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SERIES PREMIERE RECAP & REVIEW: Black-ish “Pilot” S1 E1

I’m going to try not to get too deep in this review.   After all, this is a sitcom.   But I watched Black-ish and I wasn’t quite sure what to make of it.  I loved the trailer and laughed out loud when Dre’s son Andre (Andy) came home and wanted to have a bar mitzvah and change his name to his hebrew one (either Shlomo or Shmoole…which I’m probably butchering the spelling.)   I loved the instant chemistry between Anderson and Ross.  In a 2 minute trailer, I totally bought them as husband and wife.   So I was very excited for this premiere.   But then I watched it all and for the most part I liked it but I do have a bit of “Mike and Molly” fear for this show.

Shows like this, where they push racial and cultural boundaries, are always interesting because it can insight passionate responses from viewers…both good and bad.  I’ve already seen lots of comments on this about how “white people won’t understand the humor” and “this show is racist and offensive” etc, etc.   I think everyone needs to take a deep breath.   In the simplest of terms, this show is about an African-American family living a hugely successful life (Dre is a SVP of his company and Rainbow is a surgeon) in the suburbs yet still trying to stay true to their roots…at least Dre is.   Now he has to remind the rest of his family how important that is as well.   The cast is led by Anthony Anderson, Tracey Ellis Ross, and Laurence Fishburne.  But my favorite so far is Marcus Scribner’s Andre Jr.   That kid had the best lines and best material in the pilot.  First with the bar mitzvah.  He also wants to be called Andy (because it shows he’s edgy yet approachable), play field hockey, and hold onto his first boob (vs. holding onto his roots.)  I loved that kid.   And like The Goldbergs last year, I instantly felt like this was a family.  The chemistry between all of them was evident right off the bat.

This could be a groundbreaking show.    The kind of show that families can watch and have a great discussion about afterwards.   There are many people who argue, that shows like that don’t work on network TV any more.   Well, maybe not.   Unless it’s a well written, well thought out show that has the abilities to push the boundaries with humor to bring real conversations to the forefront.  And Black-ish has the potential to be that show.  I already have tons of questions.   I can’t directly relate to the internal struggle of an African-American man who came from a tough background to raising his family in the type of environment that was better than his and how he balances raising his children in a color free world yet staying true to their cultural heritage.  There is no way I can ever completely understand that.   But I’d like to understand it better than I do now.   And I’m curious to watch it and learn more about it.   For example, the one part of the show where I raised my eye brow was when Dre was upset that his daughter didn’t want to hang out with the only other black girl in the school and that she didn’t even refer to her as the “only other black girl in the school.”  His daughter responded by saying “I don’t know.  When I hear Liza Jackson I think of meatballs and turkey burgers.”  Isn’t that a good thing, that she didn’t see the color of her skin?   Why was Dre so upset?  I don’t understand.   I feel like the way his kids were talking about Liza is exactly the way you want them to talk about her…as a little girl, not a little black girl.   I would think so.  Look at how upset Dre was with his promotion.  He was hoping to break down barriers at his company by becoming the first black SVP.   But not the first black SVP of the “Urban Division.”  It took something away from the promotion for Dre and I do understand that.   But if your goal is to break down barriers then why drive the “blackness” so hard at home with your family?   It’s that the exact opposite of what you’re trying to achieve?   It’s confusing.    So I hope the show explores that a bit more because while I’ll never fully be able to relate because I’m not African-American, I could certainly be more informed and have a better understand than before.    I want to know why someone who wants his family as far away from the way he was brought up as possible, also wants to make sure his roots are still very prevalent in their everyday lives.   What specific parts of your roots are you referring to?   I really want to know.

But my “Mike and Molly” fear is that I don’t want the show to be all about “black” jokes.   With M&M, I didn’t want the show to be all about “fat jokes.”  Initially it was and then it toned down and went to everyday comedy with the fat jokes coming every once in a while.   The pilot of Black-ish was very heavy-handed with the jokes about fried fried chicken being too black for Rainbow (who is mixed race) and “if I’m not black enough can someone tell my hair and my ass.”   That’s all well and good but I hope they tone it down and it’s more background humor than the front and center humor.  I know that’s kind of the premise of the show but I think that humor can still be part of the show maybe not just every joke….like M&M was with the fat jokes.  It gets old after a while.  And I think this cast deserves to be more than one trick ponies because they’re pretty fantastic.

I enjoyed Black-ish and will continue to watch.   Not only because I find the show incredibly interesting but it’s also really, really funny!

DVRs: 3+

 

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SERIES PREMIERE RECAP & REVIEW: Gotham “Pilot” S1 E1

We are a little superhero crazy right now.   Last year we had Arrow (in its second season) and Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD (first season.)    This year we have four more coming…The Flash, Constantine, iZombie, and now Gotham.  Is it too much?   I guess we’ll have to see.  Like anything, too much of a good thing can be a bad thing.    We really didn’t need 3 different CSIs, 3 different NCISs, 2 Criminal Minds,10 different reality talent competitions, etc.   So will the comic/superhero genre be too much?    We’ll see.  In my opinion as long as they are good shows, it makes so difference to me.   And I would argue Gotham isn’t in the same realm as the other comic book shows.    Gotham is an origin story.  This is not a Batman story, in the present form as we know Batman.   In fact, Bruno Heller (the man behind The Mentalist and others) has already come out and said, we not see the Caped Crusader.   That makes me happy.  There are so many movies about Batman, I don’t need a TV show about him….unless it’s different.   Gotham is different.

As I said before, Gotham is an origin story.   What does that mean?   It means we get to see characters we are familiar with (and some we don’t) before we really knew them.   A prequel if you will.  But this isn’t the story of how Batman becomes Batman.  At least not directly.    This is the story of the man who helped define the future Bruce Wayne and the city that Batman fiercely protects.  In a way, Gotham is very much the central character of the show the way New York City was for Sex and the City.   But Gotham’s central protagonist is rookie Detective Jim Gordon (future Commissioner James Gordon) played by Ben Mackenzie who’s first real crime to solve is the murder of Tom and Martha Wayne, parents of Bruce Wayne (our future Batman.)  The Waynes are the wealthiest family in Gotham (so I’m not sure why they were walking down a dark alley at night but that’s another story.)   So when Gordon and his partner Harvey Bullock (Donal Logue) are sent to the crime scene, Bullock wants no part of it.   Gordon goes over to talk to Bruce, who witnesses the crime, and connects with him instantly.  Scenes like this are why I love origin stories so much.   You know how this relationship eventually evolves and what their relationship is in the Batman world as we know it today.  But we’ve never seen how it all started.  We were told, but hearing it and seeing it are so different.   It’s a great look into the history of this friendship.   Gordon opens up to Bruce to let him know he knows what he’s going through because of the death of his father at a young age.   He promises him he’ll find out who did this and bring them to justice.   We are introduced to a plethora of characters throughout the pilot most of whom we already know…..Selina Kyle AKA Catwoman (Camren Bicondovra), Oswald Cobblepot AKA The Penguin (Robin Lord Taylor), Edward Nygma AKA The Riddler (Cory Michael Smith), Ivy Pepper AKA Poison Ivy (Clare Foley), Barbara Kean AKA Mrs Barbara Gordon (Erin Richards), and is it possible the stand up comedian at Mooney’s establishment is the man we will come to know as The Joker?   Maybe not.   But Mooney spent a little too much time (as did the camera) paying attention to the stand up.   If he was just background for her scene with Cobblepot, why bother giving him so much screen time?   Just something to think about.  While I love seeing all the people as their original selves vs. their pseudonyms did we really need to meet EVERYONE in the pilot.    Couldn’t we have saved some for later?   Just seemed as if the show runners were trying to pack 10 pounds of poop into a 5 pound bag.

With all the characters we met that we have some familiarity with, two of the most interesting to me was the one who I knew nothing about and who was brand new….Fish Mooney (Jada Pinkett Smith.)   Maybe it was the way Smith was playing her but I found her to be sinister, hard ass, a bit terrifying, and incredibly enjoyable.   Mooney is one of the big crime lords in Gotham and is fortunate enough to have some of the cops (like Gordon’s partner) in her pocket for protection.   But when Mooney thinks Gordon and Bullock didn’t fall in line with her way of doing business, she had them scheduled to be killed.   Not to mention, when she finds out the Cobblepot snitched on her, she comes down on him with a violent fury, just short of killing him.     Don’t pee in her Cheerios.  But someone even scarier with stronger, more powerful ties in Gotham saves their lives.    That man is Carmen Falcone, head of the Gotham City mob with a connection to Gordon’s father.   We learn that Falcone and Gordon’s father (the former DA of Gotham) were actually friends.   I wonder how much of that is actually true vs. Falcone’s interpretation of their arrangement.  But this scene (among others) is where we learn why Jim Gordon will have a rough go in Gotham and why the Caped Crusader is eventually needed.  Falcone has everyone in his payroll….cops, lawyers, politicians, you name it.   Falcone runs the city.  In his own twisted way, he loves the city and vows to protect it at all costs.   Protect it from whom?    I would say from naive, doe eyed cops who want to “clean up” the city from crime and corruption.   “You can’t have organized crime without law and order.  I love this city and I see it going to hell.   I won’t let it go without a fight” Falcone informs Gordon.  In Falcone’s mind, the cops are a necessary part of his business model.  However, he expects those cops to fall in line with HIS sense of order and justice.   Falcone being as smart as he is realizes that Gordon is a good man, like his dad.  He’s honorable, a straight shooter, and someone who will do the right thing.   So in order to keep him in line, he orders him (through Bullock) to kill Cobblepot.  It’s an incredible scene watching Gordon walk Cobblepot to the end of the pier while Cobblepot pleads for his life.   And just before Gordon pulls the trigger he tells him “don’t ever come back to Gotham.”  He shoots and dumps him in the water.  Now, Gordon doesn’t actually shoot him ( you can’t kill The Penguin in the pilot) but from Bullock’s vantage point, Gordon did what Falcone wanted.   In the end, Gordon goes to Wayne Manor to see Master Bruce (Alfred of course is with him) to let him know that the man arrested for his parents’ murder wasn’t the right man.   That person is still at large and Gordon intends to find him.   But the key is Bruce keeping quite about what he knows in order for him to do that.  Bruce agrees.   You can already begin to see a transformation in Bruce from the scared, crying child, to the methodical, vigilante he will become.

While a lot happened in this episode, the big thing that stood out to me was how well cast this show is.  Mackenie is perfectly cast as Gordon.   He has the rugged toughness you need to be a top cop in a tough town but he also has the righteous, superior aura that certainly divides the good guys from the bad and highlights the ones in the middle, like Bullock.   But how long can he hold onto these high ground morals while trying to clean up the city from the inside of a department wrought with corruption and fear?   Will it break him?   You have to think no because we know he does become the Commissioner.   But just because he rises through the ranks, doesn’t mean he hasn’t had to change who he is to some degree for the greater good.   So I’m looking forward to seeing that evolution over the course of the series.   Another standout from the show was Robin Lord Taylor as Cobblepot/The Penguin.  He was brilliant.   He was pathetic and creepy and sad and murderous.  You watched him transform from a weak, desperate to be accepted henchman for Fish Mooney to disgraced outcast with an ax to grind against all who wronged him.   When you have a show based on a hugely popular comic story and as well a massively successful movie collection over the course of many years, people can have preconceived notions of how characters should look, sound, and act.  I try very hard not to have those when I go into a show like this and for the most part it’s easy because everyone is so much younger in Gotham from when we come to know them in Batman.  But for characters like The Penguin, The Riddler, possibly The Joker who are old enough to still have early insights into the characters they will become, that we already know, I think it’s much harder for those actors vs. Selina Kyle who is really just a baby at this point.  Taylor pulls it off superbly.  Logue’s Bullock will be the one to watch for me in the sense that I’m not sure what to make of him.   He can easily come across as the prototypical disgruntled veteran cop who hates everyone and life in general.  I don’t think that’s the case here.   You see signs of him where he may have been very much like Gordon when he started out.  But because of certain situations and possibly life altering decisions he’s had to make, he’s become the shades of grey cop who has been sucked into the corruption way of life more so as a means of preservation rather than conscious choice.   It’s probably why Gordon angers and frustrates him because he sees himself in him.   Someone who once wanted the same things Gordon did but wasn’t strong enough to see it through.  He probably sees Gordon as some who has the stones to fight the good fight and I think that makes him proud yet thoroughly embittered at the same time.   Maybe none of that is true and I’m looking for a deeper meaning that isn’t there (wouldn’t be the first time.)

Having said all that, in the simplest of terms, Gotham is a cop procedural with a cast of characters we are well aware of.   I really don’t think of this as a superhero show the way I do Arrow or probably will when I watch The Flash.  This is a cop show…like Castle.  Except instead of a precinct and villains we don’t know, Gotham has a precinct and villains we mostly do know.  However, we don’t know them in these current forms.  We know what they become.  The fun part will be watching how they get there!

DVRs: 4

 

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SERIES PREMIERE RECAP & REVIEW: Madam Secretary “Pilot” S1 E1

CBS’s opening night of the new TV season kicked off with a bang with the series premiere of Madam Secretary (MS) and the return of The Good Wife (TGW.)    I’m just going to throw this out as a suggestion CBS.   Instead of saying Madam Secretary starts at 8pm and TGW starts at 9pm and then the DVR sets it up for 8:30 and 9:30 and then CBS puts up the ticker at the bottom saying they are starting at 9:04 and 10:04 respectively, how about we do this instead.  When the NFL games on CBS are over, run a quick post game show on CBS.   Run it until 8pm.   Maybe it’s 45 minutes, maybe it’s 15 minutes.   Just run it and then start 60 minutes at 8pm, MS at 9pm, and TGW at 10pm.   It’s pretty simple.  That way, you aren’t messing with people’s shows or DVRs.   I’m just suggesting…and I think it’s a good one.   But even though I had to wait over an hour for the premiere of MS, it was well worth the wait.

Madam Secretary showcases the return of Tea Leoni to TV as Dr. Elizabeth (Bess) McCord, a former CIA analyst and current professor at the University of Virginia.  When the current Secretary of State’s plane goes down and is killed, McCord’s former boss at the CIA (and current President of the United States, played by Keith Carradine) visits her at her home and offers her the position.   POTUS trusts McCord because he hired her and trained her so he knows how she thinks and she won’t be anchored down by the politics of Washington.   She has no political aspirations so she’ll just come in and do the job while bringing a different viewpoint to attack situations.   Hence we get our first ridiculously cheesy line of the series….”You don’t just think outside the box.   You don’t even know there is a box.”   Oh boy.  Alright I can forgive that one.   But let’s keep the eye rolling clichés to a minimum ok?

Two months later, the McCord family, including husband and fellow university professor Henry (Tim Daly) and her two children (there is a 3rd in college who we’ll see in episode 2) move to D.C. and McCord works to insert her “non political” self into a very political world.    Many current White House personnel aren’t so happy to see her including White House Chief of Staff Russell Jackson (the ubiquitous Zeljko Ivanek) and McCord’s Chief of Staff Nadine Tolliver (the brilliant Bebe Neuwirth.)   Not sure why there is tension between Tolliver and McCord out of the gate but I guess we’ll learn more about that later.   It appears though, the real tension over the course of the series will be between Jackson and McCord.  He’s obviously the Chief of Staff because he’s good at his job and there is a trust factor with the POTUS.  Or, maybe there is something more sinister there, a little Frank Underwood/Doug Stamper-ish.    But more on that later.   In addition to Tolliver, McCord has her personal aide Blake (Erich Bergen) and communications team Matt (Geoffrey Arned), Daisy (Patina Miller), and Jay (Sebastian Arcelus.)

Her first major crisis is the rescue mission of two teenaged boys who accidentally crossed over from Turkey into Syria and are about to be executed by the Syrian government.  Already you see McCord wanting to handle the situation one way with Jackson wanting to handle another.   I’m not sure if it’s because he believes his way is the right way to handle or because he wants to send a message to the SoS that he’s the final decision maker in these matters, not her.   Based on a conversation that happens later in the episode in the oval office, I wouldn’t put it pass Jackson to have some collateral damage as a result of making his point to McCord and sleeping just fine about it.  Until we learn more about him, it’s too soon to prognosticate.   They go with Jackson’s idea and it fails.   So McCord enlists a gentlemen she has connections with to go in through back channels to get the kids out.  It works and the kids are brought home safe and sound.   Before she pulls this trigger, she goes around Jackson right to the President to lay out her plan (only giving him as much information as he needs to give the go ahead) and he tells her that she better be right or she’ll be fired.   At the end of the episode, she receives a visit from Jackson obviously aware she went around him to secure the rescue of the kids and he isn’t happy.   He “forgives” her but he warns her that he only forgives once and that he isn’t the type of enemy she wants to make.   “I make a better ally than opponent” he warns her.  “Same here” she suggests right back.

As McCord is getting up and running, one of her former CIA colleagues comes to her house to discuss what happened to the former Secretary of State, Vincent Marsh.   George finds out Marsh was laundering drug money in off shore accounts and was by all accounts a pretty shady, bad guy.   However, what scares George is that the plane crash was an orchestrated attack on Marsh, not an accident and that the directive came from inside the White House.   McCord isn’t sure what to make of this little revelation and George leaves.    It’s almost a forgotten about conversation until after the King of Swaziland dinner, McCord goes back to her office to find Henry there.  He informs her that George was killed in a one car wreck where his car ran into a tree.   Immediately, Elizabeth knows this isn’t an accident and I think she’ll start taking what George said more to heart.   What does all this mean?   Someone inside the White House isn’t playing nicely with others.

The reason why this show works for me right away, is that this isn’t a “case/disaster of the week” show.  Sure there are going to be situations McCord and her team will be dealing with, otherwise what’s the point.   But it works because this show highlights a strong, intelligent woman who is managing an intense department in a highly political environment while she, herself, is the furthest person from rank and file.   You also get to see the self-conscious side of McCord where she questions if she’s doing right by the people in her life, both professionally and personally.   So many times in shows like this, the strong, sharp woman is a bitch on wheels with no care for anyone or anything.  But not McCord (or her Sunday night partner Alicia Florrick.)   McCord is very respectful of her husband’s career and her children’s well-being.   She realizes the sacrifices they are making for her to take on this responsibility.  I respect that.   It would be very easy to highlight McCord’s “fierceness” by blowing off her family’s concerns and basically rank her situation ahead of theirs.  But she never does that.  The writers and Leoni do an excellent job of showing how tough McCord can be without making her unreasonable or cold.   You also see this in her work life where she needs to stand up to people in a much higher rank than her and she’s trying very hard to be respectful of those circumstances yet convey her beliefs in a firm and unyielding manner.  I like that while there is no doubt of McCord’s intelligence and self-confidence, she also is apprehensive and vigilant at times when she isn’t quite sure when to hold back and when to push.    It shows a vulnerability that many women like McCord face.    Just because you’re the best at your job or you excel at each responsibility you undertake, doesn’t mean there aren’t times when you don’t question yourself and your decisions.   Especially when making life and death decisions!   The interesting part for me is how long McCord will be able to hold onto her morals and her vision on how the position should run in an environment where so many things are out of her control and there could possibly be people specifically plotting against her demise.   Speaking of which….

Conspiracy time!!!   Let’s start with a baby conspiracy item first.  I don’t think Henry is the loving husband we are being led to believe.   Do I believe he loves his wife and family?  Yes.   Do I think he maybe doing something (or someone ) else on the side?  Yes.   I think the scene where Elizabeth goes to see him in the library talking to a bunch of students is very telling.   Henry is holding court and one of the female students is taking special exception to Mr. McCord…in the creepy context of a jealous girlfriend when his wife shows up.   Why show what should be a pretty innocuous scene?   Because I think this is going to lay the ground work of McCord being so wrapped up in her work that she isn’t seeing what right in front of her and that is her husband’s affair.   And maybe it’s not one affair but many.    Maybe I’m reading too much into it but I don’t think you show the jealous student for no reason.   The second, more larger conspiracy…I think POTUS will end up being the Frank Underwood of the show.    I wouldn’t be surprised if he was behind the murder of Marsh and puts McCord in the role because he thinks he can control her and because of her lack of political ambitions.  The only reason why I can’t call this a stone cold lead pipe lock is because POTUS knows how smart McCord is.   He also knows that because of her lack of political ambition, there is nothing to hold over her should she start figuring things out.   So why would he put someone as sharp as she is, who could potentially figure out what’s going on, in this role?   It could backfire hugely for him.    So I haven’t quite figured that out yet.   Right now, we’re being led to believe Jackson is the man we have to watch out for.   And you know what, I felt that way about Cyrus Beene and it turns out that yes, in fact, he is a monster.    But I’m not sure Jackson will be the boil on the butt of the White House.  I think it’s too obvious.  He could be the red herring with POTUS being the “Keyser Soze.”

What did you think?   Are you all in on Madam Secretary?  I am.   This cast is stellar, the story has promise and has tons of room to go in many directions, and it’s the perfect accompaniment to The Good Wife on Sundays.   Because the story can go in many directions, I hope it doesn’t spiral out of control.  But since this is from Barbara Hall, who is the same person who brought us the amazing Judging Amy and Joan of Arcadia, I am willing to be patient and see where this goes.  Will you continue watching with me?

DVRS: 5

 
 

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2014 Fall Preview: FOX

RETURNING SHOWS:

Hell’s Kitchen (9/10)
New Girl (9/16)
The Mindy Project (9/16)
Sleepy Hollow (9/22)
Bones (9/25)
Brooklyn Nine-Nine (9/28)
The Simpsons (9/28)
Bob’s Burgers (10/5)
Family Guy (9/28)
Master Chef Junior (11/7)

NEW SHOWS:
Utopia (9/7)
Red Band Society (9/17)
Gotham (9/22)
Gracepoint (10/2)
Mulaney (10/5)

SHOWS I AM MOST LOOKING FORWARD TO:
Brooklyn Nine-Nine
Sleepy Hollow
Gotham

SHOWS I AM LOSING INTEREST IN BUT WILL GIVE ONE MORE SEASON TO:
New Girl (after a strong first season, the second season was bad)

SHOWS I COULDN’T CARE LESS ABOUT:
Glee
The Mindy Project
All the Animated Shows
Hell’s Kitchen
Utopia

WHAT TO WATCH FOR:
Glee’s Final Season:  This is it.   The dreck that has been Glee the last few seasons is finally coming to an end.    And it’s been a long time coming.   These characters have been destroyed (Rachel leaves what was ALWAYS her dream of being on Broadway and playing Fanny Brice to be on a shitty TV show) the stories are worse than ever, and I just don’t care what happens to them anymore.   FOX also realized no cares anymore and lowered the original 22 episode commitment down to 13.   I won’t be checking it out but I’m sure some people will.
Sleepy Hollow Sophomore Season: It’s been 8 months since Sleepy Hollow was last on air.   And that can be dangerous with a show with so much mythology behind it.   But I can’t wait for this to return!!!  Abbie is now in purgatory.   Jenny was in a car crash.  Ichabod was buried alive by the Sineater (who turned out to be his son.)   And Katrina is now running around Sleepy Hollow with no one who knows her.  And Sineater/Jeremy is working with the Headless Horseman (who is also one of the 4 Horseman of the Apocalypse) to open the gates of hell to release all the Horseman.   Nice!!!  I just hope we get more than 13 episodes this year and Sleepy Hollow is every bit as strong in its sophomore year as it was its freshman year!
Brooklyn Nine-Nine Moving to Sundays: This is how FOX treats it’s best new comedy of last year?   Which also happened to win the Golden Globe for Best Comedy by the way.   You move it to animated comedy Sunday?    With so much already on Sunday, I’m really disappointed to see this show move.   I hope it doesn’t hurt a show that was not a ratings juggernaut.   It picked up steam at the end of the season with the GG win and word of mouth.   But how will it fare if people have to DVR it for football or other big Sunday night shows.

EARLY THOUGHTS ON NEW SHOWS:
As if I don’t have enough superhero shows to watch on TV these days, but I am excited to check out Gotham.   Gotham is a different twist on the superhero genre focusing on a name we all know very well (that is those of us that follow DC Comics)…Commissioner Gordon.  We know Gordon from the Batman comics.   But before Batman was Batman as we know him, Gordon and Gotham City had their own stories to tell…full of villains and vigilantes.   This show is the compilation of those stories.   It is an origin story.   It stars Ben Mackenzie as Detective James Gordon.   Gordon is called to the scene of a crime involving the murder of one of the wealthiest families in Gotham City…the Waynes.   Thomas and Martha Wayne are murdered and the only survivor is their son…Bruce (who eventually becomes Batman.)  Gordon and Bruce connect instantly (a kinship that will continue for years to come) and Gordon promises to track down the killers.   As the series evolves we’ll meet all the people we come to know in their adult lives…Selina Kyle (Catwoman), Edward Nygma (The Riddler), and Oswald Cobblepot (The Penguin.)   Between Arrow, Agents of SHIELD, and other newcomer shows The Flash and Constantine, I don’t know how much comic book TV I can stomach.  I watch the Marvel movies so SHIELD isn’t going anywhere.    And I love Arrow (and Stephen Amell.)   But can I add The Flash, Constantine, AND Gotham all to my viewing landscape?   I will and we’ll see if they all stick.

Gracepoint is another show I will be checking out.  It reminds me a little of Twin Peaks and a better version of The Killing.   I’m a big fan of these 10 episode shows that have a brief period of time to tell their story.  It leaves little room for fluff and gets right into the meat of the show.   But since I’m a big character person, it’s hard for these shows to really get us in tune with the characters with such little time to get to all the show runners need to get to.  True Detective did a masterful job of it last year.    So can Gracepoint do the same?   For other people, it might not matter.   This is a murder mystery event.   It might not matter to some about characters.    It does to me though.    But with powerhouses Anna Gunn and David Tennant leading the way, I feel confident this show will be short but mighty.

As for Utopia, Red Band Society and Mulaney, these show may be the result of nothing more than I have no time to watch and their premises haven’t warranted me finding time to watch them.     First of all, Utopia is a reality show about people leaving their lives behind and moving to a remote location to create a whole new civilization.   Yeah, no.  Don’t care, won’t be watching.    Red Band Society stars Octavia Spencer and Dave Annable as part of the medical staff at Ocean Park Hospital.    It focus on a young group of “rule benders” (great more of those) who would never in a million years become friends except for the fact that they are all patients at this hospital.   The show explores relationships between the patients and the staff with both humor and drama.    It appears to have a ton of warmth and heart (with a touch of over the top lessons to be learned.)   Although I have to ask, was Diana Agron too busy to play another blonde, bitchy cheerleader?   Seems all teen shows have those these days and she’s played quite a few of them.    I love the cast (you had me a Octavia Spencer) but I just don’t know if I have time for this show.   It might be one I catch up on in the summer if it hangs around and gets renewed…which I doubt.  The ratings were really bad out of the gate (with no competition) so that doesn’t bode well for the show.   And I love Dave Annable but he is a jinx when it comes to new shows where he is the headliner.   Finally we have Mulaney, which is a Seinfeld rip off.   I’m serious.  Even the shows star and creator, John Mulaney, joked that it is.   “I just watched Seinfeld and I copied it.”    Wow.  That takes balls.   Even if you are just kidding, you are basically setting yourself up for failure if the show is even average because people will automatically compare the two shows.   Early reviews are really bad for the show.   I keep reading the same thing….John Mulaney is a talented writer and great stand up comic.   His show, is bad.  No laughs at all.  Not a glowing endorsement for a new comedy.

 

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2014 Fall Preview: NBC

RETURNING SHOWS

Football Night in America (9/7)
Sunday Night Football (9/7)
The Biggest Loser (9/11)
The Voice (9/22)
The Blacklist (9/22)
Chicago Fire (9/23)
Law & Order: SVU (9/24)
Chicago PD (9/24)
Parenthood (9/25)
Dateline (9/26)
Saturday Night Live (9/27)
About A Boy (10/14)
Grimm (10/24)

NEW SHOWS:
The Mysteries of Laura (9/17)
Bad Judge (10/2)
A to Z (10/2)
Marry Me (10/14)
Constantine (10/24)
State of Affairs (11/17)

SHOWS I AM MOST LOOKING FORWARD TO:
Parenthood (Final Season.   I wish I could watch the Bravermans forever but I’d rather them go out on their own terms.)
The Blacklist (Who is Berlin and what is his connection with Red and Keen?  Is Tom really dead…I don’t think so.   What is Red’s commotion to Keen?  I don’t think he’s her dad then who is he to her?)
About A Boy (Favorite new comedy of last season.   Will it be as good in S2?)
Grimm (Nick has lost his Grimm powers.  Now what?)
Marry Me (This preview looked fantastic and it’s Casey Wilson so I’m in.)
A to Z (While I’m liking the cast, how does the show maintain telling the story of these two dating when the premise is that they date for 8 months, 3 weeks, 5 days and 1 hour?   The assumption is they get married at that point but maybe it’s something else?)
State of Affairs (I like the premise but can Katherine Heigl pull off being a CIA analyst?)

SHOWS I AM LOSING INTEREST IN BUT WILL GIVE ONE MORE SEASON TO:
None

SHOWS I COULDN’T CARE LESS ABOUT:
Bad Judge
The Mysteries of Laura
The Voice
The Biggest Loser
Law & Order: SVU

WHAT TO WATCH FOR:
Parenthood’s Last Season. Parenthood has NEVER gotten the respect it deserves and anyone who reads my blog or listens to my podcast knows, I have been screaming about people shunning Parenthood for years. From the lack of Emmy love to the weak scheduling of the show, Parenthood was the best show nobody gave respect to. Last year, Parenthood did get some love with a 22 episode season.   It wasn’t great in the ratings but the fan base was very loyal.   It reminded me of Chuck in that regard.   Never was a ratings juggernaut but wow did their fans love that show.   Parenthood is one of the best dramas on TV.  And the one thing I will give NBC credit for is that they are very good at giving shows like this their chance to say a good-bye to their fans with a shortened final season.   They did it with Chuck, The Office, Parks and Rec, ER, Friday Night Lights.    Shows that never were huge ratings getters (except for ER but not at the end) but had very loyal fans and NBC made sure these were wrapped up in a way to give their fans a chance to say good-bye.   I’m a big fan of these shortened seasons because there isn’t a lot of room for fluff.  And Jason Katims has done very well with short seasons of Parenthood…making each episode count.   But form what I’m hearing, this will be the biggest tear jerker season of them all (and that’s saying something with this show) due to a death in the family.   Who will it be and how will it end?
The Blacklist Time Shuffle.  Last year I thought The Blacklist would be a hit for NBC.   Please, please, stop throwing money.  Ok that wasn’t a HUGE stretch but since my prognosticating is historically bad, I’m proud I got that one right.  It was my favorite new show of the season.   I was never a James Spader fan and I fell in love with him in this show.   People will argue this role is not a big stretch for the typically smug roles Spader plays.   I don’t care.   He’s perfectly cast here.   Megan Boone was the wild card.   Could she hold her own with a powerhouse like Spader?   At first, not even close.   But she came into her own later in the season.   I still think she’s a bit stiff.  I know part of it is the character but I think part of it was Boone getting more comfortable with the character.   The cast was great, the storyline was riveting, and I’m already anxious for next Monday to get here!   But I’m concerned over the change in air date.    NBC hasn’t had a bona fide drama hit (not including reality shows) since Heroes in 2006.   It’s hard to argue that Friday Night Lights, Medium, and Chuck were hits.  Even though they all lasted multiple seasons and some received rave reviews and had rabid fan bases, they scratched and clawed to get renewed each year.  And yes, Heroes did crash and burn quickly but out of the gate, it was a huge hit and the buzzy show everyone was talking about.   That’s The Blacklist.  Everyone was talking about this show.   Fans couldn’t wait for it to come back.  So what does NBC do to it’s most buzzed about show?   Decides to put it on Hiatus in November for Katherine Heigl’s State of Affairs and then return on a different night and time.   Why?   Why not Chicago Fire or Chicago PD?   Why pick your best show?   Just because people are tuning in Mondays at 10pm for The Blacklist, doesn’t mean they’ll tune in for State of Affairs…especially since so many people can’t stand Heigl and she hasn’t gotten the best reviews for this show.  So I’m curious to see how that impacts the show.   Viewers don’t like it when you move their shows around and history shows that it’s usually disastrous when you move new shows around.  If it’s established like Bones or Supernatural, those shows can typically survive it.   But if you’re new or relatively new (see what ABC did to Cougar Town) it can hurt your chances of renewal.  I don’t think that will happen here, but I will be keeping an eye on it.

EARLY THOUGHTS ON NEW SHOWS:
There are two pilots I’ve seen and the rest I haven’t.   Of the two I saw, one I think has potential to be good but it’s not there yet.  The other, dreadful.   But let’s start the positive shall we?

I enjoyed A to Z.   The pilot had some promise and I really liked the two leads Andrew (Ben Feldman) and Zelda (Cristin Milioti) who had some nice chemistry.   I think this show has room to grow and the cast gets a better feel for their characters.  It is a bit cliché in the sense that Zelda is the type A with no time for relationships and Andrew is a young man looking for the love of his life and is a total romantic.   In their relationship, he may be looking a little too hard for something that is or isn’t there while she is so closed off, she can’t see what’s right in front of her.   It’s a little reminiscent of “How I Met Your Mother” and not just because the titular Mother was played by the same actress playing Zelda.   But after fans being so disappointed with how HIMYM ended up, will they be willing to try another comedy following the love story of two people?   Marry Me is the one I’m most looking forward to.   It stars Casey Wilson and Ken Marino as Annie and Jake, a couple who have been dating for six years and are trying to figure out if they are ready to take that next step.   When they get back from a trip in which Annie thought Jake would propose (and didn’t) she calls him out and unloads years of frustrations about their relationship and the people in it.   Unfortunately for Annie, Jake was behind her on one knee and all the people Annie just destroyed emotionally were hiding in the background ready to yell surprise as Jake popped the question.   Oops.  It’s a show that seems very tight out of the gate and could be the best new comedy of the season.

As for the absolutely no, that would be The Mysteries of Laura and Bad Judge.   I watched the pilot of TMOL (please feel free to read the full recap on the main page) and it wasn’t pretty.   The show is completely disjointed, the writing isn’t good, and the dramedy has no part of either comedy or drama.    It’s a shame for the cast because Debra Messing, Josh Lucas, and Laz Alonzo are fantastic…just woefully miscast or trying to do the best they can with a bad script.  I don’t buy Messing as a top detective.   I can’t stand Lucas’ character.   The kids are so awful it’s hard to believe any child can be that disgusting.   Plus, I’m really tired of the stereotype show that lays out the premise of “buttoned up in my professional life and a hot mess in my personal life.”  Which is the perfect segway to Bad Judge.   Oh my word.  This show looks so bad I can’t even get through the 10-15 second promos.   Kate Walsh, what were you thinking?   This show isn’t funny, it’s embarrassing.   I’m also thinking this could be one of the first (if not the first) show of the season that is canceled.

In the “I’m not so sure” realm, we have Constantine and State of Affairs.   I have a feeling I’ll be watching Constantine because that is right up my husband’s alley.   A cross between Supernatural and Arrow..there’s no way we’re not watching.   Constantine follows John Constantine (Matt Ryan) who is about to give up the fight of protecting innocent people because his soul is already damned to hell.   But a series of events thrust him back into superhero mode and now Constantine is back protecting the innocent and sending the evil spirits back to where they came.    In November, State of Affairs takes over The Blacklist’s time slot.   SoA stars Katherine Heigl as a top CIA analyst (Charlie Tucker) who has close ties to President Connie Payton (Alfre Woodard.)    Tucker was engaged to her son and her son was killed as a result of a terrorist attack.   Now both women want the men/women responsible for killing him brought to justice and together they are working to make that happen…as well as deal with the every day dealings at the White House.   Normally this is the type of show that is right up my alley.   But I don’t know if I can buy Heigl in this role.   Early reviews are that she isn’t puling it off.   I’m willing to give this show, and Heigl, a chance.    But it does have a short leash.

 

SERIES PREMIERE RECAP AND REVIEW: The Mysteries of Laura “Pilot” S1 E1

It’s hard to believe the new season has kicked off.   And I’m not going to lie, I don’t like when networks do these “special previews” and premiere shows outside of premiere week.    One, I’m not ready for it yet.   Two, I usually forget the show is premiering because my mind has not kicked into that gear yet.   And three, it loses some of the pomp and circumstance (at least in my household) of premiere week.   It’s like the start of the NFL season.   To me, the season starts the first Sunday of the season.   10-12 games are on the docket for the day (usually my Eagles are one of those teams.)   I make my traditional chili, I get the beer chilled, my house is decorated in Eagles green, I have my Eagles jersey on, the phone is shut off, and I watch football for 10-11 straight hours.   It’s awesome.   The season doesn’t start on Thursday.   I hate Thursday games.   It’s one thing during holidays when nothing else is on but not every Thursday.   So I can’t get excited about that Thursday game because that’s not the start of the season for me.   Sunday is.   The TV Fall Season is the same way.   This isn’t premiere week.   Next week is.    I have nothing to do at night next week.  I will have all my DVRs set up, I will have my schedule of what I’m watching live and what I’ll watch on the DVR later.   It’s amazing!!    So I don’t know if it hurts or helps shows like The Mysteries of Laura (TMOL) to premiere early.  In one regard, there is very little competition so you have a better chance of getting a solid audience.    But that can also hurt you if your pilot isn’t the greatest but you build into your momentum and get better as more episodes come around.   If the pilot is bad or iffy, you may have already lost people after one episode.    It’s also a good thing because it’s been 4-5 months (if you’re Sleepy Hollow 7 months) since we’ve seen our favorite shows so people are itching for something new to watch.   And don’t give me the summer season has new shows now because there’s a reason those shows air in the summer (network shows I mean.)  It’s because TV viewing goes down significantly in the summer time and therefore not as much pressure for ratings for advertisers.    Bottom line, if you’re going to break the premiere week mold, you better have something people will jump on or else you’ve shot yourself in the foot.   TMOL might have just shot themselves in the foot.   If they get 10 million people to watch again next week, I will quit my real job.

TMOL stars Debra Messing as Det. Laura Diamond.  She is one of the top detectives in her precinct struggling to juggle her job, her marriage, and her kids.   Certainly not a new premise but one you hope due to casting, will have a new twist or new life breathing into it.   And as much as I love Messing, this character is as cliché as they come.   Her desk is a mess, her car is a mess, she’s late, she’s disheveled, and she’s unconventional.    The problem is, none of this resonates with me.  I don’t buy her as a detective let alone the best detective.   Seriously, what detective goes to a home to investigate death threats and sits down with the guests and has cake and wine?   Even her captain when he is offered wine says “oh I really shouldn’t.”  YOU THINK?   You are on duty aren’t you?    Isn’t there a rule about drinking and being on the job?   And this all happens after she shoots a perp in the ear while he’s holding a man hostage in the middle of a busy park.   And she picks the ear that closest to the hostage instead of the outside ear.    That’s great police work.    Then there are her parenting skills.    For an interview for a Pre-K school (because her kids were kicked out of the other one) she feeds her kids enough cough syrup so they are calm and almost asleep.   She must have overdone it though considering her one son pukes it up.   Then when her children are urinating on each other in public, instead of punishing them or freaking out OVER THE FACT HER KIDS ARE PEEING ON EACH OTHER FOR FUN, she asks politely asks them to stop.  No wonder her kids are monsters.    It also doesn’t help that her husband (soon to be ex) Jake (Josh Lucas) is just a big kid himself…but not in a good way.    He’s not Jack Tripper in Three’s Company where he’s funny and goofy and slightly frustrating because he’s just a big kid but he’s so lovable you can’t be mad at him.   Plus when he needs to buck up, he does.  Jake isn’t close to that.   He seems to shirk his parenting duties and when he is around his kids, he’s bringing them pizza and wrestling with them on the couch and then leaves.   When his kids are peeing on each other in the park, he thinks it’s funny and it doesn’t seem to phase him at all.    You’re probably reading this thinking what’s wrong with a dad bringing his kids pizza and wrestling around with them?  Nothing at all….as long as he steps up and is their father when it counts, not just their buddy.    I don’t get the impression Jake has time for the serious stuff…only the fun stuff.   So from a home life perspective, there isn’t one likable person in the Diamond household.

There was a case that I really didn’t care about.   This phone mogul was receiving death threats and everyone (except Laura) thought it was the wife.   Turns out it was Laura’s Captain (Elias from Person of Interest) who was the person who killed him because he was having an affair with his wife.   Ok I’ll admit I didn’t see that twist coming but it fell flat because the rest of the case was so uninteresting.    Because Captain Elias was obviously removed of his duties as captain of the squad.   Guess who just so happens to be put in his place?     That’s right…Laura’s husband Jake.    Which again, isn’t there something against spouses working in the same precinct let alone one reporting to the other?

I really wanted to like this show but I just didn’t.   I like a lot of the cast, independent of this show, but they all deserve better than this.   The writing is bad, the premise is worse, and there isn’t a likable character on the show.   Not to mention this show doesn’t seem to know what they want to be.    Is this a comedy?   Is this a dramatic cop show with some comedic elements?   Is it a family show?   And shows don’t have to be channeled into one vain or another…they can cross multiple angles (which Castle does brilliantly.)  But this show doesn’t seem to have a direction.    On top of that, I just can’t buy that Laura is so good at her job yet so awful a parent.  Mostly because I don’t believe she’s as good a detective as we’re being told she is.    Kate Beckett, Olivia Benson, Brenda Leigh Johnson….those are good cops.   Laura?   I guess shooting a perp with precision in the middle of Battery Park is supposed to indicate she’s the best of the best.   Or really dumb and really lucky.   I’m not sure.   But she didn’t come across as a confident, seasoned vet who commands respect in her squad.      Add in the husband being forgettable and the kids being beyond disastrous, I have no interest in seeing where Laura goes from here and what her mysteries actually are.

DVRs: 1

 

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2014 Fall Preview: ABC

RETURNING SHOWS:

Dancing with the Stars (9/15)
Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD (9/23)
The Goldbergs (9/24)
The Middle (9/24)
Modern Family (9/24)
Nashville (9/24)
Grey’s Anatomy (9/25)
20/20 (9/26)
Scandal (9/25)
Shark Tank (9/26)
Once Upon A Time (9/28)
Resurrection (9/28)
Revenge (9/28)
Castle (9/29)
Last Man Standing (10/3)
America’s Funniest Home Videos (10/5)

NEW SHOWS:
Forever Sneak Peak (9/22)
Forever (9/23)
black-ish (9/24)
How To Get Away With Murder (9/25)
Selfie (10/30)
Manhattan Love Story (10/30)
Cristela (10/10)

SHOWS I AM MOST LOOKING FORWARD TO:
Castle: Is Castle dead???  Of course not.   But I’m so curious as to what happened.   And when will we get that damn wedding!!!
Revenge: Revenge completely rebounded last year.   I’m back to being all in with this show.  Plus Aiden is dead (yeah) and David Clarke is alive (called it.)
Scandal: Where has Olivia gone with Jake and what does this mean for OPA and the rest of the gladiators?
SHIELD: Now that Hydra has destroyed SHIELD and Coulston has to re-build, what happens now?   Will Fitz be ok and remember that he told Simmons his feelings (finally?)    Then there’s Ward.  Can this character be redeemed after what he did to the team last year?   And can I please get some Thor on this show!!!
How to Get Away with Murder: talk about Must See TV Thursday night being back.   Grey’s (take it or leave it), Scandal and HTGAWM!!!   Can’t wait to see what Shonda has up her sleeves now.

SHOWS I AM LOSING INTEREST IN BUT WILL GIVE ONE MORE SEASON TO:
Once Upon A Time: I still love this show but now the Frozen girls are coming.   After a while, can we forego bringing every stinking Disney character or fairy tale character into the story and focus on our core people?   Or maybe bring some back that we already met…like Cinderella and Malificent.
Nashville: Another show I like but there’s only so much TV to watch and I’m not sure this makes the cut moving forward.
Grey’s Anatomy: I’m not sure I care enough about these characters anymore to keep going.

SHOWS I COULDN’T CARE LESS ABOUT:
Dancing with the Stars
The Middle
Modern Family
Last Man Standing
Shark Tank
Cristela
Resurrection

WHAT TO WATCH FOR:
#TGIT. When I was in college, Must See TV Thursday was Friends, Seinfeld, Will & Grace, Frasier, and ER.   This was before DVRs, TiVO, and even VCRing your shows.   You made plans around these shows.    You never missed an episode.   Not because they were procedural or even serial where you can’t wait to see what happens next.    They were just well written, well acted, entertaining shows.    Well Must See TV Thursday is back and it’s all Shonda Rhimes all the time.   I’ve had my issues with Shonda Rhimes in the past.   Truth be told I still do.   But when she gets something right, she nails it.   She did with Grey’s Anatomy 10+ years ago.  I think the reason Grey’s started to go down hill was because Rhimes spread herself too thin with Private Practice and Off the Map (as well as trying to get other shows to pilot.)   Private Practice was never a great show.  It had some good characters and stories over the course of its 6 season run but was never Grey’s in its heyday.   Off the Map was just awful.   Good cast, bad show, bad writing.  I really thought Rhimes was better suited doing one show at a time.   Then Scandal came along.   I loved the pace, the setting, the story telling, and the characters.   Every episode felt like a season finale where I was always on the edge of my seat.   And since Grey’s is really running on auto pilot these days….chugging along until it runs out of gas…Scandal seems Rhimes’ big focus.   Now comes How To Get Away With Murder with headliner and powerhouse Viola Davis.  I can’t wait.   I’m a sucker for a good courtroom drama (see The Practice and The Good Wife.)   And in typical Rhimes form, if this drama has twists and turns up its sleeve, Thursday nights will go back to my college days…every thing else will revolve around that night.  As long as Scandal doesn’t suffer and HTGAWM lives up to the hype, I will be there every Thursday night.    Hopefully Rhimes has learned her lesson from past shows and will still head the creative but spread the wealth on the writing.
Tuesday Night Line Up. I was interested to see how a completely new line up of shows would do on Tuesdays night.   About 50/50 since only SHIELD and The Goldbergs made it to seasons 2 and Trophy Wife and Lucky 7 were sent to the recycle bin.   Now you have SHIELD anchoring Tues night at 9pm with a very strange lead in of Selfie and Manhattan Love Story and the being followed up by Forever, which looks somewhat interesting.  I’ll talk more about the new shows below, but SHIELD just barely got renewed last year.   It was really strong out of the gate but many people thought the show was slow and didn’t like the characters.   If people did hang on, the show got much better and faster paced.   But I also know people were frustrated with too many movie tie ins.   I think it’s a show with a very specific audience base and if they don’t like the show, you’re in trouble.   But ABC’s schedule was so bad, it was able to hang on.  But can it still hang in with those shows flanking it and going against new CBS show NCIS: New Orleans?

EARLY THOUGHTS ON NEW SHOWS:
I haven’t seen any of the new ABC shows. I’ve seen many different clips and read many reports on the media site regarding the premises and directions of the new shows. So with that limited information, I would say I am most excited about How To Get Away With Murder and black-ish.   I’ve already touched on HTGAWM a little above but this show will center around Davis’ tough as nails criminal defense attorney/professor and her crew of law students fighting for an internship with her firm.   It sounds like a sexy, more sinister Legally Blonde, but not really.  It also stars names like Liza Weil, Billy Brown, and Tom Verica.   When I first heard of the premise of black-ish I thought, there is no way I’m giving this show a chance.   But then I read some reviews about the show and viewed some clips and long trailers on it.   I will absolutely be checking this show out.   It stars Anthony Anderson as a newly promoted EVP and very successful businessman raising his family in suburbia.  Sounds simple and it is.   Some may say they find the name and premise offensive.   I can’t say since I’m not African-American.  I’m just going to judge the show as strictly a comedy and it made me laugh.   Anderson is great.  Lawernce Fishburne has some fantastic one liners.    But the best has to be Anderson’s son Andre (or Andy) played by Marcus Scribner.  The most laugh out loud moments I had were watching his scenes.  He was fantastic.   Cristela, I won’t be watching.  Honestly by the time in premieres, I’ll already have my lineup set and I already watch too much.    As for Forever, Selfie, and Mahattan Love Story, I don’t know.  Forever seems the type of ABC show that will be canceled after 3 airings.  ABC has that track record lately and do I want to try to follow another show that I am just luke warm about?   I’m not sure.  I’ll probably DVR or On Demand the first 3 episodes and go from there.  Just on the name, I wasn’t going to watch Selfie.   But I love My Fair Lady and just out of sheer curiosity, I might check it out to see how this modern-day version plays out.   MLS, I like the lead actress’ character, played by Analeigh Tipton.    But the lead male, played by Jake McDorman, was just a jerk.  I know he’s supposed to be, but he’s not the kind of lovable jerk I could watch every week.   I found him repulsive.  So this is another one I’ll check out a few times to see if his assholeness softens as the show grows but if it doesn’t, good-bye.

 

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