Blog 40 – Who Do You Think You Are?

Who Do You Think You Are screenshot 01

“Who Do You Think You Are”, in the running (because this isn’t something objective and measurable, of course) for the shortest Franks and Beans episode, has one joke in it.  This puts it ahead of some other Franks and Beans episodes (hey-ooo!).

And with THAT joke, this blog post now has more than some others.  Hey…hey-oo…ooo.

Oh well, the first one was better, but what can you do.

The joke in this episode is easy to spot but perhaps is more difficult to define.  Simply, we’re posing a rhetorical question and then answering it even though it is both rhetorical as well as visual.  So the obvious nature of the answer, and the fact that dammit, we still go ahead and answer it, is what I enjoy about this little clip.

Larry, undoubtedly, enjoys the fact that we’re using his Halloween costumes as a sight gag in episodes and not just as a sight gag at the end of episodes.  But really, why would you want to waste a perfectly good Hulk Hogan costume, anyway?  So it’s almost like we had to use it, and thus we did for a second time in the show.  That’s a pretty nice mustache, Larry.

Who Do You Think You Are screenshot 02The “NO!” ending to this episode (according to the screen shot, complete with a tiny “0:18” in the bottom right corner) is bittersweet considering the recent past for the Steelers.  This was filmed in advance of Super Bowl XLV in early 2011, and as with any great team, time marches on and situations have changed for our beloved black-and-gold squad.  It seems the last few pieces, with a couple notable exceptions, of the Super Bowl XL-XLIII-XLV teams are moving on.  Hines Ward, whose jersey Larry wears in this literally head-shaking ending, has retired, and today news comes that the Steelers have released 2008 defensive player of the year James Harrison.  It’s a shame that these things have to happen, but I hope that it’s merely a precursor for more glory to come in the near future.  Thanks for all the memories, Silverback.


Blog 39 – Chunky

Chunky screen shotCampbell’s Chunky Soup is a notable sponsor of the NFL and has been for years, though perhaps not as much as in years past, when Donovan McNabb and his mother starred in a long string of commercials for the soup (that eats like a meal).  During the run-up to Super Bowl XL, Campbell’s took full advantage of the Jerome Bettis media blitz and sponsored several events with Bettis and McNabb, even going so far as putting each of their mothers on people-sized scales (with cans of soup on the other end) to raise money for charity.

But now, Bettis is retired and no one likes McNabb anymore for some reason.  Time goes on.  But our barf-tacular 37th episode, “Chunky” is here to stay, oh yes.  Do you hear that, world?  Franks and Beans will never leave you!  We’re like a best friend, a guy living in your basement, or an unfortunate and stubborn rash, and this episode exemplifies that idea.

The main thrust of this episode, I suppose, comes down to the idea of “wouldn’t it be gross to eat vomit?”  And as someone who has thrown up a few times in the past, I would have to say that yeah, it probably would be.

If there is a problem with this episode, it may lie with the fact that there’s really no surprise in what the joke is ultimately going to be.  Once Larry puts his container of puke (patent pending) on the counter, it’s pretty obvious that something terrible is going to happen with it, and we lay it out pretty clearly once Larry tells Jeff that he can have some of the soup that’s on the counter.  I guess, though, that whether it was obvious or not, the joke depends much more on the gross out factor than it does on the element of surprise, so in a way it can still succeed.

One thing that I learned from this episode is that clam chowder is actually pretty gross in and of itself.  Larry loves the stuff, so I went ahead and bough a can of it for the episode.  We ate it cold, for some unknown reason, and that may have had something to do with it, but I’ve never been a fan of seafood before and this event didn’t change my opinion.  I also don’t like to eat barf.

The “NO!” ending for this episode comes from, of course, the GI Joe cartoon.  We chose it because – get this! – “Joe” sounds like of like “No” and that’s all we were really looking for.  So if there is any significant catch phrase that ends in “bow”, “doe”, “foe”, “go”, “hoe”, “low”, “mow”, “oh”, “Poe”, “quo”, “row”, “sow”, “tow” or “woe”, chances are that we’re going to get to it one day.  So…look out for that.


Blog 38 – Behind the Scenes

Behind the Scenes screen shot

This episode of Franks and Beans, the Jerome Bettis-like 36th installment, is a pretty good example of a solid idea that could have used a little more fine tuning before unleashing it upon the world.  Overall, I think that the joke of the episode comes across well and that, unlike a few other episodes (*cough*eBay*cough*), it doesn’t run on too long before the payoff, leading to perhaps a logical but nonetheless satisfactory ending.

Let’s break this episode down, then, at least just a little bit.  I mean, I probably could just leave this blog as is with the first paragraph in tact and be done with it, happy that I’ve written yet another exciting blog to post on the site that’s already full of them (literally bursting!).  But that would be a cop-out, and if I’m going to update this site on average three times a month, then dammit, these blogs are going to be more than two paragraphs long.  If this were a Twitter site, I would perhaps add the hashtag #qualitycontrol or maybe #TheLeastICouldDo, but this is not Twitter, and damn you for implying that it is.  Also, you can follow both me (@JeffMcClelland) and Larry (@LarryAFranks) on Twitter if you choose. I don’t know why I brought that up.

This episode follows in the same theme as previous ones like “How To”, which also dealt with the idea of the “making of” Franks and Beans followed by a quick, one-off joke surrounding the idea that Larry does more than I do in regard to the show.  It was fertile ground enough, though, that both episodes can peacefully coexist without having one overshadow the other.

One of the big reasons, honestly, that Larry and I wanted to do this particular episode was to give us a chance to feature the terrible, horribly out-of-date JVC linear editing machine before we threw it off a bridge or something.  This was the machine that Larry and I both cut our teeth on (#old) in high school as we were creating embarrassing videos at whim (#FranksAndBeansLite).  We never, ever, ever actually used it in the production of an actual episode, and as the video featured on the tiny screens (#KillSwitch) can testify to, as it flickers and jumps, it would have been a disaster if we had even tried for novelty’s sake.  Why didn’t we just film that damn scene over again?  I can’t even guess, other than to guess (#hypocrite) that we were trying to go with a very conversational, improvisational approach to the episode come hell or high water.

My tiny scene near the end does a good job at capturing the essence of Franks and Beans, the irreverent nature and the fact that we’ll always go for a joke regardless of how crass it might be (#toilethumor).  Rest assured that in real life, I only come up with ideas in a highly sterile, hypoallergenic room with no furniture and four bright white walls with, perhaps, a hole in the middle of the floor where I can, in moments of despair, jump to my death in the event a good idea never does come to me (#gallowshumor).  But isn’t it fun to pretend that I do come up with ideas for Franks and Beans in mundane, common places like the shower, in the car or on the can?  Only the Shadow knows (#pulphumor).

Our highly-anticipated NO! ending (#noooo) features Larry’s at the time…I think…new piece of technology, the PlayStation 3, otherwise known as the gaming system that refuses to play “Return Fire” for the original PlayStation, no matter how awesome a game it is.  In fact, I remember playing that game in high school as well.  #Synchronicity!


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.

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.