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 19 – The Stalker

Originally published 9.08.08

In a moment of extreme irony, Larry now actually loves to blog.  He does!  You can follow his Dukes of Hazzard Blog here:

There aren’t very many episodes of Franks and Beans that have anything that resembles a plot.  I realize this, and I make no apology for it.  Okay, maybe a small apology, but I show no remorse in any case.  We started out so well, too – “High School” opened the series with hopes of coherent plot points to come, and “Message Board”, the seven-minute Hindenburg of a joke, gave us another glimpse, but in all likelihood, if you’d close your eyes and pick an episode to watch at random (this is fun to do at parties), you’d end up watching something that contained one joke and the buildup to it (see: “The Change”, “You’ll Never See It Coming”, “Milkshake”, etc.).  Our monumental seventeenth episode, “Stalker”, breaks the trend and has something loosely resembling a plot.  How long until we can say this again?  Don’t hold your breath.

We start off this episode with a few jokes that are held a little close to the vest, so to speak.  If you’ve ever wondered if our characters on this show were just roles that we play, your question was answered the minute you played “Stalker” and saw Larry sitting down to get his blogging fix.  You see, Larry hates blogging, just as he hates blogs in general.  There is a long, sordid story behind this that we will not get into here, but trust me, it’s true.  Larry won’t even write the Franks and Beans blog, and he’s ON the damn show!  So hey, there you go – inside information on a joke that probably only Larry and I find funny.

We also manage to squeeze a nod in to one of our previous episodes, the aforementioned “Message Board”.  In it, Larry comments that I have been spending too much time at his house, a point soon exemplified when I receive my own mail courtesy of the character known as “Larry’s Mom”.  So my head twist in this current episode when Larry gets a mail call of his own is not, in fact, a nervous twitch or the onset of some terrible disease, but my own silent recognition that, somewhere out there, I have been in this situation before.

We shot the “Larry opens his letter and accuses Jeff” scene a few different times, and to be honest, I thought that one of the later takes might been a better choice to make the final cut (as we tend to step on each other’s lines a bit in this take).  But Larry is a strict and belligerent editor so I bow to his will.  One benefit of keeping this particular try is that I get to utter one of my best lines in the series: “Pffft.”  And to think – this was IMPROVISATIONAL!  My abilities know no limits!!

The effect of the flour (not actually anthrax) puffing outwardly from the curiously already-opened envelope is a real treat, in that Larry added the entire thing in post.  The real test of an effect is how much it stands out once you see the end product, and I can honestly say that I didn’t realize that it was a special effect until Larry pointed it out to me.  I just thought we got really lucky with the way the room was lit or something ridiculous like that, but to know that it was all added in later was, I thought, very impressive.

We find ourselves joined in this episode not only by another cameo from the character known as “Larry’s Mom”, but also from our mysterious stalker.  Just who is behind the mask I will not say, other than by saying that it is our old friend and now regular extra “Hardcore Mark”.  A different character of course, but that is the nature of extras, and I should know, because I am totally on “One Tree Hill” this season as just that (an extra, not a stalker.  Though if they wanted me to play that, I probably would if I had my motivation set early on in the shooting).  It seems that Larry had this entire outfit just lying around the house, so we decided to put it to good use, and Mark does not disappoint in his two actions: standing very still and dancing like a fool.

So now we are back to our popular themes of violence and music.  I honestly did not plan to have so many episodes with either or both in a row, but it seems that we have to live with what we’re given, and you, loyal viewer/blog reader are no different.  Embrace this repetition of themes!  Learn to love the calming familiarity!  And stop walking around like you’re so much better than everyone else!  Man!

But the fact remains, there is a discernable pattern here, and I hope that it isn’t a distraction.  If it is…well, I really do apologize.  I do strive to make this show, as cut-rate and unprofessional as it is, funny to at least a select few.  That’s always been the goal, to make something that we can laugh at, and I hope that we’re doing an okay job.

Our “No!” ending this time around harkens back to a time when our endings were very simple and just featured Larry opening a door and uttering a one-word line.  The plan was to make Larry pop up from below the frame, like he was, say, riding an elevator to some fictional second floor.  You know, like how people walk behind couches like there’s some magical invisible escalator back there?  “Oh ho!  Next floor, laundry!”  As it is, it kind of looks like Larry is standing up from just below the camera lens, which is when I realized: pretending to be on an elevator for laughs is HARD!  But hopefully everyone got the inference, anyway.  If not, well, there’s always next week.  There’s ALWAYS next week…that’s something I try to think about often when it comes to this show.

Hmm, is that it?  Yes, I suppose it is.  If I missed something, feel free to let me know, because, heck, it’s always great to hear from people who have watched the show.  If you have an opinion, both Larry and I would love to hear it!