Blog 31 – Death and Taxes

 

Originally Published 5.14.10

You know the old phrase, “don’t believe everything you see on TV”?  Or, wait…maybe it’s “don’t believe everything you read on the Internet”.  No, it’s about hearing stuff, right?  “Don’t believe everything you hear”.  Oh, whatever – the point I’m trying to make is that there’s a phrase that people repeat often, and it has something to do with not believing stuff…that you would…otherwise…

Oh hell, let’s just cut our losses and move forward in this long-awaited discussion of Franks and Beans’ edutainmental 29th episode, “Death and Taxes”.  Do you like what I did there?  I combined three separate words to make one fantastic new one: educational, entertaining, and mental to create “edutainmental”.  “Mental” just because it fit so nicely.  Write it down, you saw it here first.

I wouldn’t say that Franks and Beans is necessarily a parody of anything in particular, though it does obviously have some parodic moments – the consistent “No!” endings being the best example – and this episode certainly falls into that category nearly from start to finish.  It’s hard to choose which of the many parodies is the most obvious, even, so let’s just start with the first one, in which we go so far as to even use a line of dialogue to point out the fact that we’re mocking some other form of pop culture.

In this case, it’s the “obligatory nervous guy” who happens to populate a high percentage of movietown, so it seems.  It happens so often that I don’t know that I can even name a specific example, but hopefully I don’t have to – every once in a while you’ll see a movie – usually a comedy – where it’s one character’s job to be uptight and stuffy while another character – the protagonist, in most cases – causes mischief and wreaks havoc on an unsuspecting something-or-other.  Characters to fall into the category of “ne’er-do-well” include a free spirited grade school child, a happy-go-lucky college student, or Adam Sandler.  Characters to fall into the category of “obsessive worrier” usually represent some overbearing authority figure, including a high school principal, emotionally aloof parent, or anyone else in an Adam Sandler movie.

In the case of such antagonistic characters, it’s not uncommon to bear witness to their never-ending quests to relieve their ulcer-inducing conditions with what amounts to substance abuse, either by drinking entire bottles of Pepto Bismol or by munching maniacally on nondescript pills a handful at a time.  Thus is born the crux of this episode – the acknowledgement of these characters and the logical conclusion to the question I’ve always had about them: simply, if someone would just start eating dozens and dozens of prescription pills, wouldn’t there be any real consequences beyond showcasing how wacky a main character was?

Trying to handle your own taxes come April 15th is a stressful situation for some, to be sure, but the reason we chose Tax Day as our catalyst for this episode was because of the authoritative overseer that could lead us to our second scene.  Yes, the shot of Jeff face down on the table, ever-so-slightly seizing with pills scattered all around, is a funny one (if I can say so), but it’s really just a means to take us to our second scene, where I’m dead under a white sheet.  Why Larry and his family are so nonchalant about having a dead body rotting on the couch, and why they still treat it as if it has some viable life force remains a mystery, but it sure does help to set up the final – and I think best – joke of the regular episode.

“You’re arrested” follows in line with a few other episodes in that it ends on a crisp, definitive phrase.  The timing, as with the other examples, is really what makes or breaks the joke – in addition to, of course, the idea that arresting a dead guy is still fairly impossible.  It also brought this episode’s title full circle, and it’s not every day when that happens.  When it does, though…look out.

Overall, this episode does have a few clunky lines in it (“If there’s one thing I’ve learned from the movies, they’re absolutely true”…what?!), but I think the jokes are such that everyone can relate to them, and that’s really what we’re shooting for.  Oh, and I wasn’t really eating prescription pills in this episode…the pill bottle (washed beforehand to decrease the chances that I’d be taking estrogen supplements or something similar) was full of delicious Sweet Tarts.  Mmm.

Our “No!” ending for this episode, as I’m sure comes as no surprise, is our most involved to date.  It’s also noteworthy because Larry doesn’t actually say “No!” at all – though perhaps at this point that’s forgivable if for no other reason than the expectation of it was there.

An episode like “Death and Taxes” presented us with the perfect opportunity to cobble together a parody of NBC’s “The More You Know” campaign, and the message we were trying to get across – cynical as it may be – seemed to fit right in with the theme.

I find it ironic – and perhaps hypocritical – that we as a society feel the need to emphasize how bad certain drugs are, when we are able to turn right around in a metaphorical sense and advertise for other equally dangerous drugs.  This is the closest Franks and Beans has ever come to displaying any amount of social relevance or commentary, and I realize the danger in crossing the line between sketch comedy and pandering; there’s a time and a place for everything, but I don’t know that I really want Franks and Beans to delve too deeply into dredging up many of society’s ills.  The opportunity to point out some of the absurdities in how we can distinguish between some narcotics and the more “socially acceptable” ones, though, all the while spoofing the after-school-specialness of the “The More You Know” campaign, was too alluring in this case, and hopefully we did a decent job at getting the message across.

If nothing else, Larry and I had fun with props, as is evident by the fact that I decide to “step up” on something different in every camera shot and how I take drinks out of bottles labeled “alcohol” and “nicotine”, though I’m fairly sure neither were discernable on the screen.  The line “I’ll drink to that!” was an impromptu addition that I think really serves as a capstone on what was a very different, very interesting, and altogether “very special!” episode of Franks and Beans.  Social crusaders, both of us.

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