In many ways, our pixelated 49th episode, “8-Bits of Wonder”, represents what happens when concepts and ideas meet filming realities. It also highlights what bringing an established concept into the show can do for the interest other people might have in it, as this is one of our most viewed and most mentioned episodes of the series.
If our backdrop looks unfamiliar to you, then that’s because this was from a time when I lived in the magical realm of Wilmington, North Carolina, a place that combined a slow southern lifestyle with the natural beach terrain and about a thousand separate Waffle Houses (just in case you missed the one the block before) in a Quixotic jumble that perplexes me to this day. Oh, and I also did like six episodes of “One Tree Hill” when I was there.
Larry, after years of bluster and professing how much he loved the beach, actually flew down for a visit, and it was impossible not to expect to film an episode while he was in town. Naturally, though, we put off filming until almost the very last minute, didn’t decide on a plot until it was almost too late, and started filming as the sun was starting to set. Even so, luck was with us and things came together quickly, mostly spurred on by Larry’s obsession of the week,
Caitlin McKinstry a Super Mario Bros.-themed app that would play music from the various NES-era games. It wasn’t long before the episode was born, one in which we hit on many of the classic functions of the game, including great family favorites like fire, greed and death.
Our guest star for this episode is our good friend Caitlin McKinstry, who lived in Wilmington at the time and probably didn’t know what she was getting herself into when she agreed to be on the show. We naturally gave Caitlin all of the action in this episode. Who can forget that time where Caitlin looks at her phone (it might actually have been an iPod at this point)? Or when she kneels down and asks questions? Or when we see the back of her head in shot after shot? Classic “Action” McKinstry.
One of the things you might notice is that throughout this episode, it appears that I am running not only through an indeterminate length of space, but also quickly across the fulcrum of time, as the darkness hastily settles in as the episode moves along. After filming in the residential community (full of people wondering why we were running through it), we drove a few blocks over to the campus of the University of Wilmington, North Carolina, where we searched for a flagpole and wondered what we were going to do about the fact that it was, at this point, nighttime. Larry helpfully (?) offered up his new smartphone flashlight (he was proud of this) as a source of illumination, but we instead chose the athletic field (a game of baseball going on a few dozen yards over) for the final scene.
One unanticipated problem was just how noisy the hum from these floodlights would be, like some lanky, giant, pole-shaped insect buzzing ominously overhead. Because of this, we recorded both Caitlin’s line and Larry’s sobs after the fact, something that you’d NEVER KNOW from watching the actual video and hearing the depth of emotion from both of these performances. I am grateful for the padding on the base of the pole, presumably put there in case someone is flung into it, as Larry didn’t hold much back when performing my last Mario Bros.-themed wish.
My brother-in-law suggested that we should have had a green “1up” mushroom fall from the sky, bringing me back to life at the end of the episode. This is a fantastic suggestion, and one that we could consider for an alternate ending. All you have to do is make it up in your head and voilà! It exists! We’re not going to hold your hand here, people.
Our “NO!” ending features Larry’s remorse over the loss of his long, professional wrestler-like hair. You may ask yourself, if Larry was so sad over having to cut his hair, in some Samson-esque folly, why didn’t he just decide to keep it, or why hasn’t he chosen to grow it back in the intervening years between now and when this episode was filmed, more than four years ago? The answers to this question are “it’s complicated”, “mind your own business”, “instead look at this Goonies shirt”, and “his girlfriend made him do it”.
This is the first episode in the long running (…) season three of Franks and Beans. Did you get how I just said “running”? I did that on purpose. Because the Franks and Beans blog is full of deep meaning. Also, Larry’s girlfriend made him cut his hair.