Blog 30 – Deus Ex Machina

 

Originally Published 4.18.10

Here it is, the episode Larry can’t pronounce and I’m not sure I understand.

If I had it to do all over again, “Deus Ex Machina” would have had a much more subversive ending to live up to the title.  Now that I think about it, there are probably more than a few things I would change with this 28th episode, but my baggy grey sweater is not one of them.  Seriously, look at that thing – it’s all comfy and non confrontational.  It’s like it’s saying “take a nap, I won’t judge you.”  Also, Larry is in this episode.

The opening shot of this episode harkens back to “iChat” in that we just kind of…begin.  There’s no lead in at all, and this is less of an artistic decision and more a product of the fact that thinking of some kind of relevant opening is actually really difficult.  That doesn’t mean we should just accept that as a creative limitation, but the truth is we are sometimes more concerned with the joke than we are with how we get there.  I won’t say that it takes something away from this episode, but it’s not something I really want to see continue.

I’ve mentioned this before, most recently in my commentary on “Replacement Larry”, but this is probably the best example of Larry using Franks and Beans as a showcase for his new obsessions – because in this case, there are two.  The first is the video game used for the opening shot, a highly addictive game called “NHL 3 on 3 Arcade”, which as you can tell by the name is a martial arts “Double Dragon”-style side scrolling game.  Or…wait.  Maybe I’m thinking of something else.  Anyway, the filming of this episode was predicated by an hour or so of “research”, in which I totally owned Larry game after game after game.  This is usually how things happen.  Larry buys a game and plays it for days at a time; I come for a visit, play once and completely destroy him time and again.  It’s a gift, really.

The second instance of Larry and his product placement just happens to be the main focus on this episode.  I will say that I’ve never – not once – seen Larry use his Bluetooth headset/ear-thing in real life.  This might be because I’m usually not standing right next to him when we’re talking on the phone, but this also might be a case similar to his weeklong trial with a Blackberry phone.  It’s new and exciting, yes, but does it seamlessly integrate into Larry’s life?  If not, then chances are it’s in a drawer somewhere in his house, waiting around to be unearthed in ten years’ time to be used in a Franks and Beans reunion movie, filmed entirely in glorious 5-D!  Wait, did I just say that Franks and Beans will no longer be filming new episodes in the year 2020?  NEVER!

While I sometimes have problems thinking of unique and acceptable openings for the show, I apparently never have an issue in deciding how Larry will leave a scene – he’s always going for something to eat.  ALWAYS.  This is not necessarily all that different from real life, in which sandwiches are never far out of reach.  They are pretty good, though.

Once Larry leaves the scene, we get into the heart of the episode, in which I am taken for all I’m worth by some invisible predator (not to be mistaken with the creature from the movie “Predator”.  It’s easy to mix them up).  This joke, admittedly, takes way too long to get to, and the build up isn’t necessarily worth the payoff that we get once we make our way to the end.  Having a one way conversation is challenging and, all things considered, I think this one worked out all right (I’m sure the audience appreciated looking at a still shot of me talking to myself, earpiece dangling precariously from my head), but looking back it seems that things played out exactly like you’d have expected them to.  Sure, this enforces the idea that my character is hopelessly ignorant in any kind of technological capacity and as such it has something of a “don’t open that door!!” parodic quality, but to me it seems a bit too predictable, and one thing I never want the show to be is predictable.  That “I guess I’ve gotten freaky” line was pretty good, though.

But let’s talk about this episode’s name.  What a name, right?  And it just came to me.  “God from the machine”, “Deus ex machina”…perfect!  Now if only we had an episode to match.  And no…that’s not my real Social Security number there at the end.  If by some fantastic coincidence I happened to guess someone else’s, please feel free to sign up for all the credit cards you’d like.  Once Dateline works its way back to me and this episode is played on network television, we’re sure to get that big break and the thousands of views we’ve been looking for.  Take that, random happenstance!

Once you are done watching this episode, I hope that you enjoy the simple wonderment that is our “No!” ending.  The surprise – unpredictability, perhaps! – of Larry using some goblin-like high-pitched voice catches me off guard nearly every time I watch it, and that – that! – is funny.  And just how many Steeler jerseys does Larry have, anyway?  Quite a few, my friend…quite a few.

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Blog 11 – An Old Joke

Originally posted 5.27.08

In this far-flung blog, I reference the San Diego Comic-Con.  Coincidence?  Or UNINTENTIONAL FORESHADOWING?

As the title suggests, the monumental 10th episode of Franks and Beans takes its cues from the old “You don’t say!” telephone joke.  The joke we’re parodying here is, in my opinion, one of the worst, most ridiculous jokes even invented, which is why I have such fondness for it.  No one has EVER picked up the phone and immediately said “you don’t say!”  One of these days, I’ll let that go.

Like You’ll Never See it Coming before it, An Old Joke is a one-trick pony.  You get one joke and no more!  You either like it or you don’t.  Well, hopefully you like it.

I come by this joke honestly, but I’ve actually used it before in another setting.  I’m going to go way out on a limb and assume that no one who actually reads this production blog knows that I also write comics.  Well, I try to write comics.  I mostly fail.  But one of my successes is Mr. Massive, of which I managed to squeeze out one whole issue(!), selling it at the 2006 San Diego Comic-Con.  Chances of the artist working on a second issue were always slim, but once he joined up with the Army and shipped off to South Korea, they bottomed out to, maybe, one sixteenth of a percent.  I worry that he’s gonna get shot one day, and then we’ll NEVER make more comics!  That would be a shame. (Life update: the artist is, as far as I know, still alive.  YES!!)

At any rate, I wrote a one-page script for the comic in which the two main characters played out the exact scene you see in this episode.  It was never produced, and because I hate wasting good ideas, it was an easy convert to Franks and Beans.

If there’s ever a trivia show that specializes in the most obscure questions in the history of earth, take solace in what I’m about to tell you: the video game we’re playing during this shoot is the new Madden football game for the Playstation 3.  What I thought would be a lively round of button smashing and joystick toggling is in reality rather boring to watch (the game is more replays and strategy than rushing and sacking), but Larry, to his detriment, owns a total of zero fighting games, which probably would have better served out purposes.  I did take some comfort, however, in playing as the New England Patriots, purposely humiliating myself as Larry trounced me as the Pittsburgh Steelers.  I hate the Patriots (as we all should), and seeing them lose, even though it was simulated losing, made me feel pretty good.  (It also felt pretty good seeing them lose in the Super Bowl…for the second time in two appearances.  Ha!)

Interestingly enough, we’ve paired this extra short episode with our longest ending yet, which, on some distant planet, could count as a joke in and of itself (thereby negating my one-joke comment from a second ago).  Now that we’ve established that we’re going to do the same basic thing after every single episode, we’re a little more free to vary from the core concept, and that’s what we’re beginning to do.  It’s becoming one of my favorite things to do with F&B, and this is a great example of that.

First of all, Larry deserves a lot of the credit for how well this turned out.  In my original vision, I was the one doing the filming and my angry comment would have come from behind the camera.  Larry suggested that we should both be in the shot, and the scene benefited from that.  He also dusted off an almost forgotten megaphone (apparently from a time when people were half the size they are today) which served as an absurd but surprisingly well-blended prop.

What made this scene work, though, was the apparent wellspring of hate and anger that both Larry and I have stored behind our good-natured personas.  We decided to shoot this scene with simple dialogue cues but no out-and-out script, relying on our natural abilities to argue about nothing in particular.  I hope you agree that the result was one of the funniest scenes of the series, even if it means that I have to reevaluate my newfound hatred for Larry.

Thanks, as always, for watching!