Tag Archive: NBC


grimm below the surface

Last week’s episode of Grimm may have been one of the best on TV this year, bringing together threads formed since the beginning of the show.  The result proved the old adage “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” and pitted the “good” guys together with the “bad” guys against the “even worse” guys.  The most unlikely of pairings occurred in nearly every scene.  It was brilliant TV, and we can likely expect even more fun on this Friday’s episode.

Previously we reviewed The Official Companion to Supernatural Season Seven, a well-formatted look-back for fans of the series, with previous editions released annually.  The Official Companion serves as both a souvenir book and behind the scenes look at the creators of the show.  Many series have released works that were similar.  Doctor Who has done this in magazine form, for example.  Movies like The Hobbit released different variations of behind the scenes books, with different price points and trade or hardbound editions targeted at different audiences.  The first behind the scenes look at NBC’s hit TV series Grimm is now at bookstores, and it follows a format similar to the Official Companion concept Supernatural uses, except it contains glossy, full color images, which will be a plus for diehard fans of the show.

Looking back from the end of Season Two of NBC’s hit series, Grimm: Below the Surface–The Insider’s Guide to the Show provides plenty of information not available elsewhere.  It includes stories and interviews from the series executive producers and showrunner, each of the actors playing main characters (Nick, Monroe, Juliette, Hank, Rosalee, Renard, Adalind, and Sergeant Wu), writers, production designers, the make-up and special effects team, casting, the stunt team, and the props and costume creators.

Grimm - Season 2

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Heroes Reborn NBC banner

What we thought was going to be another ad for the DVD release of Gravity actually was a teaser for the return of Heroes to NBC.  NBC released a few details to the press before the Olympics Saturday night teaser premiere, revealing a new Heroes TV series will be returning in 2015.  NBC and creator Tim Kring will be holding the details close to their vests until Heroes Reborn draws closer, but we’re thinking there is no way to move the series forward and call it Heroes without at least Hayden Panettiere as invincible ex-cheerleader Claire Bennet, Milo Ventimiglia as power-borrower Peter Petrelli, Masi Oka as time traveler Hiro Nakamura, or the always awesome Jack Coleman as Claire’s dad, the horned-rimmed glasses guy.

NBC has ordered 13 episodes for the new mini-series, an entire season for any other property. Could this be a try-on that could be continued if the first year is successful?

“The enormous impact Heroes had on the television landscape when it first launched in 2006 was eye-opening,” said NBC Entertainment President Jennifer Salke.  “Shows with that kind of resonance don’t come around often and we thought it was time for another installment.  We’re thrilled that visionary creator Tim Kring was as excited about jumping back into this show as we were and we look forward to all the new textures and layers Tim plans to add to his original concept,” Salke continued.  “Until we get closer to air in 2015, the show will be appropriately shrouded in secrecy, but we won’t rule out the possibility of some of the show’s original cast members popping back in.”

Heroes Reborn - how about bringing back Jack Coleman as HRG

Masi Oka is currently on Hawaii Five-O on CBS, Hayden Penettiere is on Nashville on ABC, and Milo Ventimiglia is filming a series on the Crackle online network coming off of his Mob City mini-series in TNT.  Ali Larter, who played Tracy Strauss and her mirror twin on Heroes, last filmed a mini-series on TNT and continues her string of big screen movie projects, and ex-cop Greg Grunberg is making a string of movies.  Although he’s been seen on ABC’s Scandal, Jack Coleman also had a key role in the last season of USA Network’s Burn Notice last year.  USA Network is an NBC sister network.  Could that mean a possible connection to have Coleman’s character lead the new mini-series?  Something like Agent Colson on Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.?  Coleman is our top pick, and we think HRG is the most likely driver of a new series.  But why stop there?

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michael-j-fox-wnbc

What would it take to get me to watch a family-centered network sitcom?  Apparently, Michael J. Fox.

When I previewed the new NBC series The Michael J. Fox Show this May here at borg.com I was worried the show about a “TV personality who left TV when he got Parkinson’s disease and was making a comeback” would be cringeworthy.  Lucky for fans of Fox, the series pilot wasn’t cringeworthy at all, but just plain funny.

If you’re going to be risky, if you’re going to blatantly mirror reality and poke fun at every aspect of what you’re trying to do with a series, from “a very special” appearance on a morning show, to characters laughing out loud at the daily trials of the family of a guy with a disability, to that NBC promo showing the heroic slow motion return of a celebrity named Mike, well you damned well better nail it.  The tight writing and comic timing of the writers for The Michael J. Fox Show as well as Fox himself and a strong supporting cast of fresh new faces accomplished all they needed to: Get the audience to stay around for Episode 2, which aired immediately after the pilot.  Last night’s two half-hour episodes are a case study in the rewards of walking a tightrope and the big payoff you can get from that success with so much at stake.

Fox is back

When Michael J. Fox left Spin City it was a major downer for everyone–beyond our compassion for him as a person for his rough road ahead–it was like the guy was being snuffed out from entertaining us anymore, way too soon, like when Christopher Reeve was injured in his horse riding accident.  Fox, Canada’s number one gift to the world, defines what it means to be loved by audiences.  I don’t think it’s about Family Ties or Spin City so much as that quirky kid Marty McFly in Back to the Future.  We lost Fox to some disease, but now we get him back, and more than just as a guest character on someone else’s show.

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These Are the Voyages TOS Season One

Review by C.J. Bunce

Literally hundreds of books and journal articles have been written on the three seasons of Gene Roddenberry’s Star Trek.  What more can be said about the making of this series?  After all, there is a well-maintained website chronicling seemingly all you would want to know about “the original series” called Memory Alpha.  Plus, nearly every major player involved with the creation of Star Trek has written a book on it, from Herb Solow and Robert Justman’s Inside Star Trek to William Shatner’s Star Trek Memories, Gross and Altman’s Captains’ Logs, to Stephen Whitfield’s The Making of Star Trek, Allan Asherman’s The Star Trek Compendium to the more recent entry Block and Erdmann’s Star Trek: The Original Series 365 But what writer/researcher Marc Cushman’s new These Are the Voyages – TOS: Season One does is pull information from all these sources plus resources like Starlog, Daily Variety, and TV Guide articles as well as delve into an archive of production work papers from the UCLA Performing Arts Special Collections never before tapped for such an exhaustive work on the series.  These Are the Voyages is a treatise on Trek, a comprehensive history of a crowning achievement in science fiction, but also a history of television itself in the 1960s.

These are the Voyages photo

These are the Voyages delves into each episode in a level of detail that has not been reached before.  For each episode the author gives a brief picture of where the U.S. stood via pop songs on the radio and national events.  Cushman then introduces a plot summary and nicely extracts the critical theme of each episode—separating Star Trek from frivolous weekly episodes of competing series with each episode’s focus on some weighty issue for mankind.  Pulling margin notes, memos, and script drafts together with interviews, both old and new, Cushman recreates the making of each episode from a production standpoint and–even more illuminating—he recreates the development of each story into the final script.  Who was responsible for the romance between Edith Keener and Captain Kirk in City on the Edge of Forever?  (Not Harlan Ellison).  When did Gene Roddenberry’s rewrites contribute to or take away from the story writers’ original vision?  What would NBC let the production get away with (like William Ware Theiss’s many actress costumes) and what did they censor (such as how brutally red-shirts could be offed)?   Why did Romulans wear helmets in Balance of Terror?  How much of those famous introductory words to each episode were actually penned by Gene Roddenberry, and how many takes did William Shatner need to get it right?

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Community cast

It may be a sign that fans of much-loved TV series are finally having a say in determining what stays on TV.  With fans voting with their wallets last month to bring Veronica Mars to the silver screen via an unprecedented Kickstarter campaign, someone savvy at NBC programming must have realized the loyal fan following of Community was worth keeping by saving the half-hour comedy series.   Last night NBC announced Community will be back for a fifth season, moving it ever closer to the series not-so secret mantra “six seasons and a movie”.

The roars of thousands of series fans who chanted along with the montage of key scenes from the past three seasons at Comic-Con last summer said it all.  And it didn’t matter that Chevy Chase wasn’t returning to the series or the much liked show creator Dan Harmon was cast away, as show regulars Joel McHale, Gillian Jacobs, Danny Pudi, Yvette Nicole Brown, Alison Brie, and Donald Glover continued to provide all the fans want and more over the past 84 episodes.

Community McHale

Why do fans like the show?  The humor?  The characters?  The actors?  All of the above?  Watch the series cast talk about the show last year at Comic-Con:

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Episode VII poster

If you have any doubt Patton Oswalt (Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist, Starsky & Hutch, The King of Queens, Dollhouse, Community, Caprica, Burn Notice) is a genius, or comedian, or improv performer, good actor, or all-around cool guy, this week should remove that doubt.  borg.com writer Jason McClain is a fan of Parks and Recreation and has championed the series at borg.com here before.  To advertise Oswalt’s guest appearance on the show last night NBC released this completely improvised scene of Oswalt performing a filibuster before the show’s city council.  It illustrates a lot about how this guy’s brain works and that he’s solidly a genre fan like the rest of us.  

Parks and Rec logo

So check out Oswalt’s vision for the next Star Wars movie (a cool Boba Fett opener!), tying in the Marvel Universe (Moon Knight!  Wolverine’s clone daughter X-23!  Hercules!) and some good ideas you could actually see J.J. Abrams taking seriously (um, minus the Chewbacca one, that is), as well as a good recall of tidbits of Star Wars and Marvel trivia. 

The background extras really had their work cut out for them by keeping straight faces, although you can see five young guys in the back that are totally engaged in Oswalt’s story almost ready to crack.

Bravo!

C.J. Bunce
Editor
borg.com

Hannibal - Season 1

If only it wasn’t another incarnation of Hannibal Lecter.

In hindsight the Academy Awards sweep of Silence of the Lambs at the 1992 Oscar ceremony seems very strange.  A win for a horror movie about a cannibal that took best film, best director for Jonathan Demme, best actor for Anthony Hopkins as the villain Lecter, best actress for Jodie Foster, and best writing for Ted Tally’s adaptation of Thomas Harris’s novel–it was pretty much unheard of.  The actual antagonist in the film was far creepier than Hopkins’ Lecter, played by Ted Levine, who would go on to star as the far kinder cop in Monk.  The Hunt for Red October and Silverado star Scott Glenn also had a key role in the film as an FBI director.

One explanation for the Oscar wins was that the events were preceded by actual cannibalism in the news and as sometimes happens Oscar nods to movies reflecting life.  The other is that it was a pretty bad year for movies, with Lambs facing off against the underwhelming JFK, Bugsy, and The Prince of Tides (it beat one acclaimed film, the bigger box office draw for the year, the successful animated Disney film Beauty and the Beast).  It also beat out two of the best sci-fi films of all time: Terminator 2 and Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country.  Yet which of these are the only films that stand up to repeated viewings today?  Not Lambs or Tides or Bugsy or JFK, but the now classic genre films Terminator, Trek VI, and Beast.

Hannibal poster

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Review by Elizabeth C. Bunce

Season One of borg.com favorite Grimm ended on a high-stakes cliffhanger, with Juliette in a coma, evil Adalind missing, and surprise-of-surprises, Nick’s mom alive and kicking Wesen butt.

Thankfully, NBC didn’t make us wait long for the outcome to all this suspenseful buildup, and Monday night’s Season Two pilot jumped right in with both feet, ratcheting up the tension and stakes with more twisty mysteries, otherworldly conspiracies, and good old-fashioned drama.  What it didn’t do was wrap up any of those storylines–Juliette is still in a coma, Adalind is still missing, and Nick’s mom is a back-from-the-faked-her-own-death UberGrimm–presaging a season full of complex mystery and perhaps more questions raised than answered.

Its attention soundly focused on building the series mythos, “Bad Teeth” follows a French Wesen assassin, or Mauvais Dentes, sent to Portland to presumably dispatch Nick (David Giuntoli)–and anyone standing in his way, including cargo ship stowaways, crewmen, harbormasters, security guards, and FBI agents.  A brief appearance by veteran character actor James Frain (Leverage, Burn Notice, The Closer, etc.) hints at the involvement of the Verrat, one of the ancient secret societies of the Grimmverse introduced last season.  Frain, who is always solid, was especially fun in his one short scene–and we hope to see him again this season.  He’d make a great ongoing villain, and it would be nice to see him in a regular role, instead of just popping up for guest appearances.

Meanwhile, Nick’s reunion with his mother is equal parts tender and educational. Kelly (Kelly? Really?) Burkhardt, in a fun, Chuck-style stunt casting move, is played by longtime favorite Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio (Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, The Abyss, Without a Trace).  They navigate the secrets of Nick’s past and her disappearance/supposed murder, explore Aunt Marie’s trailer, and decipher some of the mystery of the Verrat, the Mauvais Dentes, and the fabled Seven Royal Families in charge of it all.

Meanwhile-meanwhile, as Monroe (Silas Weir Mitchell) and Rosalee (Bree Turner) work on an antidote to Juliette’s (Bitsie Tulloch) magically-induced coma, the backstage machinations of shady police captain Renard continue.  All last season we watched Renard (Sasha Roiz) lurking in the background, conspiring with Hexenbiest Adalind Schade (Claire Coffee), and menacing Nick’s early efforts to harness his Grimm abilities.  The Season Two Renard seems less altogether evil, and more nuanced and complex–a welcome and fascinating development. In fact, it is Renard who seems most dedicated to waking Juliette, although for his own yet-to-be-revealed motives.

If there were missteps in the episode, they’re the same ones to haunt the series thus far.  Primarily?  The consistently underutilized Juliette could hardly be more marginalized–not merely sidelined, but comatose!  Her storyline is compelling, but she’s not doing anything.  The late-season additions of Rosalee and Nick’s mom have helped bolster the female power structure of the show, but we definitely hope to see Juliette recover and take a truly active role in the series.  If she must be kept out of Nick’s secret life, fine–but let’s see more of the smart veterinarian (who, seriously, could be a terrific asset to Wesen investigations).  And how about more scenes showing off one of our favorite cities–the filming location, Portland, Oregon?

It definitely appears as though NBC is investing more in Grimm this season–moving it to a new timeslot (Mondays at 9/8), getting a jumpstart on the fall season, launching innovative multimedia promotions, including a full-on marketing effort at this year’s Comic-Con, and adding a whole new opening to the series.  We love this, because we love Grimm, and it seemed to lag behind similar series Lost Girl (SyFy) and Once Upon a Time (ABC) last season.  Exciting new developments abound, both behind the scenes and onscreen.  We can’t wait for next Monday’s new episode!

They are three very different series, one an 11 season megahit, one a five season struggling hit, and the other a one-season series that missed its audience and hardly had a chance at all.  Fox’s House, M.D. finished its eleventh season Monday with a Hugh Laurie retrospective (where actors Hugh Laurie and Robert Sean Leonard end by trashing the production set) and a textbook finale episode.  USA Network’s In Plain Sight pulled itself together in the final two seasons and ended with a satisfying conclusion earlier this month–the best finale of the three series reviewed here.  NBC’s one season series Awake, a series inexplicably cut short when NBC continues other much weaker, tired programming, provided a rare opportunity to wrap a cancelled series, bookending a stunningly well written series with a clean finish in Thursday night’s finale.

If you haven’t seen these finales you’d do yourself a favor to stop, watch them online or elsewhere, and come back, as there be spoilers ahead here.

House, M.D. had some powerhouse seasons and a superb cast that was ever-changing.  That change took the series to a new level.  With Doctors Chase (Jesse Spencer), Cameron (Jennifer Morrison), and Foreman (Omar Epps) one-upping each other over the first seasons, and an ongoing “will they or won’t they” storyline between Hugh Laurie’s Dr. Greg House and Cuddy (Lisa Edelstein), it took the break-up of the team and a room full of candidates for House’s team to really show the series’ potential.  Enter Doctors Taub (Peter Jacobson), Kutner (Kal Penn), and the Doctors we knew as Cutthroat Bitch (Anne Dudek) and Thirteen (Olivia Wilde) in competition for House’s praise and a place on staff.  Only when the writers finally gave in and put House and Cuddy together did the show fall apart, but then a minor character named Martha Masters played by Amber Tamblyn turned the show around and it sailed in for a strong finish this season as we got to see House with his ideal wife, Dominika, played by Karolina Wydra.

But the writers always returned to what really gave the series heart–House’s friend Wilson (Robert Sean Leonard)–and creator David Shore all but admitted the inspiration for House in the finale’s retrospective.  As we’d always expected the House/Holmes (pronounce it “Homes” if you need to) and Wilson/Watson was intentional, including the House/Holmes brilliant analytical mind and antisocial nature, and to highlight it further the season finale mirrored the famous Sherlock Holmes case, “The Reichenbach Fall.”   Ultimately House, M.D. was a weekly buddy series, and the creators gave us the last scene we all needed.  A big plus for the finale was the return of past cast members, except the glaringly missing Cuddy, with even Kal Penn’s Kutner returning from the dead for an appearance.  And we knew that Doctor Chase would ultimately come out on top in the battle to replace House.  Taking the chair of House’s desk leaves us with the thought that the “show will go on” if not on TV then, by analogy, in real life.

In Plain Sight started almost unsure of what it wanted to be with star Mary McCormack playing an ever-irritable witness relocation program U.S. Marshal who was the bad end of a relationship with cool and (almost) decent boyfriend Raph (Cristian de la Fuente).  Then we began to understand her more as we met her disaster of a family, mom Jinx (Leslie Ann Warren) and sister Brandi (Nichole Hiltz).  Jinx and Brandi got so bad at points you felt bad for the actresses having to play these roles.  But Mary had the best support team you could wish on a person: partner Marshal Marshall Mann (played by Frederick Weller) (a strange character name that worked anyway) who was smart and full of brainy curiosities, and boss Stan McQueen (Paul Ben-Victor), a gruff but perfect-for-Mary leader of the Albuquerque federal office.  Creative differences almost lost the audience at the end of season two, but a re-focus on Mary prompted the series to pick itself up in time for actress Mary McCormack’s real-life pregnancy that the producers smartly just adapted for her character in season four, one of the best seasons of writing an acting for any actress on any television series.

As for the finale, the “will they or won’t they” angst we saw botched by allowing House and Cuddy get together, kept us guessing until almost the last scene for Mary Shannon and Marshall Mann.  When Marshall finally professes his love for Mary in the finale you could hear a collective sigh of relief across the viewing audience.  But it wasn’t what the passing viewer might think–it was true to both characters and simply a perfect climax to the relationship between these two partners, resulting in Marshall taking over the Albuquerque office where he could finally take care of Mary and still marry his fiancée Detective Chaffee (Rachel Boston), while Mary ends up with a new beau and boss Stan gets promoted to the Washington, DC office with new girlfriend Lia (Tia Carrere in the final season’s most refreshing new role).   As satisfying endings go, In Plain Sight simply was a winner.

As standalone episodes, the Awake finale packed a rollercoaster of action, twists, and emotion, with all the important plot threads nicely tied up.  The only problem with Awake likely was that it aired in a primetime slot on a major network.  On any other network–Fox, CW, USA, AMC–Awake would have found its audience and been a smash hit.  But NBC’s typical viewer does not like the clever supernatural drama as NBC has proven with prior cancellations year after year.  Awake was exciting, and included a cast of brilliant actors headlined by British actor Jason Isaacs, who, like fellow Brit Hugh Laurie, offered up a pitch perfect American accent.  Preparing for the worst, the creators readied a season finale that could stand strong as a series finale should the show get cancelled, and low viewership resulted in just that end.  Isaacs’ character Detective Britten never got any rest in season one–every time he awakened he was in a different reality–and it seemed as if Isaacs himself had a heavy burden playing this challenging character in an Emmy-worthy performance.  In fact, if Emmys nominees were being considered right now, you could bet Laurie, McCormack, and Isaacs would be strong contenders.

Awake’s finale allowed the supporting cast to shine–Detective Freeman (Steve Harris), Detective Vega (Wilmer Valderrama), and Dr. Evans (Cherry Jones) and Dr. Lee (BD Wong) only scratched the surface of what future seasons could have revealed.  Missed opportunities, such as what was to happen between Detective Britten and Tara (Michaela McManus), will never be known. Although we will never learn the “why” of the series, the unravelling of the car crash that got Britten into the entire mess gave viewers what we wanted in the end–a way for Britten to undo the past, or at least move forward as if the crash never ruined his life.

Sadly, we likely will never see the one-season Awake characters again other than on DVD, but House, M.D. and In Plain Sight will likely visit us again and again forever in syndication.  The good news is that these great actors are now freed up to give us something else.  What will Hugh Laurie, Robert Sean Leonard, Mary McCormack, Peter Jacobson, Jesse Spencer and Jason Isaacs do next?

C.J. Bunce

Editor

borg.com

Review by C.J. Bunce

Not five minutes into the pilot for NBC’s new crime drama/thriller Awake–you are wrenched into the dilemma suffered by the series’ star, L.A. Detective Michael Britten, played by British actor Jason Isaacs (Case Histories, Lucius Malfoy in the Harry Potter series, DragonHeart, Armageddon, Event Horizon).  Britten wrecked his car with his wife Hannah (Laura Allen, The 4400, House, M.D.) and son Rex (Dylan Minnette), and one of them died.  In his sleep, he lives the reverse of the life he lives while awake–in one reality his son lived, and the other his wife lived.  But which is reality?  “This is not a dream,” each psychiatrist tells him, one in his dream state, the other while awake.

As the title indicates, Detective Britten is perpetually awake.  And the show moves forward with the vibe that he never gets any sleep, not letting up through the pilot’s last scene.  And “wrenched” is the right verb, because as cool as the concept is, the weight of the real-life drama nags at you.

He wears a different colored rubber band to remember which reality he is in.  Has he selected the true reality?  Will he know?  Does he even want to find out?

Halfway through the pilot, Britten’s predicament becomes even trickier.  A clue in one reality–611 Waverly–appears to cross into the other reality.  Can he follow the clue in one reality to help solve the crime in the other?  Are details in his dreams manifesting themselves in his reality, or vice versa?  The psychiatrists are clever (Dr. John Lee played by BD Wong (Jurassic Park, Law and Order: SVU, The X-Files), and Dr. Judith Evans played by Cherry Jones (The Village, Signs, 24), finding ways to prove the other’s advice is wrong.  One psychiatrist is gentle, the other is tough.  Is all of this his brain’s way of dealing with loss?

We meet two detectives, one, Britten’s long-time partner, direct and confident Det. Isaiah Freeman, played by Steve Harris (Minority Report, Bringing Down the House), the other, less confident but cool rookie Det. Efrem Vega, played by Wilmer Valderrama (Fez from That ’70s Show).

Along with the ongoing question of what really happened to Britten, not one but two crime dramas must be sleuthed out by the end of the hour.  Which murder came first?  The cab driver?  The kidnapped girl?  Has his subconscious turned his crisis in real life into a case he must solve in his dreams?  As soon as he decides which is dead, will that person stop appearing in his dreams?

The maneuvering from each reality is seemless and unrelenting.  The weaving of the two realities is well constructed.  Along with the lead role, Isaacs also serves as producer on the series.

Isaacs as the tormented father/husband/cop is the highlight of the new series, along with the supporting roles of the detectives played by Harris and Valderrama.  Ultimately the pilot plunges us into Britten’s world too quickly and feels a bit off.  The psychological and almost supernatural nature of the plot lends itself to comparison to the Life on Mars TV series.  But will Awake be a success like the British version or short-lived like the U.S. version?  If the story stays on-track this could work as an ongoing must-see, but if not it risks being another show with a gimmick like Christian Slater’s My Own Worst Enemy.  The chemistry between Isaacs and Allen as husband and wife is not quite there yet, which is to be expected for a pilot, but it may have to do with the 11 year age difference of the actors which is strangely obvious.  The storytelling device of the dueling psychiatrists is a bit convenient, but in the introductory scene it works nicely.  The pilot is wrapped up neatly–maybe too neatly.  That said, Britten says if the price of not letting go of one of his family members is no sleep and his very sanity, then so be it.  Knowing that, the challenge will be where the series’ writers can take the first season.

Awake premieres on NBC March 1.

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