My Favorite New TV Characters From the ’14-’15 Season

I fell in love with an extraordinary number of new characters this TV season. Looking back in the ones I loved or connected with the most, I decided I’d make a list of my favorite new characters from this TV season. Once I made my list, I realized that they were all people of color. This was not on purpose, but it delights me greatly.

Cisco Ramon (Carlos Valdes) ⇒ The Flash

When Caitlin and Cisco guest starred in Arrow on season two, I didn’t care about them. I couldn’t really grasp who they were or connect with them at all. Once The Flash started, however, they quickly came into their own and Cisco proved to be one of the seasons funniest and savviest characters. I think what draws me to Cisco is the same thing that draws me to characters like Abed Nadir from Community or Kenneth the Page from 30 Rock. All of these characters are like me: pop culture savvy, people who make references to movies and TV on a daily if not hourly basis and are always looking for the hope and the humor in life. Cisco, by nature of his pop culture obsessed nature, is one of the meta characters on the show, the fact that he has recently been revealed to be a metahuman makes that even more meta. All things I love.

How do you not love him?

Ravi Chakrabarti (Rahul Kohli) ⇒ iZombie

iZombie’s Ravi is the most recent addition to this list, but definitely a character I want to protect at all costs. (Being that it’s a zombie show, all characters run the risk of dying, but don’t do it to Ravi!) I think what first struck me about Ravi was his loyalty. He meets Olivia Moore, this weird girl who used to be an ER doctor, and when he discovers her secret, he doesn’t tell anyone, not even her. He vows to keep her secret and help find a cure for zombieism with no personal gain. His immediate loyalty to both her and Major is extremely endearing. He’s also snarky, has fantastic hair, a great accent, and looks great in a suit. I hope season two provides for Ravi backstory and opportunities for Liv and Major (and Peyton?) to return the loyalty favor.

We’re glad you are, Ravi.

Maggie Pierce (Kelly McCreary) ⇒ Grey’s Anatomy

It’s hard to introduce a new character when your show is 11 seasons in, but Grey’s Anatomy manages to consistently add new characters and have fans come to love them. One of the first things I loved about Maggie was her hair. As a natural black girl myself, seeing curls like hers on TV is always a delight. I was hesitant about her character, as she was introduced so soon around Cristina Yang’s exit—I feared they would try to replace Cristina in Meredith’s life, especially once you find out she is her sister. And while Maggie is slowly plugging the hole that Cristina (and now Derek) left in Meredith’s life, she isn’t trying to replace her. She is her own character who interacts with Meredith in a different way, a way that Meredith needs now that she’s lost those who were previously so close to her. Maggie brings loyalty (have I mentioned I love loyalty in fictional characters? Because I do.), a willingness to be there no matter what the question (her offer to babysit Mer’s kids), and a somewhat normal family background. She’s also awkward, nerdy (she’s an expert crossword puzzle solver—a cruciverbalist), and she’s interested in helping other people. These are all wonderful qualities and I can’t wait to get to know Maggie more.

You’re too good for this hospital, Maggie. Save yourself!

Jane Villanueva (Gina Rodriguez) ⇒ Jane the Virgin

Ask anyone who’s seen Jane the Virgin and they will extol the wondrous and many virtues of Gina Rodriguez. You’ve probably seen the think pieces, her Golden Globes speech, and her (amazing) Emmy campaign poster by now, so you know that she and her character Jane are well loved across the TV fandom. Nearly everything about Jane makes me love her (even her faults, because they are things I relate to), but the things that I might love most include the fact that she’s a writer (who is still trying to figure out her writing path), she’s loving to her mother and grandmother, she’s funny, she shops at Target, and she fearless even in her insecurites. Even if Jane is unsure, she determines to find out the answer, to become sure. She does her research, but she also listens to her heart. She allows herself to cry and still know that she is strong. She’s a great model for young female characters. I am so glad we have Jane.

I hope we get more rapping Jane in Season 2.

Diane Johnson (Caila Marsai Martin) ⇒ blackish

Kids on TV are hard to cast. Sometimes they can be seen as annoying or too sweet or unrealistic. blackish’s Diane Johnson defies these challenges. She’s cute but she’s smart, she’s fierce but she’s relatable. She’s funny but not in an annoying way. I love that Diane speaks her mind. That she’s smart and knows it and doesn’t back down or apologize for it. I love that she realistically puts down her twin brother, but won’t let anyone else mess with him. I love that she scares Charlie. Also I love her dimples and her sass and her glasses and the way her hair is different in every episode and that once they even put her in a headscarf (because Lord knows she’d need to wear her headscarf in order to keep those barretts in place at night). Diane is shaping up to be a fantastic person and I am so excited to see her grow older.

Love how semi-neatly she’s making it rain. 

Emery & Evan Huang (Forrest Wheeler & Ian Chen) ⇒ Fresh Off the Boat

I think Evan and Emery Huang come as a package deal for me. They’re both adorable and it would be easy for them to be written similarly (especially in their contrast to Eddie and especially due to their closeness in age), but the show gives them distinct personalities that still have an opportunity to shape and grow.

Emery gets all the girls and is clearly sweet to them and his family.

Evan uses his cuteness to get away with everything, including his sharp tongue, and he’s well aware that that’s what he’s doing.

Both boys are smart and funny, the actors have excellent comedic timing. I can’t wait to see who they become as characters because they’re so young that they can still change and grow depending on the writing.

Who were some of your favorite new characters this TV season? 

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BGN Podcast with the black-ish Kid Cast

This week, I had the awesome opportunity to once again join the Black Girl Nerds Podcast, whose guests for the week were the kids from ABC’s hit new sitcom black-ish. Three out of four of the kids were able to join, Miles Brown, Caila Marsai Martin, and Marcus Scribner, while Yara Shahidi was unable to join in due to travel conflicts.

It was a fun podcast. The kids are all super polite, eloquent, funny, and really self-assured. They had us adults talking and listening re-evaluating our lives! They really know their stuff and know how to inspire people (Dream Big, Inspire Many! as Miles likes to say). They have a lot of fun on set and it seems all three kids had great Christmases. I am so glad the world is theirs and they are such good kids to represent the black kids watching them on TV. They will be a great inspiration to so many young children watching black-ish, the way the Huxtable kids or the Banks kids or the  (for older viewers) the Hillman kids were for the young viewers watching them. Marcus, as the oldest, especially. He wants to go to Stanford to be a Journalist! He’s already got really academic aspirations and seems smart, and confident yet still nerdy. And humble, all three sounded extremely humble and just happy to be where they are. It was a great conversation and I feel so inspired having spoken to them. Listening to them will make me like black-ish even more because I know such great kids are behind their characters.

Listen to the podcast here. I’ll be back on the BGN Podcast next week with author Daniel Jose Older, author of a novel coming out this week titled Half-Resurrection Blues. Then I’m on a podcast hiatus for a while. Maybe.

#BGNPodcast In Case You Missed It: The Kids of #BlackishABC.

Midseason Diversity Check-In

From what I’ve noticed of this season’s midseason finales, is that it’s been a rough one. Characters have died left and right, been fired, gone missing, etc — I’M SO WORRIED ABOUT ABUELA! — and a whole bunch of other trials that don’t even happen at season finales! But let’s check in with some of our new and returning characters of color this season. How are they doing as characters and how are their shows faring so far this season?

[a few midseason finale spoilers below, particularly Sleepy Hollow, Scandal and Jane the Virgin. Proceed at your own risk.]

Sleepy Hollow

They did what to who? #RIPBelovedCharacter

Over on Sleepy Hollow, it seems like Abbie (Nicole Beharie) has been getting the short end of the stick and fans are noticing. I’m three episodes behind, but from what I saw before I needed to catch up and what I’ve heard with regard to the over-inclusion of Katrina and the killing of Captain Irving (Orlando Jones), it seems that what we once loved about Sleepy Hollow is being written out of existence. (Killing Irving feels a bit like the Black Guy Dies First trope, honestly. Though John Cho’s character did die last season and he was also a major character. That felt more nuanced, however, and Orlando Jones was promoted to main cast and then killed off, so it certainly speaks to the typical horror trope. Le sigh.) Here’s hoping that Irving is magically resurrected and brings new life back to the show. Also, less Katrina. Hopefully this is mere sophomore slump and things will turn around, but if they don’t do it soon enough, it won’t make it to a season 3.

Gotham

Jada Pinkett Smith Fish Mooney

Gotham’s downfall but the show’s saving grace?

One time slot later, Jada Pinkett-Smith has been owning things as Fish Mooney in Gotham City, but can she save an otherwise kinda dull show? I’m also three episodes behind on that one, but I’m not sure I have the desire to tune in again. Fish is the brightest (visually, and she’s definitely up there intellectually) and most interesting character on the show (Penguin holds about even in most fans opinions), so hopefully they give her enough to do. But I’m a little bored by Gotham so far.

Jane the Virgin

Villanuevas

Sorry Sleepy Hollow, but if you continue the way you’re going, Jane the Virgin is going to get my Mondays at 9pm live-viewing points. It’s one of the best shows, new or old, on television now, flawlessly weaving from comedy to drama to mystery to melodrama in the blink of an eye without losing its momentum. Definitely the strongest writing of the season, especially for a new show. The Golden Globes recently recognized nominated it for Best Comedy, as well as star Gina Rodriguez for Best Actress in a Comedy Series. I’m not holding my breath that they’ll win, but hey, miracles happen. My only concern for Jane (besides what happened to Abuela in the midseason finale — !! –) is how long can they stretch the premise? I can see the show going one strong season and maybe a season 2, but what are the plans for after she has the baby and for when she’s perhaps, no longer a virgin? Will the show just outlive it’s title? It seems that audiences have shown, with their lack of patience for will-they/won’t they, that they won’t be content to be strung along to wait for Jane to marry a suitor. So far, I’ve been no reason to not trust the creative team, but the concern is in the back of my mind. (Side note: After writing about Sleepy Hollow’s death above, I’ve realized that Zazz’s death was also “Black Guys Dies First”… ::sigh::)

The Flash

Iris and Barry

You’ve got a lot cut out for you, Iris, if you want us to love you as much as we love your dad. And to ship you with Barry, rather then the SnowBarry love that’s snowballing through Central City.

I love The Flash. I love Joe West, played by the impeccable Jesse L. Martin. He and Barry (Grant Gustin) have amazing father-son chemistry and usually at least once per episode, a scene between them pulls at your heart-strings. Iris (Candice Patton), on the other hand, has a little ways to go. Barry loves her — this is great for black women being presented as the love interest, especially since she’s not a black female stereotype. But is she too tame in the other direction? I don’t want a sassy black girl — been there, done that ad nauseam– but she’s a bit perfect in every way which makes her a little boring. She also never realized that her so-called best friend is in love with her and has super powers — makes her seem a little self-absorbed. Candice is lovely, I like her a lot, but I think her character needs to find her purpose a little more. We don’t want a Laurel situation…

Shondaland: Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal, How to Get Away with Murder

The ladies of Shondaland!

We already know that Shondaland Thursdays has been knocking it out of the park. And we already know that Shonda Rhimes’ shows have always been champions for diversity as well as color-blind casting (both purposely casting people of color as well as not limiting non-specific casting to only white actors). And this season has been no different. Meredith Grey has a black sister (Kelly McCreary) on Grey’s Anatomy (which I no longer watch outside of the 5 minutes before Scandal comes on)! Scandal’s Olivia is trying to get past her romantic hang ups and finally choosing herself — though it looks like someone else wants to choose her too and kidnapped her to have her. Meanwhile, Joe Morton continues to give the best monologues on television while being deliciously evil! And while we’re all here for Viola Davis (and her manipulative ways) and Alfie Enoch (and his perpetual confusion) being our lead actors, surprise audience interest perhaps goes to Oliver (Connor’s bf played by Conrad Ricamora) and Detective Bae (I mean Nate) played by Billy Brown. All three shows have Image Award nominations, while Viola alone will hold down Shondaland at this year’s Golden Globes (though award for best giraffe goes to Alfie) for How to Get Away With Murder. When we return from hiatus, I can only imagine where these shows will go!

black-ish

black-ish cast

Say “hi” to several NAACP Image Awards

In the comedy arena, black-ish has been holding strong, being touted as ABC’s #1 new comedy this season (I think ABCs cancelled most of their other ones already…). It’s already snagged a few NAACP Image Award nominations for Best Comedy, Leading Actor and Actress in a Comedy, as well as some supporting actor and actress noms. The show is quickly finding it’s legs and allowing for more diverse conversations on race to happen on the show — my initial hesitance with it stemmed from a kind of one note portrayal of how black people should be (coming from Anthony Anderson’s character Andre), but I think as Dre learns that his family is still black no matter what they like to do or eat or play, hopefully America learns this lesson too. Shows like this are important in bringing different perspectives into the homes of those who may not (somehow) interact with black people on an even weekly basis. Plus, I am loving Tracee Ellis-Ross and young Marsai Martin is a scene stealer. She’s really going places. Keep a look out for a Black Girl Nerds podcast featuring some of the cast members of this show.

Brooklyn Nine-Nine

Look at this beautifully diverse cast!

Brooklyn Nine-Nine has been holding it down on Sundays. I still think it’s a terrible time slot and foolish to split up the comedies on the network, but it’s a great show that has been giving more and more focus to the two Latinas (Amy [Melissa Fumero] and Rosa [Stephanie Beatriz]) and the black men (Terry [Terry Crews] and Captain Holt [Andre Brauer]). Just looking at the cast photo, it’s really wonderful to see that not only does the show realize you can have more than one black person at a time, you can ALSO have more than one Latina person at a time. Very few other shows (outside of Shondaland) realize that. Not that it couldn’t be even better with some Asian, Native American, Indian or Arab representation; but even without, it’s doing much better than a lot of shows even on this list in terms of a wider range of diverse characters. Though it wasn’t nominated this year, I am still incredibly proud of it winning the Golden Globe for best comedy last year. And Andre Brauer has been getting more and more kudos for his hilarity even while playing the incredibly staid character of Captain Holt– he’s even been nominated for an NAACP award this year.

Honorable Mentions:

  • Cristela (Cristela Alonzo) is holding steady with a full season pick up! I haven’t been watching it, but it the few tweets I’ve seen about it say that it’s still pretty funny. Though I suppose your mileage may vary.
  • Fresh Off the Boat hasn’t premiered yet, but it will soon add some Asian representation to the network landscape.
  • Not really a network TV show, but I must say I am getting more and more excited for The Minority Report — I mean The Nightly Show Starring Larry Wilmore. I’m still sad they can’t use the title Minority Report…http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iX6xoYMNJfw

We Still Have Some Work To Do:

Ted Grant Arrow

Gotta fight for better representation of your fello Latinos, Ted. I mean esse.

In less than stellar representation is Arrow (shame on you, one of my favorite shows this season!), for their portrayal of Latinos in one episode this season and for once again whitewashing R’as al Ghul (though your mileage may vary on whether having a brown person play this character benefits representation).

Sadly, John Cho’s Selfie was cancelled. I didn’t watch it, but the few who have are growing to love it before just as they watch it fall into the cancellation abyss. If you like, go #SaveSeflie over on Hulu! I must say that having an Asian-American get to play a romantic lead is awesome and hopefully Selfie’s downfall won’t stop future shows from casting Cho (or any other Asian actor) as their lead.

I feel like this is how we all look at Katherine Heigl…

State of Affairs was seriously underwhelming when I watched it, even Alfre Woodard (whose character is also named Constance) couldn’t compel me to watch episode 2 and its lukewarm reception leaves me wondering if it will survive its first 100 days on TV (I had to make a presidential joke, had to!).


That’s my TV midseason diversity check-in! I can’t watch everything on TV, so I may have missed some (didn’t a black character bite the dust on Agents of SHIELD? How’s Watson doing on Elementary or Michonne from The Walking Dead?) Some characters are on an upward swing, but others still have work to do. Either way, I am glad to see their faces and hope that there are more and more faces like theirs in seasons to come. The NAACP Image award television nominations had a lot of these actors (Viola, Gina, ), when last season they wouldn’t have had as many options, so there is some slow progress being made. The massive successes of especially How to Get Away With Murder and Jane the Virgin will hopefully finally show studios and networks that you can take a chance on people of color and unique storytelling and people will respond to it.

What other shows have PoC in them and how have they been treated this midseason? 

ConStar’s Pilot Watch: Black-ish

I’m not sure how I feel about Black-ish. There are parts I really enjoyed and I think it had the humor it needed. I think Tracee Ellis Ross was fantastic and funny, and the kids on the show are super adorable. Plus, it’s a pilot, so there’s always room to grow and get stronger, but I’m not sure what I am supposed to take away from it. I think, and hope, that they’re building a show where the dad tries to make his family act stereotypically “black” but then realizes his family is black no matter how they act. They don’t have to conform to some stereotypical ideal of what black means. Because some of the “black” things he tried to make his son do were ridiculous and weren’t things that were even apart of his own culture, something I suppose they will touch on as well (the differences between being black and being African).

I do enjoy that there is a struggle and an uncomfortableness, because I struggle with the idea of being called “white” by my black family/friends or being called an “oreo.” I think it’s about people either adapting or sticking out and trying to find that balance and I think the show will explore that. I like the idea of the main character being in the wrong: every episode will deal with him trying to impose some sort of ideal on his family, then being forced to realize that they can balance the new aspects of themselves they like (field hockey for instance) with the things of “classic” black culture (there are Adidas track suits at the end of the episode that are literally in my cousin’s closet).

There were really funny moments, though I’m not sure how I feel about the voice over done by Anthony Anderson’s character. I suppose it flowed once the story picked up steam, but I wasn’t expecting it. Again, Tracee Ellis Ross was really great; I haven’t watched Girlfriends yet, so I’ve never seen her act in anything. I enjoyed her and the kids are cute and precocious, though only the oldest gets real character development.

There’s a lot of pressure on this show. It’s the only network black sitcom and if it fails, there might not be a call for more. And of course it has to follow in the footsteps of black family comedies like The Cosby Show, The Fresh Prince, and Family Matters. There’s totally room to grow; but let’s not get over-ambitious and call it the Cosby Show of this millennium. I’m not ready to give it that high honor yet. Just in terms of character and writing, what I remember of the Cosby Show defined all the kids’ characterization and their relationships in a stronger way than this did; and no one will ever forget the “I brought you in this world, and I will take you out” line that, while stemming from Cosby’s stand-up, really made an impression on the series’ tone and potential.

Verdict:  I will watch it regularly unless it disappoints. ::please don’t disappoint::

Minority actors land the lead roles in fall’s diverse TV lineup | New York Post

Check out the Post’s article on the PoC led dramas coming this fall. And a few are led by women! Numbers are getting better, but no where near where they need to be.

The link and a couple of quotes below.

With “Scandal” commanding $200,970 per 30-second advertising spot, it’s a cash cow.“The color Hollywood loves the most is green,” says Wilmore. “Shonda Rhimes really showed that you can have a black lead in your thriller and you can have a great show. She broke down that wall, and Hollywood follows success.”

Hollywood definitely follows the money. Hopefully these new shows prove to be great television as well. The problem we’ve faced in the past has not always been a lack of content (well, yes, this is the problem, but) sometimes the content put out there isn’t good. There are a lot of times people of color will watch a show featuring someone of their background and that will boost ratings, but ratings will drop off if they don’t consider the show good. It’s not just about representation in numbers, but representation in quality and content. Don’t just give us a show with a black person and say it’s diversity, the content has to be good as well.

Rina Mimoun, executive producer of “Red Band Society,” says that, because of the Rhimes effect, “people will open up their casting. There’s no reason not to.”

More and more producers are realizing this, but things still aren’t where they need to be. The Emmy’s certainly showed that with the small amount of PoC nominees and smaller winners (most weren’t even televised). Hopefully, with this new crop of PoC led shows, next year’s Emmy’s will feature more PoC nominees and winners (now that Breaking Bad is finally out of the race; and maybe Emmy voters will finally be over Modern Family).

(In addition to these current shows, let’s not forget Sleepy Hollow, also led by a black female–I don’t think the article mentioned it.)

via Minority actors land the lead roles in fall’s diverse TV lineup | New York Post.

Fall TV 2014: How Packed is Your Primetime Schedule?

I’m trying to blog more, I really am. But work-life and attempting to write scripty things has taken away my energy. Also my obsession with the show Arrow. BUT Fall is approaching and I wanted to take a look at the shows I’ll be watching this season.

Here’s TV Line’s full Fall Schedule.

And here’s mine! [Sept 13 edit, after I’ve watched several of these pilots, check out how and read reviews here.]

Screen Shot 2014-09-13 at 2.31.27 PM

What should I be watching that’s not on here?

I’m most excited for The Flash, Arrow S3, and Brooklyn 99 S2, but of course my other returning shows bring me much joy as well. I’m watching the Nolan Batman trilogy as I type this–Batman Begins at the moment–so I’ll check out Gotham (hopefully it goes more the way of Arrow and less the way of Agents of SHIELD in maintaining my interest). I’m gonna check out Cristela (even though it’s a multi-cam comedy) because diversity needs a shot on television. black-ish also gets my views for that reason, but also just missing the existence of a black sitcom, and having a TV that might speak to my experiences as a black nerd (hopefully).

How to Get Away with Murder should be very interesting. Shondaland Thursdays are in full effect–if only I still felt like watching Grey’s Anatomy. Sleepy Hollow and Castle are my Monday mainstays–hopefully I’ll still be able to blog about them come fall. New Girl and Mindy help BK99 fill the void of Parks not coming back till mid-season, but only just barely. Finally, I’ll check out Mulaney and Jane the Virgin, but those could go either way for me.

Screen Shot 2014-08-26 at 10.50.20 PM

On September 6th, I’ll be at the Paley Center here in NY watching the FOX, ABC, and CW pilots, so I’ll have a bit of an early preview regarding those, with an audience no less! Should be fun! I’ll try to blog about the experience. I know some pilots are available already, but like I said, other concerns have taken precedence. I’m working on getting back to blogging as fall approaches, hopefully I can start posting more. [Edit: Full post with links to episode reviews here.]

If you’re following along, what fall shows are you most looking forward to watching? So far my schedule is 14 shows deep! That’s not including Key&Peele, Whose Line, The Tonight Show, The Daily Show, The Colbert Report…! Phew! I hope my DVR can handle it all!

How packed is your primetime schedule?

Upfronts 2014: Black-ish

Could this be the return of the black sitcom?

This is the question on everyone’s minds as the Laurence Fishbourne/Anthony Anderson comedy gets slated for ABC’s post Modern Family time slot. It’s definitely a strong lead-in, both because of Modern Family’s consistently high ratings and Emmy nominations as well as being similar family programming. Check out the teaser trailer below:

Based on Barris’ own life (loosely), Black-ish will follow an upper-middle class black man, intent on raising his kids with some sense of cultural identity, in the face of an assault of constant contradictions and obstacles coming from various directions, insisting that his children be color-blind.

decided to do this project when I looked up and realized that everywhere I go I’m constantly the fly in buttermilk… I’m usually THE Black guy at work. We’re THE Black family in the neighborhood. My kids are basically THE Black kids at school. I think it’s kind of a situation of be careful what you wish for. It’s almost in like moving on up, I’ve sort of priced myself “out” of being Black,” said Barris.

The show makes me both excited and nervous. I’m excited to see a black family on television. I’m even more excited to see a black family in a single camera sitcom (has there been one? I can’t think of one  Everybody Hates Chris was one!). But oh boy am I nervous. As a person who is often not seen as black because of the things that I like and the way I speak and the education I got, and as a member of the Black Girl Nerds community and seeing a lot of other people who struggle with being called “oreos” or “not black” and often being the only black person in your work/school/extracurriculars, there are a lot of sensitive issues to deal with. As long as the show deals with being black in a middle class environment without the characters losing their identities as black people.

The title alone is a little worrisome–black-ish implies that through their middle class lifestyle, they’re not fully black, only a little black or sort of black. Just because they have Jewish friends or hang out in affluent neighborhoods shouldn’t take away from the fullness of their blackness. It sounds like the character “insisting his children be colorblind” means that 1. they accept everyone regardless of their background and 2. the struggle the father endures through the series is that the children should be allowed to be who they are and like what they like with it having no reflection on how “black” they are. That’s not the kind of colorblindness we should have, but is often the kind we get: accepting characters regardless of their color but erasing any ethnic identity they have. I don’t know if I am explaining things right or if it’s truly the measure of how I believe things should be. Again, it’s sensitive issues and hard to define or draw the lines, but hopefully the team behind the show address these issues with comedy and class. Maybe the title was just a catchy way to express what the show is about.

So I’m excited! I’ll definitely be checking it out; I hope it’s funny and strong and I hope I can relate to the characters, as their experiences already speak to mine. But I am also nervous.

 

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