Blog 51 – 8-Bits of Wonder

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Blog 50 – The Rating Game

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The second season of Franks and Beans comes to a close with episode 48: The Rating Game, and Larry and I wanted to go out with as “big” an episode as we could possibly muster.  With no budget and one camera, the idea of “big” is relative, but we wanted to do as much as we could.  Our luck was running high on this day, as we were able to (gasp) shoot at a different location and (coronary) include five guest stars in one of our longest episodes of the series.

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Our first guest was Larry’s mom, who revived her role as “person who hands mail to Larry”.  Judging by how Larry takes the mail out of its envelope, she is apparently also the person who reads Larry’s mail beforehand and then doesn’t do anything to hide the fact that she is committing a federal offense.  Oh, and she interrupts a perfectly improvised scat in the process.

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There are many things that I learned from this episode, which in itself is a bit of a commentary on the show, as Larry and I openly refer to Franks and Beans as a concept, while filming for the show we are discussing (whatever).  The first of these lessons is that I should probably not wear this shirt anymore (which I still have), because a dark black top makes my skin look like it is being deprived of oxygen or something.  Maybe it’s the lighting.  But then there’s Larry, who comparatively looks like a bronzed Adonis (which is a really laughable concept if you think about it) when sitting next to me.

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The Franks and Beans official YouTube ratings have always been an…interesting point of discussion between Larry and myself, and our next guest, “Hardcore Mark” Moncheck (Larry, did Mark give himself that nickname?) illustrates our plot point by laughing at the “NO!” ending to one of our first episodes.  Oh!  And check out that Tree Hugger shirt!  It almost constitutes a guest appearance on its own.

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Larry’s beloved Jeep was literally traded in in the “Cash for Clunkers” program, and here we debut Larry’s new-ish Honda.  I love the scene where Larry and I, after a bout of depression, bolt out of the door, putting clothing accessories on as we run.  The “new car” joke is a callback to, among other episodes, “High School”, and is probably not that funny, but Franks and Beans is nothing if not self referential.

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Let’s take a minute to talk about the day that this episode was filmed, an early spring day in which Larry and I drove up to Homestead and the Dave & Buster’s parking lot, and all of the favors we called in to make this happen.  This day in March just happened to be the day of my brother-in-law’s wedding rehearsal.  Rather than try to be a supportive groomsman and help make an important day less stressful, I thought it’d be a good idea to get everyone to film an episode of Franks and Beans, shooting some scenes like the one pictured above as others went about fulfilling obligations.

The groom-to-be was Josh, known to the Franks and Beans word (as explained earlier: Mark) as “Replacement Larry” from the episode, uh, “Replacement Larry”, even took the time to be in this damn episode as everyone else waited on him to start eating.  After his scene, which took two takes, he ran very fast back into the building where he was probably yelled at.

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Josh is a well-connected individual, and by that I mean something other than his obvious ties to organized crime.  He was able to put me in touch with two people who are ACTUALLY ACTORS (I cannot stress this enough) and were in town, from Los Angeles, for the wedding.  First up is Heather Comstock, who, among other things, has at times painstakingly and meticulously entered in closed captioning text for various industry productions (her IMDB page proves that I am not a liar).  Heather, without ever having actually met either of us, graciously provided the line “Franks and Beans sounds like a gay porno troupe”, which to her (and, I guess, everyone else) had absolutely no context.  The fact that she did not know who we were probably helped in getting her to agree to be on the show.

In any case, I was pretty stunned at how well she acted out the scene, which caused me to be 1) embarrassed at how poorly Larry and I act, and 2) a bit starstruck at how well someone else could do it.  To this day, Larry tells me that he thinks I have a crush on this poor girl, to which I have no reply other than to remind Larry that there exists plenty of blackmail-able information on his part as well.

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Next up is Matt Easton, of whom we discusses extensively in our last post, so I won’t bother with the obsequiousness here, other than to say that Matt is a legitimate actor who might one day have his SAG membership revoked due to his appearance on Franks and Beans.  Check out his IMDB page.

Oh, and he was the best man in Josh’s wedding.

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Second only to the “gay porno troupe” line must be “#$%$ you, Frankenberry”, made in the quickly fading light as unsuspecting people, just looking for a night out to distract them from their terrible, stress-filled existences, walked by and into Franks and Beans immortalit as unintentional extras.

The idea of my character being more concerned with views for our videos than losing my wallet or, say, grand theft auto, was a bit of an understated end to a more ostentatious episode, but hopefully it wasn’t lost on anyone.  And it’s nice to know that I still look deathly pale in that damn black shirt from beginning to end.

Overall, the point is, watch Franks and Beans.  Watch it, damn you, and tell your friends to watch it.  There are more than seven billion people on this earth.  Is it too much to ask that at least half of them watch out show?  I don’t think it is.

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Our “NO!” ending is actually a “YES!” ending, as Larry and I switch roles for the final episode of all seasons.  That might not have been clear earlier, as before this there was only…one…such ending.  Larry was totally jealous of me as we finished editing, late into the evening.  “You always get the best ones”, he said, which I suppose meant that he was impressed with our work on “The Rating Game”, but I just took as sour grapes.  #$%$ you, Frankenberry.

Blog 49 – Green

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Come with me
And you’ll be
In a world where Franks and Beans posts updates

Take a look
And you’ll see
This is actually an update

What a day!  A nice day to come back to this damn website and act like I’m not ignoring it.  If it makes you feel any better, content-starved reader, I’ve also been ignoring my other website obligations over at teddyandtheyeti.blogspot.com.  Go ahead, click the link!  It’s the same as it’s been since October.  This probably does not make you feel any better.

Let’s not let that get us down, though.  Let’s talk about the psychedelic 47th episode of Franks and Beans, the barely named “Green”!  Why is it called “Green”?  That’s a mystery for another time, folks.

And that time is RIGHT NOW!  You may be saying, “but time hasn’t passed at all!”  To which I reply, the barely noticeable portion of existence that has moved inexorably forward counts as “another time”.  Also, I just remembered that the title actually had two meanings, one obvious and the other…slightly less obvious.

This episode of Franks and Beans marks the very first appearance of the official Franks and Beans green screen!  I am legitimately proud to have this item, even though I bought it from eBay and it’s basically just an oversized table cloth.  But it’s one of the few props we own and we’ve put it to good use in both this and subsequent episodes.  It currently sits in the Franks and Beans vault, folded neatly in an airtight container.

This episode also features a Larry who is very…green with envy (see what we did?  That’s called depth).  Why does he feel the pull of avarice?

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Because of another Franks and Beans prop…a big pile of money.  There is easily $500 here, enough to buy things like sound equipment or something, and most of it is thanks to Larry’s real and strange need to carry hundreds of dollars around on him at any given moment.  That’s right – if you see Larry out in public, rob him and gain access to hundreds of new (to you) dollars.  If you rob me…I will have less.

What follows next is an obvious take on the “angel on your shoulder” gag:

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We honestly learned a lot about what we could and probably shouldn’t do with the green screen from this sequence here.  Simply to fit on Larry’s shoulders, it might have been a good idea to shrink tiny Larry and tiny Jeff down a bit more, but at that point we started to lose character recognition.  It’s also a good thing that Larry has since cut off his Samson-like locks, as his ponytail phases through our tiny doppelgängers more than once.  Maybe next time we’ll use one of those tennis balls on a string or something.

Our goal for this episode was to devolve into weirder and weirder things as Larry’s fantasy went on, which started off with a lovely rendition of “Pure Imagination”, straight from the 1971 classic “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” as we explored the solar system (from a since-lost YouTube video) in the background.

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Our green screen worked overtime as Larry and I flew in the background of the scene.  We draped the screen over a stool and tried our best at planking, which I’m not even sure was a thing at the time we filmed it.  Sharp-eyed viewers will notice a tiny cameo in this sequence from Mitch Mitchell, who I think stopped over to take some pictures of baked beans or something.  He shows up again in a few episodes.

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The final freak-out sequence concludes with multiple versions of Jeff, all singing the same note, and wouldn’t that be something?  But alas, it was not to be, as one by one, as clones all straining to share the same life force, they started to fall.

This brings us to our big conclusion, in which we discover that Larry has a terrible medical condition that should probably be termed seizures, but for some reason I call a stroke.  In either case, we’re making fun of a serious condition, and I for one couldn’t be happier with the payoff.  All of the genuinely weird things that happen all come to a head in one tragic incident.

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Our “NO!” ending continues what I feel is a very ambitious episode as Larry, apparently, has been transported to a world where people only speak by foghorn.  The double foghorn at the end (which really sells the ending) is actually just another version of the “same note” joke that multiple Jeff performed earlier in the episode.  I don’t know why repeating the same sound on top of the original does something for me, but it does.

Well, we’ve got one more episode to go in our illustrious second season.  How long until we get to season three?  Um…2015.  Let’s go with that.