Blog 50 – The Rating Game

Ratings Game screenshot 10

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.

Ratings Game screenshot 01

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.

Ratings Game screenshot 02

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.

Ratings Game screenshot 04

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.

Ratings Game screenshot 05

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.

Ratings Game screenshot 07

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.

Ratings Game screenshot 08

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.

Rating Game screenshot 13

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.

Ratings Game screenshot 11

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.

Ratings Game screenshot 12

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.

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Blog 47 – Long Distance

Pittsburgh Comicon Spawn

The Pittsburgh Comicon used to be big time.  Back in the 1990s, when Larry wore South Park t-shirts and I wore hats for reasons other than to cover up hair loss, the yearly Pittsburgh Comicon was something to look forward to, especially as a way for young fans to meet up with professionals and other fans in a way that didn’t involve weird newsgroups that would inevitably devolve into searching for naked pictures of Pamela Anderson.   The Pittsburgh shows of the 1990s featured celebrities and big-time comic book creators whose work went all the way back to the Golden Age of comics in the 1930s and ’40s.  Heck, we even got our picture taken with Spawn, both some guy dressed in a costume and the actual Al Simmons, who I’m pretty sure got a booth and handed out stickers or something.

Jeff and Larry Action Comics 1The Pittsburgh Comicons of today just aren’t the same.  When the old Monroeville Convention Center closed down several of years ago, I remembering thinking, “thank goodness, now the show can move to a real location, like the state-of-the-art Pittsburgh Convention Center (located conveniently downtown)”.  But it turns out that the Comicon did not heed or receive my well-constructed thoughts, complete with parentheses, and to this day they remain in Monroeville, the least convenient location for an event that identifies itself by the adjective “Pittsburgh”.  These days, they don’t haul out copies of 1938’s Action Comics #1 anymore only to have a 16-year-old Larry almost knock it and millions of dollars worth of other comics off a shelf, no siree.

Pittsburgh Comicon Mart NodellAnd the Pittsburgh Comicon doesn’t seem to have guests like Mart Nodell, creator of Green Lantern, anymore.  One good reason for this is that Mr. Nodell has been dead for a few years.  Another is that…well, I’m not exactly sure why.  But when I think back to the heyday of the show and compare it to what it is now, well…there’s really no comparison, and this is a shame, because Pittsburgh deserves a nice mid-level comic book show.  It doesn’t have to be a media extravaganza like those in New York, Chicago or San Diego (or Toronto…or Seattle for that matter), but a comic-centered show with new talent and a better location are musts for the Pittsburgh Comicon to recapture its former glory.

Pittsburgh Comicon Chase Masterson

If the show ever regains some of its luster, perhaps I’ll wear a nice silver jumpsuit like our friend Chase Masterson, here.  As it is, Larry and I will settle for what we’re now able to do at the Pittsburgh Comicon, which is hastily film an episode of Franks and Beans while getting yelled at to not film an episode of Franks and Beans, namely our 45th episode, “Long Distance”.  I believe that at one point we were thinking of naming the episode “Comic-Con” or something of that nature, which would have been a bit of an overstatement, all things considered.

Long Distance screen shot 01Our episode begins with a collection of establishing shots, which is one of Larry’s editing signatures.  There are more exciting ways of introducing the necessary setting information, but with time constraints, this served well enough to get the point across: the episode apparently takes place at a convention with a disinterested Margot Kidder…

Long Distance screen shot 03…Scott McDaniel…

Long Distance screen shot 02

…some booths — WAIT, IS THAT THE WORLD FAMOUS WAGON WHEEL COMICS?  Publisher of Teddy and the Yeti?  Boy, what a coincidence to get that booth, empty in this shot for some reason, captured in a seemingly random sweep of the convention floor.

Long Distance screen shot 04 And also “Franks and Beans” star Jeff McClelland using a flip phone.  Oh, wait, this is part of the actual episode.

When I look back at this episode, I think that it’s got a decent joke that’s executed fairly well, but there’s always room for improvement.  I’ve often wrung my hands over the quality of the audio on this show.  Some times there’s nothing to be done about it, and this is the case with “Long Distance”.  In general, convention center employees don’t enjoy productions taking up floor space, and a boom mic (even if we had one) is a pretty big giveaway that you are doing more than just taking creepy videos of the person dressed as Black Cat.  Trying to keep a low profile dictated many of our shots and how quickly they were filmed this day…and in our first few shots, we get soft-talking Jeff, the bane of video editing Jeff’s existence.  But even so, it’s pretty clear as to what’s going on, and it serves as a pretty good setup for what’s to come next.

Long Distance screen shot 05 If I could change one thing about this episode (besides having Margot Kidder as an actual guest star), it’d be Larry’s first shot, where he talks on the phone and lies about his current whereabouts.  A medium shot reveals the same colored walls and what is obviously the same location.  Editor Jeff wants a tighter shot that doesn’t reveal the main joke quite as soon.

Even with this early giveaway, the main joke – where Larry and I still talk on the phone even after running into each other – is still a satisfying one, I think.  And the “head chest cold” line is a nice addition.

Most episodes of Franks and Beans are filmed over the course of a day.  Few span different days, and sometimes this is out of something other a very long shooting session.  This episode, though, was probably shot the fastest, because we literally had people telling us to leave as we were trying to get the last shots.  Someone even came over the intercom system to tell us to get out of there as they closed up shop.  It was a good exercise in getting the hell done really quickly.  And then we went and had some Mexican food.

Long Distance screen shot 06Our action-packed “NO!” ending for this episode features Larry’s worst nightmare.  An interesting thing to note is that unless Larry decided to jump out of his bedroom window, he was running toward the flames and not away from them.  I’m going to imagine that he was desperately trying to save some of his more unique Dukes of Hazzard memorabilia, and really, can any of us blame him?  Other than people who think that running into fires for material possessions is a shortsighted and irresponsible idea that might leave someone dead or horribly burned?

A few years after we filmed this episode, Wagon Wheel Comics got another booth at yet another installment of the Pittsburgh Comicon.  It is much the same as it was in this episode, except now they give out panels to people like me, who have no business running a panel.  If you’ve got an hour to kill, feel free to relive the magic, just like tens of others have on YouTube:

Blog 43 – Chariots of Mire

Chariots of Mire screenshotIn nine years, I will be 41 years old.  Perhaps at that time, a time at which I will most certainly be evaluating my life (41 seems to be a good age to do that, as opposed to 32, when I pay attention to nothing except basic emotions like hungry and sad), I will come back to SuperYouTube and watch Franks and Beans episode 41, “Chariots of Mire”.  I wonder what type of reaction I will have to this, an episode that features a number of common F&B tropes.  Perhaps I will remark at the already dated cultural references, or note the effort we made for special effects.  Maybe I’ll look back and say, hey, I still have a little bit of hair here, and punch a window.

In any case, “Chariots of Mire” does in fact show off some of the best of Franks and Beans.  If you watch this episode and hate it, well, then chances are you might not like too many other episodes.  Except for “Mailbag/Bloopers” or “The Sandwich”, which lots of people like.  Whatever.  What I’m trying to say is that this episode of the show features a lot of things that I like: physical comedy, irreverence, quick timing and callbacks to previous jokes.  And shouting.

Let’s tackle the first topic.  Did you see what I did there?  I used the word “tackle” in reference to a scene in which I bowl over a wagon full of, well, leaves and things.  Wow.  In filming this, I learned that it is really hard to purposely fall over things.  This is why, no matter how many times we tried (and we did several takes), I still braced myself before ultimately tumbling over.

Our music for this episode is, of course, the classic “Chariots of Fire”, which has been used for comedic effect to the point that it’s almost certainly used for that purpose more than it is in a serious manner.  It’s also very tough to find without a laugh track when you’re searching the Internet for a sample.  Music tends to add something intangible to a video, something that can’t be recreated with just ambient sound, and this is an extreme example of it.  And it gave me the opportunity to add in two more Franks and Beans favorites: word parodies and running.  I really do run a lot in this show.

Larry in bed, and the implication that he sleeps fully clothed (and later, the line “let’s go!”), is a reference to our sort-of popular (it depends on how you define “popular”) first episode, “High School”.  The reference to Avril Lavigne was about as random as they come…I wanted to think of a pseudo-celebrity that neither Larry nor I particularly liked, and her name was one of the few I thought up and was considering.  Plus “Avril Lavigne” sounds funny to say.  Also, here’s a funny “Weird Al” Yankovic video featuring Ms. Lavigne:

I enjoy that this episode, in contrast to basically everything before or after, features a fairly honest critique of Avril Lavigne.  She wasn’t really relevant at the time we filmed this episode, and she REALLY isn’t relevant now, but seriously, what was up with her image?  She’s a preppy blonde Canadian (hi, Lauren) who suddenly pains her fingernails black and wears socks on her arms and now she’s punk?  Come on, Michael.

The Oreo callback is one of my favorite sequences of the entire show.  “Hey, last cookie!” is a fairly generic line, but the callback to the “Chariots” music, the quick pace and Larry’s disinterested reply really makes is work for me.

Our “NO!” ending is a pretty good one, if you can make out what the heck I’m saying.  Basically, Larry is waking people up, and I’m not happy about it.  It may not seem like much, but I do get to say the line “for crap’s sake!”, which makes it all worth while.

YouTube knows what’s goin’ on.

Naked Chicken Dead YouTube suggestionsA smattering of “suggested videos” from YouTube reveals that the popular online video service has Franks and Beans pegged.  If you watch one of our videos, what else are you likely to enjoy?  Apparently, you’d either enjoy watching more episodes of Franks and Beans (a pretty nice selection, from the screengrabs we see), OR you’d like to watch videos about ACTUAL baked beans.  And who wouldn’t want to do that?  In fact, let’s watch one now!

Wow!  Look at those beans grow!

FYI, that video has nearly 150,000 views.  You might be on to something, YouTube.

Franks and Beans comic book ads

Have I ever mentioned that I sometimes write comic books?  Even in passing?  Ever?  Probably not, as I rarely self aggrandize or post meaningless links to other projects that aren’t innately tied to Franks and Beans.  I’m much too classy for that.

In any case, I do write Teddy and the Yeti, a comic with great intrinsic value that will perhaps one day spawn a cartoon series and various merchandizing opportunities, and I take every chance I get to advertise for my other great love (besides Funyuns), Franks and Beans, and I thought that it would be at least a little bit interesting if I posted the various F&B ads that have taken up residence in Teddy and the Yeti comics throughout its publication history.

At the top of the post, you’ll see the very first Franks and Beans ad, appearing in the pages of Teddy and the Yeti #1, and perhaps you’ll notice how quaint and simple it is.  This is because everything must start somewhere, and also because I was still learning how to use Illustrator at this point (not that I’ve mastered it in the time that followed).  Still, we did get the slogan that adorns this website, a bastardization of the Kix cereal slogan.  It replaced our previous slogan, “Better than anything YOU could come up with”, which I’m sure will one day make a comeback, as all things trite and spiteful do.

Next up is a familiar image, as a colorized version of it serves as the background of the official Franks and Beans YouTube page.  The ad showed up in a black and white version of Teddy and the Yeti #2.  This photoshoot was a fruitful one, as we got two ads and a background for our business cards this day.  Born from this ad was probably our best slogan ever, “comedy worth fighting for”, which also finds itself on the YouTube page.  I should/will put this day’s photoshoot online at some point.  There were some good shots taken this day by friend of the show Mitch Mitchell, who just so happens to have a really nice DSLR camera.  And we take advantage of that whenever we can.

I’m fairly sure we stole the background image from this ad from Google (take that, Internet!), before we realized that we could just take our own damn picture of baked beans.  The ad itself refers to the “Franks and Beans Beans and Franks” episode at the end of season two, and we keep the label facade up with our own mock nutrition facts.  This ad appeared in Teddy and the Yeti #3.

Space was tight in the tiny Teddy and the Yeti’s Back! promo issue, so the Franks and Beans ad had a minimum of space to work with.  The end result, though, might just be our best ad yet, in which both Larry and I are perhaps about to have the life crushed out of us, which is always good for a laugh (a literal side-splitter).  This was from the same photoshoot that begat the “comedy worth fighting for” ad.  I particularly enjoy seeing the very top of my Thing shirt as well as my apparently stroked-out face.

Lastly, we have the newest Franks and Beans ad, straight from the inside back cover of Teddy and the Yeti #4.  This image comes from the still promotional photo for the “Double Delivery” episode and features obvious worldplay and also mustaches.  When people see these ads placed in my comics, I’ll bet that they nearly kill themselves in a desperate attempt to locate a computer and access this very website.  Who knows, maybe putting these ads online for all to see will draw the masses to this site, where they will laugh and laugh their lives away.  I’m about 85% sure that this will happen.

So there we have it – Franks and Beans comic book ads.  So why don’t I just use the same one all the time?  Why make new ones for each appearance?  I do it for you, loyal readers.  I do it for you.  And also me.  Perhaps the next one will feature one of my cats.  Only time will tell.

Blog 34 – Kill Switch

 

When the Borg first appeared in Star Trek: The Next Generation, they immediately struck a chord with fans and viewers of the show, not because they were particularly unique in the world of sci-fi, but because of the timing of the show.  1960s Star Trek saw the wonders that technology could bring, reflecting a society that looked at the future through the eyes of the Jetsons; that is, they marveled at and were hopeful for a future in which mankind harnessed technology to create a utopian world where robot maids tidied up and dogs walked on suspended treadmills.  1980s Star Trek, though, reflected a society that was wary of technology and its ability to take control of our lives: they say just how ingrained technology had become in the everyday and bristled at our interconnectedness.  Thus, the Borg were born, threatening to use technology to turn each and every one of us into a mindless drone, a slave to the machine.

And in this episode of Franks and Beans, I get killed by a garage door opener!  So you see the natural progression to which I’m alluding, from the halcyon days of the 1960s to the anxious period of the 1980s to the utterly distopian early 2000s, the war is finally, terribly among us.  Plus, isn’t Skynet supposed to have gone online by now?  I never watched the Sarah Conner Chronicles when it was on.  Actually, that’s not true – I watched the first two episodes of it and it was terrible.  Summer Glau, why?!

I’d like to think that this episode of Franks and Beans is a very complete one, and even though it’s probably not too difficult to figure out what the punchline is going to be from early on in the episode, it still comes across as funny in that hey-Jeff’s-getting-hurt-and-falling-down kind of way.

One thing that I’ve mentioned a few times on this blog (that everyone reads) is that Larry has a way of working references to his favorite items, either fleeting obsessions or long-term passions, into the show, as evidenced by the many appearances to his Jeep (another one in this episode) and his insistence on mentioning his Blackberry in “Replacement Larry”.  Leading up to this episode, Larry took a tumble and scraped up, of all things, an index finger, and thus we can see the band-aid in full profile when Larry flicks the light switch in several scenes.  I have no evidence to prove that Larry intentionally brought the spotlight to his injured appendage, but it just seems too convenient to be a coincidence, you know?  Maybe I’m being paranoid, but there it is.

The biggest challenge we faced with this episode was, of course, the garage-door-to-the-head stunt that we had to pull at several different points.  This was difficult to coordinate, because as you might realize, I didn’t want to actually be hurt by being struck in the head. Larry stood off camera and held the top of the door and gently lowered it into my path as I walked toward the garage.  The first few tries were pretty unsuccessful not because of any technical aspect, but because Larry didn’t want to concuss or kill me when he brought the garage door down on my head.  It took some convincing, but we were finally able to get a realistic strike, I think, and the joke really only works when that’s the case.

And if one blow wasn’t enough, the reinforcement of the theme came by way of a second, third and fourth strike, which, as far as we can tell in this episode, kills me completely.  There you have it, folks!  This is how you know you’re watching Franks and Beans.  I die in it.  Hilarious!

Our “No!” ending is a strange one, but a good one, I think.  Larry, apparently, is desperate to get into the room, no matter what lies in his way, be it a miniature dresser or other tiny piece of furniture.  What I think is funny is that, as Larry struggles to squeeze into the opening, his voice also strains, letting us all know just how much effort he’s putting into this.    Guess what, folks?  Larry always gives it 100%.  I’d say 110% or something higher, but it’s literally impossible to give more than 100% and anything, and I refuse to do anything but completely adhere to the laws of physics on this show.

 

If you watch this episode on YouTube, you’ll see that the suggested viewings, as evidenced in the screen shot above, are both eerily accurate and hilariously misguided.  I wonder if any of the videos pictured lead back to Franks and Beans.  I really hope so.

You may notice that this blog doesn’t have the preface of “originally published on” at the top – that is because this blog is brand new for the first time in more than two years.  This also explains why there’s been such a lag between recent posts.  Because now I have to actually write these damn things from scratch rather than just go to the store of previously completed blogs from former iterations of this website.  Oh boy.  I’ll try to do a better job and make time for this blog because dammit you deserve it, Franks and Beans viewers!  And I might as well put off the things of actual importance in my life for one more day.

YouTube makes Franks and Beans look important

 

Ever check out our YouTube page?  This is not a rhetorical question: I compel you to answer.  But take your time; I’m not going anywhere.  Here’s what I’m getting at: YouTube has suggestions for further viewing after a video cycles through, and a little while ago, after watching an episode of Franks and Beans (for…research.  Always for research), the above 12 episodes were suggested to me.  This collage makes it look like Franks and Beans has a bevy of entertainment to offer.  It also looks like some of the episodes might be funny.  If you look at the screen as a chronological story-in-pictures, it looks like I show Larry something I saw online, we make some food, I introduce him to someone else, we discuss it, and then Larry kills me.

That is all.