Blog 17 – Hats Off

Originally published 8.29.08

Our magical 15th episode of Franks and Beans is here in the way of “Hats Off”, the episode title of which I egregiously mislabeled in our last blog, and in it I think we’ve blown our entire graphics budget for the entire year (where did that zero dollars go?!).  The end result is, though, worth it in my opinion with the last ten or so seconds of this short sequence.

The premise of this episode came from a rather everyday phone call between Larry and myself.  The song “Hats Off to Larry”, the bubblegum break up/make up song from Del Shannon, has been something akin to an inside joke between the two of us since our college days (all the way back in the year…2002!) and my campus radio show.  Larry would call in and I’d pretend that he was an expert on some random subject and we’d talk on air – usually for to long for the station’s format – eventually devolving into television show ratings or news about comic books.  At any rate, when I would finally end Larry’s portion on the show and return to the regular music format, I would always lead us out with the Del Shannon hit of 1961.

Back to the recent phone call – Larry mentioned to me, in a rather offhand manner, that we might think about making a Franks and Beans episode similar to our fan favorite episode, “The Change”, but with the song as our main source of inspiration.  Larry would, he told me, walk through different settings, each time wearing and removing different hats.  The idea had promise, I thought, but I came to the conclusion that I’d rather point out that the joke we would be making would be almost 50 years old by this point.  Seriously, a lot of people can hum the tune to “Runaway”, but how many people know offhand who Del Shannon is?  I mean, I’m a big fan of music from that general time period and I don’t think I could name half a dozen songs from that particular group.

So the scene was set, and the result is what you see before you.  What I like most about this episode is the different, almost jarring feel you get with our two separate sequences.  When I take my hat off after the playing of the song, it seems like we just might end the episode there – and really, it would be a good enough, if not outdated joke if we had…very much in line with the Franks and Beans we’ve put out there before.  But when “Hardcore Mark” (remember when we used to call him this?  That was cute.) bursts through a side door into the scene (looking unabashedly dashing in his unbuttoned green shirt), even I have to admit that if I didn’t take place in the filming itself, I wouldn’t have seen it coming (if that makes any sense).

The line “Is it in the public domain?” was a late addition which I think underscores my general worst fear about Franks and Beans – getting the pants sued off of us due to all of our blatant copyright infringement.  In this episode alone, the Pittsburgh Steelers and the estate of Del Shannon might as well be holding a blade over our heads, as well as those performing the public domain composition of John Philip Sousa’s “Stars and Stripes Forever.”  And while it would be fantastic to have this show become really popular and spread all across the country and the world, I’d also really hate to get a cease-and-desist letter in the mail, a la the great internet program House of Cosbys.  It’s something that, honestly, neither Larry nor I think about as much as we probably should.

The graphics and sound effects at the end of this episode, as I mentioned before, are well beyond anything we’ve tried before, but Larry managed to pull it off masterfully to give it the amount of over-the-top flash that it called for.  In editing and typical episode of Franks and Beans, we’re probably dealing with two or three layers at the most: a video track, and audio track, and the title and end graphics – all fairly simple in design.  In the final “congratulations!” sequence alone, we used: the video feed of the three of us celebrating; video and diminished audio of fireworks bursting overhead; “Stars and Stripes Forever”; a bell ringing (which consisted of me ringing…get this…a bell outside of Larry’s front door); two different takes played back-to-back of Larry’s family and me cheering and clapping; three different graphic layers rotating simultaneously.  The fact that it all came together as nicely as it did is probably a combination of luck and skill, but I’d like to imagine it’s more of the latter.

In all, I hope that we captured the unsuspecting feel that we were going for in this episode.  While Franks and Beans carries with it a healthy feeling of uncertainly as far as continuity or even a dedication to reality, I hope that the sight of someone jumping unannounced through a doorway was as shocking as we intended it to be.  While the graphics (how’d you like the sing-a-long aspect of the song portion?  It was harder to make work than you might think!) might steal the show – and deservedly so – I dare to think that the overall punch line here was just as clever.