September 1, 2009

TV Review | Killer Comebacks 1.1

I taped Killer Comebacks (TVtropolis: premiered August 31, 9:30 PM ET/PT) out of habit – it’s a premiere, and it kicks off TVtropolis’ 2009-10 fall season.  As it turns out, the show is so bad I have to talk about it.  Killer Comebacks may not be a good show, but it makes for one hell of an article.

Killer Comebacks‘ debut covers Neil Patrick Harris’ career.  The show starts to go south almost immediately, as narrator Glenn Kay mouths lines like this:

“Neil Patrick Harris – so good, he influenced popular culture!”

No fucking shit, Killer Comebacks!  You can say the same thing about Bill Cosby, Ted Danson, Tony Shalhoub and John Kricfalusi.  You can say the same thing about any key figure working in the television industry.  I don’t think Nardwuar the Human Serviette could read that line convincingly.

The show can’t even get basic facts right at times.  Here’s a screenshot that really bothers me:

Seriously.  Maud.  This isn’t obscure television knowledge, Killer Comebacks.  Bea Arthur’s arguably more famous as Dorothy Zbornak on The Golden Girls, and this graphic appears for three seconds of Killer Comebacks‘ 22-minute airtime, but come on.

Do you like inaccuracies?  Killer Comebacks does!

Doogie Howser, M.D. was a genuine, but short-lived, television phenomenon.  Cancelled after its third season…”

The show lasted four seasons.  It was hardly short-lived.  Breaking the Neilsen top thirty twice in four seasons does not equate to “television phenomenon.”  In two sentences, Killer Comebacks has become unintentional comedy gold.  I’m sure Killer Comebacks won’t make a similar mistake.

“Out of work after just three seasons of Doogie Howser, M.D.…”

Good job, Killer Comebacks.  Say, you want more funny lines?

“…like Paul Verhoeven’s 1988 cult hit, Starship Troopers.”

Wow.  Just…wow.  I don’t expect much from a TVtropolis filler show, and Killer Comebacks manages not to meet my limbo-low expectations for it.  I wonder how Glenn Kay felt reading that line.

Killer Comebacks commits the grand crime of not having anything to say, whatsoever.  Make or Break TV at least gave the viewers a few name actors and a working knowledge of how television is sold.  This show is just bread for the celebrity worship gravy train.

The level of failure in Killer Comebacks‘ debut is amazing.  Even the final closing credit reads “Executive in Charge of Production for Canwest Broadcasting;”  If Canwest doesn’t care about the quality of its shows, neither should I.


July 16, 2009

CBC Pilot Burn-Off Time | Throwing Stones

As this year’s CBC pilots go, nothing will be as bad to me as The Good Germany.  Then again, Throwing Stones (CBC: Original Pictures, 2009) is a show about amateur women curlers.  Co-creator/director Mario Azzopardi recently directed ZOS: Zone of Separation, so he and daughter Lara Azzopardi bring their experiences to the table.  The premise still sounds horrible, not to mention stereotypically Canadian.

Thankfully, Throwing Stones is leagues beyond The Good Germany.  The show actually makes the premise of a housewife curling team interesting, if only due to the show’s strong writing and storyline buildup.  The pilot goes through a few motions, feeling forced in parts, but Throwing Stones goes all out in transcending its shitty high concept.

The main draw here is a 62-year-old Patty Duke.  She’s a throwback to the days when a washed-up American name would appear in a Canadian film.  Then again, she’s won an Academy Award, three Emmys and a Golden Globe, so the woman knows acting like the back of her hand.  Oddly enough, Duke plays a Canadian, a strange bit of casting I still can’t figure out.

Duke plays Patti Thom, the feisty leader of an amateur curling team.  Patti’s team is made up of Shirley Campbell (Barbara Radecki), Annette Roi (Caroline Néron) and Cindy Boshyk (Stephanie Anne Mills).  Patti hits a car owned by Marge Merrick (Lolita Davidovich), an American Republican.  I can just see anti-CBC assholes going into epileptic fits at the mere mention of Merrick.

Luckily, even Marge is played against type, in that she has some depth and isn’t a walking parody of right-wing assholes.  She has two sons in Iraq and hates living in Manitoba, but Throwing Stones avoids making easy anti-American jokes.  She’s just a snob with a patronizing husband.

There is one scene where team ditz Cindy is abused by husband Glen Boshyk (Dan Petronijevic), who makes up for his indiscretion with kitchen countertop sex.  The scene is quite false in its execution, as if viewers need to know Cindy has a fucked-up life this early in the series.  Throwing Stones tries to do too much in its first twenty-two minutes, which might explain why it wasn’t picked up for the 2009-10 fall season.

Patty Duke and Caroline Néron are the two best actresses on the show.  Duke effortlessly commands attention, although her character dies midway through the episode.  Néron reminds me of a French-Canadian Kirstie Alley back when Alley wasn’t a weight-fluctuating Jenny Craig shill.

Star! personality Husein Madhavji is surprisingly good as Yasminder ‘The Rock’ Ramhan, announcer for a live curling podcast.  The casting smacks of a need to be culturally sensitive, but Madhavji makes his character work by shilling the on-ice “action” in a blatantly heavy Indian accent.  He steals every scene he’s in.

Throwing Stones isn’t bad for a pilot, especially considering the show was originally pitched as an hour-long drama.  Much worse shows have been given CBC prime-time berths, like An American in Canada and Rideau Hall.

Although Throwing Stones‘ pilot has its faults, there’s no reason to stall this show in pilot stage.  It actually makes curling watchable, something Men with Brooms couldn’t do.  Maybe CBC will commission the show for 2010-11 if Ron James’ show and/or Canada’s Super Speller stiff, and I just know one of those shows is going to die a horrible, fiery death.


June 25, 2009

Picking Apart the Fall Schedules: Selected Canadian Cable Part 1

I don’t plan to do posts for each Canadian cable channel.  It isn’t worth it and there are a handful of channels I actually watch.  Some channels, like Teletoon, haven’t finalized their fall schedules.  Since I’m not of the target market for HGTV Canada or the Food Network, those channels will not be talked about.

If the show’s on a Canwest property, it will be rerun on seven different channels within three months regardless of the channel’s target market.  Expect to see Beastmaster on History Television within a year.

I will mainly focus on channels I have an interest in which contain adult-oriented programming.  It’s a bonus if the channels show more than one new Canadian series a year.  I refuse to believe anyone actually watches MovieTime.

The Movie Network/Movie Central | The Movie Network/Movie Central’s 2009-10 original show slate doesn’t read as good as 2008-09’s.  An announced third season of Durham County is a little weird given that the second season debuts July 13.  As for The Phantom, it doesn’t seem TMN/MC quality somehow.  It’s a four-hour miniseries featuring an underrated comics character, but I doubt The Phantom would be on TMN/MC if the company producing it (Muse Entertainment) hadn’t produced Durham County.

The show that appeals to me the most is Living in Your Car.  A former corporate executive/ex-con teaches ethics courses under a court order.  It’s the sort of show that, with good writing, should allow for great comedy.  Meet Phil Fitz reads like a belated Canadian version of Minder.  Bloodletting and The Pillars of the Earth do nothing for me.

Mind you, I’m talking about shows that don’t air until later this year or in 2010.  I can see TMN/MC continuing its quality streak, as it has a history of successful launches and shows with strong fanbases.  TMN/MC’s premium cable duopoly helps.  Super Channel’s flailing in the wind right now, so the duopoly isn’t much threatened.

Showcase | The Foundation was meant to debut in 2008-09 but was pushed back.  This show is the brainchild of FUBAR and It’s All Gone Pete Tong director Michael Dowse.  FUBAR/It’s All Gone Pete Tong‘s Mike Wilmot is Michael Valmont-Selkirk, the corrupt “Executive Director for Life” of a charitable organization.

The Foundation reads like an interesting show.  It has the talent, a solid premise and a…five-episode first season.  Ah well, at least it’s out, provided Canwest executives don’t see a bunny hop along a coffee table and decide to give it a development deal.

I’m not too worked up about Crash & Burn and Shattered.  Crash & Burn (formerly Lawyers, Guns and Money) has ZOS: Zone of Separation showrunner Malcolm MacRury behind it and Shattered stars Callum Keith Rennie, but I’m reserving judgment on the three shows until they debut.  I’m baffled by Showcase’s heavier dramatic focus this year.

I’m also not fond of Showcase’s new logo and mission statement.  The Canwest press bumf says “an unprecedented number of off-pay movie premieres, the best collection of popular network series and breakout cable dramas.”  I hope that doesn’t mean Showcase will become TVtropolis’ dramatic big sister, full of Bones, House M.D. and assorted CanCon filler.

Showcase has its share of CanCon filler nowBeastmaster reruns, oh boy! – but it has served Canadian comedy relatively well.  Showcase has always been one of Alliance Atlantis’/Canwest’s better cable channels.  I hope the channel doesn’t turn crap due to the rebranding, but I’m unconvinced based on Canwest’s track record.

TVtropolis | Jonathan Torrens’ show, TV with TV’s Jonathan Torrens, could be good – he’s had success with Trailer Park Boys and Jonovision, so his ultra-generic “make fun of television for 22 minutes” show concept could amount to something.  E! managed to make a brand out of The Soup, so precedent is on Torrens’ side.

As for Switch (a pop culture panel show) and Killer Comebacks (Hollywood stars making comebacks), TVtropolis’ filler show traditions are maintained.  Mind you, shows like Once a Thief are creeping into TVtropolis’ schedules, so TVtropolis is becoming more watchable.

It’s a far cry from the days when TVtropolis was called Prime and appealed to seniors, but North of 60 reruns > Naked Fashion.  Remember the days when MovieTime was called Lonestar and aired westerns?  Those wacky Canwest properties, you never know what they’ll become next.  They’re like Pokémon.  Gotta rebrand’em all!


June 21, 2009

TV Review | Tosh.0 1.1, 1.2

I don’t like Daniel Tosh as a comedian.  His snarky sense of humour, as seen on Daniel Tosh: Completely Serious, doesn’t appeal to me.  He’s less predictable than Dane Cook, a man Tosh is often compared to, and his stuff is intelligently written.  I don’t find Tosh funny, but he’s not the worst comic I’ve seen.

Tosh is a good choice to star in a show making fun of viral videos.  Tosh.0 (The Comedy Network: premiered June 10, 10:30 PM ET/PT) is Comedy Central’s answer to G4’s Web Soup and VH1’s Web Junk 20.  Naturally, there’s a “Tosh.0 is a ripoff of Web Soup” thread at’s forums.

Tosh.0 is fairly low-concept – show a video, watch Daniel Tosh make fun of it.  Specific segments like “Web Redemption” are added in to break the monotony, but it’s Tosh making fun of viral video culture for the most part.  The show would be straight filler if not for the individual segments.

“Web Redemption” is the best segment on the show.  Internet celebrities like Afro Ninja and Miss Teen South Carolina 2007 are given a chance to make right their popularized wrongs.  While this segment could easily become mean-spirited, Tosh.0 doesn’t go that route.  Tosh.0 should pick more recent videos for the segment, since the Internet rots faster than one can say “full of fail.”

“Celebrity Video” is another matter.  In the debut episode, Dave Attell and Bree Olson play beer pong.  Being a porn star, Olson plays her own predictable way.

David Koechner orders roses in the second episode, delivering a special message to his wife in the process.  I’m amazed at seeing David Koechner on television.  Add to that a Kato Kaelin appearance in the first episode, and it’s like 1996 just farted in my face.  I know Koechner’s a character actor, but his name doesn’t scream “Internet culture.”  I don’t even know if Koechner’s name screams.

Tosh.0 is too slight to be anything.  The premise is thin.  The show’s not bad, but there’s little substance to it.  There is almost no difference between Tosh.0 and Most Outrageous Moments, which is the kiss of death if you’re trying to sell Daniel Tosh to a general audience.  I’ll be amazed if Comedy Central gets more than one season out of this thing.


June 16, 2009

Picking Apart the Fall Schedules 2009-10: Canadian Network Prime-Time

The 2009-10 season, for most specialty stations and the broadcast networks, is weak in the homegrown TV show department.  Although I’ve only seriously talked about Canadian television since the 2008-09 fall season, very few Canadian shows set to debut in 2009-10 draw my interest.

I don’t know if this is due to the sluggish economy, a sea change in broadcasting vs. the Internet, or Canadian television needing to be there regardless of quality.  It has to be the conventional television business model.  It’s broken, you know!  Canwest can only afford to fill one network with American shows instead of two this year!  Also, buy a new GM car or truck!  It’s not going out of business, it’s getting down to business…by wasting money on unconvincing ads!

I don’t think there’s one new piece of CanCon on the Canadian network prime-time schedules that I can get excited about.  There are a few returning programs I can get behind, Less Than Kind leading that pack.  Cable is where the big boys play at this point, so I’ll try to whip up a few articles making fun of SPACE’s and TVtropolis’ schedules in the coming days.  I have to make up for recommending Hotbox somehow.

CityTV | The only worthwhile Canadian shows on CityTV this fall are Less Than Kind and Murdoch Mysteries, both returning shows.  What the hell, CityTV?  My RONA Home?  Ford Models Supermodel of the World Canada?  This is the best the network can do?

I’ll admit Conviction Kitchen has potential.  The show’s high concept is Hell’s Kitchen with criminals.  I’m just not sure the show will be any good.  I’m also not holding out for a third season of Less Than Kind once the second-season episodes have been burnt off.  Jesse Camacho will survive, but I doubt his show will.

There’s been talk about the lack of Canadian film representation on CityTV, but that’s just one of CityTV’s problems.  CityTV’s attempts at Canadian television are depressing enough.  CityTV should at least be able to compete with Canwest and give the greenlight to more than branded reality shows.  I’m not saying CityTV turned shit once Rogers took over, but I sometimes wonder if CityTV knows what it’s doing.  Wait, of course it does.  I mean, Jay Leno!

CTV/‘A’ | If Dan For Mayor is successful, Fred Ewanuick will become more well-known than he is now.  As it is, he’s “that guy from Corner Gas and/or Robson Arms” if he’s known at all.  His face is more recognizable than his name.  Ewanuick’s celebrity could meet Brent Butt’s the way his career trajectory is going.

I know how pithy the last sentence reads.  It’s Canadian television.  Just run with it.

I’m sure one of the two shows following in the wake of Corner Gas will be successful.  If both DFM and Brent Butt’s Hiccups do well, I won’t be surprised.  Corner Gas brought in the ratings, so there will be much interest in the follow-up projects.  That’s a rare quality in Canadian television.  Hey, one of the two shows might be genuinely funny.  Who knows?

As for returning shows, Degrassi: The Next Generation is back for some reason.  There’s a spinoff film attached to the show’s ninth (!!) season, which is weird as the show is dragging its ratings ass.  Flashpoint‘s back, like no one saw that coming.

Basically, CTV and ‘A’ are staying the usual CTVglobemedia television course – tons of hit American programs, with some CanCon to fill the cultural quota.  CTV’s central strategy hasn’t changed for years.  It’s the most-watched Canadian network, a fact CTVglobemedia endlessly trumpets.  I wish a network in this country could air something more exciting than So You Think You Can Dance Canada, but Canada, you know?

Global | Global’s literally coasting this year as Canwest prepares for bankruptcy and/or reorganization.  As such, its new fall shows are all American.  Shows on the immediate fall lineup include what’s left of The Guard, and reruns of The Jane Show.

Seriously, three-year-old reruns of The Jane Show are worthy for a spot on the 2009-10 fall lineup?  Since Saturday night is the graveyard of network television, throw out uncensored episodes of Billable Hours or move 16X9 from Sundays.  No one’s going to notice what Global flings out on Saturday night.  Air The Line, something, anything.  The Jane Show, honest to God…

CBC | Momco should be able to do better with its new programming than Canada’s Super Speller and Battle of the Blades.  CBC is horrible at reality programming – The Week the Women Went, Triple Sensation, How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria?, it’s one big ball of there.  CBC does have Dragon’s Den, but it can hardly take the credit for porting that show over from Japan.

As for new shows, I have to admit a mild interest in The Ron James Show, Republic of Doyle and 18 to Life.  I say mild interest as the show I really want to see, Death Comes to Town, won’t air until after the 2009-10 season.  If any new CBC show can break through the culture of bland until Death Comes to Town, I’ll be happy.  I’m not holding my breath.

Returning shows on CBC are familiar enough – Little Mosque on the Prairie, This Hour Has 22 Minutes, The Rick Mercer Report, The Border, The Hour etc.  The lineup could be worse, but it could be better.

SUN TV | Argos Access.  That’s it as far as new programs go for SUN TV.  The station technically isn’t network, but what the hell.  Independent television stations in Canada aren’t easy to come by these days.

Here’s an idea, CBC: why not pick up the tab for King Kaboom‘s second season?  Those Toronto-centric criticisms will continue in stead, but that’s going to happen any time an intern drops a pencil at the Canadian Broadcasting Centre.  It’s not like SUN TV knows what to do with King Kaboom.  I pick on SUN TV, but it really should try harder.

E! | Ahhahahaha…


April 8, 2009

TV Review | The Whitest Kids U’ Know 3.1, 3.2

Sketch comedy in the late 2000s tends to follow an absurdist, high-concept model more often than not.  The vast majority of shows from this era will doubtless age ten years from now, as the absurdist model becomes overused and new groups rebel against it.  Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In was considered edgy in 1968, while Turn-On was once the height of bad taste.  People also used to think Jerry Lester was funny.  Tastes change, and so do the comedy stylings.

I prefer the style of The Whitest Kids U’ Know (Super Channel: April 8, 11PM ET) to that of its closest modern competitors.  I appreciate the efforts put forth by Human Giant and Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!, yet WKUK is the show I actually laugh at.  The Whitest Kids U’ Know is crude at first glance, but there’s some intelligence behind its lowbrow façade.

The WWII sketch that starts off the first thirty-minute episode of season three is a case in point.  Four people enter Hitler’s bunker and come across Charlie Chaplin.  The Whitest Kids U’ Know players go for the predictable climax (Charlie Chaplin kills everyone) and then smack the viewer upside the head with a grossly inappropriate ending.  The Whitest Kids U’ Know has that duality with many of its sketches – predictable one point, surprising the next.

The second thirty-minute episode of WKUK‘s third season is stronger overall due to some inspired sketches.  J.J. Martin, the punkest man on the planet, can make terrible folk songs punk as fuck, while J.P. Barger and Son Trading Post sells water balloons in the American Old West.  The first thirty-minute episode has a lovely musical number about God’s connection to obsessive compulsion, so it’s not far off in quality.

Not every sketch on The Whitest Kids U’ Know works.  For instance, the Lord of the Rings sketch in episode two hinges on its greatest plot hole, Gandalf not utilizing a giant eagle to fly Frodo and his friends to Sauron’s volcano.  It’s an obvious complaint which The Whitest Kids U’ Know don’t put a fresh spin on.  The sketch is saved by an out-of-place rape reference, but more rape references kill the sketch again.

A 3:2 good sketch:bad sketch ratio is maintained overall.  It’s not the best ratio for sketch comedy, but The Whitest Kids U’ Know are also throwing stuff at the wall to see what sticks.  IFC airs the third season in fifteen-minute blocks, which may be the best format for The Whitest Kids U’ Know – if you hate this show, more than fifteen minutes is akin to torture.  There is very little middle ground between fans and haters of this show, so Trevor Moore and co. have to be doing something right.

WKUK isn’t as polished or as good as Mr. Show and Monty Python’s Flying Circus, but the show can be genuinely funny at times.  WKUK will air on relatively obscure stations like IFC and Super Channel for years to come, and they’re probably the best places for the show anyway.  Assy McGee has proven there are far worse things on television than Trevor Moore’s brand of lowbrow humour.


April 1, 2009

CBC Pilot Burn-Off Time | The Good Germany

The CBC has rarely, if ever, made government bureaucracy seem funny.  Not My Department, In Opposition and Rideau Hall left three craters in that field years ago.  The Good Germany (CBC: Frantic Films, 2008) has left a smaller crater than those nadirs of Canadian television, unless this show is/will become a regular series.  Either way, I don’t want to see this show ever again.

The town of Germany, Ontario is rather poorly run, but that fact is only established a few minutes into The Good Germany.  Without this bit of information, the title makes little sense since Germany isn’t the most evil place on Earth right now.  If the show was called The Good Toronto and set in Alberta, that would make more comedic sense.  Then again, it’s hard to ask much from a show that uses a Rita MacNeil fat joke in its first minute.

Jack Mackay is the town’s newly elected mayor, trying to fix former mayor Gordon Verlaine’s various messes.  A motley crew of incompetent councilpeople, including Verlaine, try to impede Mackay’s progress.  Wayne Robson and Chris Leavins are among the show’s castmembers, and they’re better than the material they’re given.

A scene in The Good Germany underlines how bad the show really is.  It’s based around an impotence joke – Jack Mackay has not been able to fill “ink in his pen” since his wife died, a phrase councillor/manchild Pete misinterprets.  A normal show would throw this joke away in four, five seconds, tops.  The Good Germany tries to flog the same joke for a minute’s worth of material, except that the buildup makes the bad joke worse.  Another scene has Pete failing to repeat a spittake he made earlier in the episode.  It’s one thing to tell bad jokes, but this show repeatedly extrapolates on them.  Amazing.

The subplots are eminently believable.  Toronto city liaison Ellen Tremblay is the spitting image of Mackay’s dead wife.  Was The Good Germany honestly trying to milk a whole season out of this implausibility?  There’s also the matter of Mackay’s son dating Verlaine’s daughter.

Mackay got on the cover of Maclean’s for saving an infant from a burning building, which led to his becoming mayor.  Mackay’s too perfect, Verlaine schemes ineffectually and the city councilpeople are one-note ciphers.  No wonder CBC didn’t give this show any fanfare.

Show creator/writer Garry Campbell has written for shows like Less Than Kind, Blue Collar TV, MADtv and The Kids in the Hall.  He was also a member of The Chumps, which as a comedy troupe had a CBC Radio program in the mid-1990s.  With a pedigree like Campbell’s, I can’t believe this is the best he can do.  If this show has more episodes than the pilot in the can, for the love of God, keep them in the can!


March 25, 2009

Shows I Also Watch: Canadian TV Part One – Rabbit Fall

Originally this feature was going to be in two parts, one for Canadian shows and the other for “foreign” content.  I then read this article, realized how right it was, and will take the article’s advice in order to alleviate the lull between URBMN posts.  It doesn’t make for a nice segue into Rabbit Fall discussion, but I’m not a fan of segues.

I’m also not fond of the promotion Space has given Rabbit Fall.  It reran the entire twelve-episode run of the show earlier this year, not doing much to advertise that fact.  Space did promote the second season when in first run, but I thought Space would big up the first-season episodes for the newbies.  Not everyone is in love with Battlestar Galactica, so say we few.

Andrea Menard is Constable Tara Wheaton, a Métis cop transferred from Toronto to Rabbit Fall via “professional indiscretion.”  She’s a fairly decent actor in a straightforward supernatural crime drama.  Rabbit Fall is decidedly generic, which doesn’t surprise me as four networks (SCN, VisionTV, Space and APTN) have had their hands on it over two seasons.  Still, the quality of this show is better than I expected.

I don’t understand the show’s comparison to Twin Peaks*Rabbit Fall does not have Killer BOB, log ladies or backwards-speaking gnomes.  The X-Files is a good reference point, since Rabbit Fall shares the same conspiratorial MO.

While Rabbit Fall‘s second season is much better than the first production-wise – Rabbit Fall looked badly lighted its first year – the show does have its problems.  Some of the acting is atrocious, while the supernatural element can be a bit cartoonish at times.

For instance, main antagonist Simon Blackhorse turns into a crow while in a police car.  Sure, his distraction of Sergeant Stanton Martinsky leads to a crucial plot development in Rabbit Fall‘s second season premiere, but it looks silly in execution.

Another thing I don’t understand is why the show’s being a half-hour drama is sold as unique.  The half-hour drama is a concept dating back to The Twilight Zone, early Gunsmoke and Dragnet, and these are just obvious examples.  Hour-long dramas are the norm for modern episodic television, so Rabbit Fall is just bucking the trend.  I can’t see how Rabbit Fall would benefit from expanding to an hour, as that would just force padding on its meat-and-potatoes story structure.

In the end, Rabbit Fall‘s positives outweigh its negatives.  If nothing else, it shows that Saskatchewan can produce decent television.  I’d like to see more Saskatchewan-based television shows in the near future.  Toronto moonlighting as Generican/Genadian City can get a bit tiring after a while.

*As an aside, Twin Peaks wasn’t the weirdest David Lynch television show.  It’s amazing how many people have forgotten or suppressed On the Air, which the YouTube link will soon rectify.  If you watched it, you can’t unwatch it!

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