, it’s because that faking something like that is HARD! When it came down to it, out biggest obstacle was the slant of the road, followed closely by the fact that concrete is hard and my body is covered almost entirely by soft pink flesh. My momentum would carry me downhill to the point where it would be almost impossible to stop myself and fall backwards at the rate the Jeep was traveling. If we had more time (all of our episodes are filmed on a relatively tight schedule), I would have extended the running even more until we came to a more level piece of ground. Even so, the solution to our problems was probably the most effective way to end the episode – cut it just a little short and leave the obvious to the imagination. That way the physical restrictions don’t have a chance to overshadow the joke.
I understand that “The Long Run” isn’t going to be the episode that puts Franks and Beans on the map, but it was satisfying from a creator’s standpoint, if nothing else. It tied our first season in with our ongoing second, and it brought back some more of the absurdities from our much-beloved pilot episode. Why does Jeff do all of that running in “High School”? Well, now we’ll never know. Because he’s dead.