Thursday, March 11, 2010

Up The Hill Backwards

Does anybody else find those 'people of Britain' A Song For Eurovision trails, voiced by Graham Norton, to be vaguely sinister and not a little disturbing dear blog reader? Twenty foot high images of Pete Waterman in front of the glazed-eyed nationalistic fervour of what appears to be a Nuremberg rally. Yer Keith Telly Topping considers 'em to be near Orwellian. Almost certainly the only time that Graham's every found himself in the mdidle of a sentence with such comparisons, I'll be bound.

A quick round-up of this week's US TV: CSI returned with a clever little piece - Unshockable - about the nefarious skulduggery of CIA spooks, past and present, mixed in with a case of jealousy in the good ol' boy country rock scene. Trust me, it was far better than that meagre description would suggest. Unlike 24 which appears to be really floundering at the moment. Having taken ten episodes to meander, slowly, its way through that ruddy awful Starbuck-and-Mr-Buffy storyline and then, seemingly, having it all wrapped up, they've only gone and spun it off in another direction to groans from viewers pretty much everywhere. Meanwhile, Big Hard Mental Jack Bauer spent an entire episode in a fruitless attempt to talk down a suicide bomber from his lowdown evil ways, only for the kid's mother to manage it in five minutes and then for everything to go pear-shaped so that the chap still ended up as a nasty red stain all over the wall. You're losing your touch, Jack. Thankfully, it was a brilliant return on the same night for House (despite the lack of Ms Cuddy for all bar one scene). A cute deconstruction of the depersonalisation of Twenty First Century blogging culture, the episode's highlight was a quite outstanding sequence of House, Wilson and Chase going on a speed-dating night out. With hilarious consequences. Meanwhile, Lost continues onward - throwing in more little titbits of juicy back story, giving us the odd sideways glimpses of roads-never-taken (this week, Ben Linus in 'nice-guy-when-he-puts-his-mind-to-it' shock) and almost daring the audience to turn its back for a moment on the show. But, we won't, because we've come this far.

Lost star Nestor Carbonell has revealed that episodes nine and fifteen of the current - final - series will provide lots of answers for fans. Speaking to E! Online, Carbonell - the mysterious Richard Alpert on the series - said that viewers can expect a 'big shock' from his character's episode. 'For those who had questions specifically about my character - why he doesn't age and his history - you're gonna get some answers [in episode nine].' You were a slave on The Black Rock, Nestor, we've already sussed that. 'But you are gonna get broader answers about bigger questions like the island. It definitely reveals a lot. There are still more questions after that, but you're gonna get a big shock that week.' He added: 'Episode fifteen is a huge reveal. Episode nine will give you big answers about the island but episode fifteen even more so.'

Danny Young has admitted that he was nervous about his topless Dancing On Ice routine last week. The former Coronation Street actor scored twenty two and a half points for his Rocky-themed skate on Sunday, finishing second on the judges' leaderboard. Young was praised by judge Jason Gardiner for his 'incredible torso,' but a video on the reality show's official website reveals that the twenty three-year-old was unsure about baring his chest. Speaking at last week's rehearsals, the soap actor said: 'I don't mind doing it with my top off. It is just what the people at home are going to think. That's all I'm concerned about. I don't want people to think he's worked hard last week and got the points. Now he's come out with his top off.' After making the final decision to perform without a shirt, he added: 'I went home and thought about. I'm only going to do the show once and the bottom line is that Christopher Dean asked me to do it topless.'

And, in today's edition of 'Is that gobshite on the television again?' James Corden has claimed that he turned down the chance to record a song for the World Cup. Well, thank God for that, frankly. The bloke appears to have no obvious bleeding talent at most other things, so who's to suppose that he'd be any better at singing? It would appear, dear blog readers, as though we all had one hell of a lucky escape.

Blue Peter have confirmed that the show's pet dog, Mabel, will be leaving after fourteen years. Producers announced today that the long-running children's programme would be retiring their veteran Border Collie on 30 March. The programme's first ever rescue dog, Mabel originally featured in January 1996 during a short film about the RSPCA, before joining Blue Peter shortly afterwards. The pet is the second longest-serving dog on the show after Petra, who appeared on Blue Peter for fifteen years between 1962 and 1977. During her long career Mabel has starred alongside fourteen different presenters. Joel Defries said of the news: 'Mabel is a legend, she has spent ninety eight dog years working on Blue Peter and we will all miss her dearly.' A statement from the CBBC show confirmed that Mabel will spend her retirement living with a former member of the production team. Which, sad to report, sounds unnervingly like 'she's going to live on a farm' to yer Keith Telly Topping. Run, Mabel, run like the wind whilst you still can...

Now, some news from down under. Police were apparently called to the Neighbours studio last week after one of the soap's regular extras began 'acting strangely' and damaged part of the set. According to the Herald Sun, the woman in question - who has not been named - had to be taken to hospital by ambulance on Friday after slicing her wrist with a glass in a disturbance which took place during filming at the Charlie's Bar location. It is understood that all shooting was subsequently cancelled for the day and members of the cast and crew were evacuated from the set. Neighbours' executive producer Susan Bower commented: 'It was a bit of a shock. One of our regular extras wasn't really feeling the best and started behaving in an extraordinary way. She was very distressed and swung her hand and knocked a glass off a table.' Producer Neal Kingston added: 'We were concerned for the welfare of everyone and removed all cast and crew until the police arrived to assess the situation. She broke a couple of items so we cleared the situation to make sure everyone was okay and waited for authorities to arrive. She was assisted by police and went willingly outside with them.' Police are said to have then called an ambulance and the extra was taken away to hospital, where her wrist injury was treated.

Former Dancing On Ice contestant Roxanne Pallett has reportedly landed a guest role on Casualty. The twenty seven-year-old soap actress will play the girlfriend of a DJ, who requires treatment for a rare skin condition, according to the Sun. Pallett came to public attention playing Jo Sugden in ITV's Emmerdale between 2005 and 2008 before she left for what this blogger is sure was a very fulfilling theatrical career. In panto. She finished sixth in last year's Dancing On Ice, where she partnered Daniel Whiston. There's no news yet as to when her Casualty episode is likely to air, however. So, if you're holding your breath in anticipation, probably best not to.

Coronation Street actress Beverley Callard has revealed that she has been receiving treatment following a nervous breakdown and depression. The actress, best known for her role as Weatherfield's Liz McDonald, has spoken about her struggles for the first time in a bid, she says, to lift the stigma which can surround a variety of mental health issues. Callard took a sabbatical from her soap commitments last year after suffering what was described at the time as 'a serious breakdown.' While she received treatment at The Priory clinic, viewers heard that Liz was absent from the Street due to a holiday in Spain. The fifty two-year-old is still currently being treated by The Priory as an outpatient, but is said to be on the road to recovery. She has now decided to join forces with the mental health charity MIND to promote its work and encourage others to seek help if they experience similar problems. In a statement, Callard said: 'I feel it is really important to try and help lift the stigma that makes life so difficult for the one in four people who experience mental health problems.' Callard paid tribute to her family and friends for supporting her whilst she was unwell, and also thanked the media for respecting her privacy during this period. She explained: 'Being able to recover out of the media spotlight has hugely helped me and meant that I could return to work last year whilst still receiving treatment as an outpatient. Now I feel able to speak about what I went through.' MIND's chief executive Paul Farmer added: 'We are so thankful to Bev for offering MIND her ongoing support. Her story is testament that people who experience mental distress can recover, and can continue to lead full and rewarding lives.' He continued: 'We encourage anyone who may be suffering in silence to reach out for help and urge those that they turn to be there for them without judgement.' Meanwhile, a spokesperson for Coronation Street said: 'Everyone at ITV has been behind Beverley through this very difficult time. We are extremely proud of the huge progress she has made and delighted that she is back on screen at the centre of the show and we continue to support her.'

Barbara Windsor has confirmed that she plans to keep working after she leaves EastEnders later this year. The seventy two-year-old announced last October that she had decided to leave her role as Peggy Mitchell in order to spend more time with her husband Scott. However, speaking at the Television and Radio Industries Club Awards on Tuesday, Windsor insisted that she has no intention of quitting the spotlight altogether after she films her final scenes for the soap. The actress is quoted by BBC News as saying: 'I'm not retiring. It will be interesting to see what happens.' Reflecting on her long career, she added: 'In a year or so it will be sixty years. I love it now as much as I did then. I know that I'm known for two great British institutions, EastEnders and Carry On.' Windsor secured a lifetime achievement award at the TRIC ceremony, whilst EastEnders was named TV Soap Of The Year.

The line-up has been announced for Jason Manford's new ITV stand-up comedy show. Comedy Rocks, which was recently commissioned, will feature John Bishop, Jo Brand and ventriloquist Paul Zerdin in the Friday night slot. Providing music for the first episode of the new series, which will be recorded on 25 March, will be Pixie Lott and Scouting for Girls. Manford told Chortle: 'I'm really looking forward to being part of this variety event on ITV - music and comedy and a look back over the week, perfect for a Friday night, hopefully there'll be something for everyone.'

The shadow culture minister, Ed Vaizey, has denied that Conservative media policy is dictated by Rupert Murdoch and executives at his News Corporation media empire, dismissing the suggestion as 'completely laughable.' I don't see too many people at Television Centre who find such accusations to be a laughing matter. Sir. Vaizey told delegates at a Westminster Media Forum event in London that Tory policy on the BBC, in particular, has been 'wilfully misrepresented.' He singled out a column in the Gruniad Morning Star last week by Jonathan Freedland, which argued that the BBC director general, Mark Thompson, had decided to cut services in an attempt to prevent the Tories from making more swingeing cuts if they form the next government. Freedland also claimed that Thompson was right to fear the Conservatives would do this because of 'two words: Rupert Murdoch.' Vaizey responded: 'If a Conservative has any kind of critique of the BBC then somehow this a "Sky agenda." I noticed that in Monday's Media Guardian James Purnell, a former BBC employee, said BBC2 should only broadcast in the evenings. Nobody has written that to understand where James Purnell is coming from you just have to understand two words: Rupert Murdoch.' I will if you want, Ed. Although, actually, to be honest, I think it comes for a long-running Guardian agenda to hit their bete noire, Top Gear, where it hurts as often as possible. Which puts them cuddled up in the very same bed as your scummy-pals at the Daily Mail. But not, curiously, anywhere near the Murdoch empire as I'm sure Sky would love to get their hands on Jezza and the boys. It's a complex world we live in, Eddy, baby. He added: 'There is a legitimate debate to be had about the [size] of the BBC.'

The press packs were out yesterday for the forthcoming final series of Ashes To Ashes. It's 1983, the year of the Brinks Matt robbery, The A-Team, Michael Jackson's 'Beat It' and The Year of the Hunt. It's time to get your shoulder pads out of storage, start crimping your hair and get into the Eighties groove for the very last time before it's consigned to the dustbin of history. The highly-anticipated finale sees Philip Glenister and Keeley Hawes reprise their roles as that most un-PC of policeman, Gene Hunt, and his sassy partner Alex Drake, along with Dean Andrews as Ray Carling, Marshall Lancaster as Chris Skelton and Montserrat Lombard as Shaz Granger. As well as the regular faces, Daniel Mays (The Street, Plus One) joins the series as Discipline and Complaints officer, Jim Keats, adding an unsettling twist to the team dynamic. The hit drama, made by Kudos Film and Television in association with Monastic Productions, finally unravels many of the mysteries from the previous two series of Ashes To Ashes, as well as those first experienced by the initial time-travelling copper, Sam Tyler, in the ground-breaking BBC1 series Life On Mars five years ago. Will Alex finally discover why she's been sent back to the Eighties? Does anything tie Alex and Sam together? And who, exactly, is Gene Hunt?

The BBC has blocked a request for the Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, to appear on Match Of The Day 2 as it would be inappropriate so close to the general election. Plus, it'd interfere with Shearer and Hansen's natural flair. Apparently. Towards the end of 2009, Downing Street asked the corporation for Brown to feature as a guest on the Sunday night football show, which is presented by Adrian Chiles. The Prime Minister had hoped to discuss England's bid to host the 2018 World Cup but the show's production team decided that it would be unfair so close to the election. 'We made the judgment it wouldn't be appropriate in the run-up to the election,' said a BBC spokeswoman. The corporation is, of course, bound by strict guidelines regarding appearances by political leaders in the months before an election, with the need to give balance to all parties. Well, they could have Cameron on, I suppose. Pretending to have always had a life-long affinity with Cowdenbeath. And, Nick Clegg, giving his opinions on the recent changes in the offside law. I'd watch it. No, actually, I wouldn't. That's a complete lie. Dunno why I said it, really. Trust. A major issue on this blog, it would appear.

BBC chief operating officer Caroline Thomson has defended the controversial decision to axe BBC 6 Music as part of last week's strategy review of the corporation. Speaking to the Westminster Media Forum, Thomson reiterated that the digital station needs to be closed as it competes directly with commercial radio rivals. According to the Guardian, Thomson said that the 'tough decision' to close 6 Music was reached due to serious questions over why the BBC needs to run three popular music stations - Radio 1, Radio 2 and 6 Music. 'The average age of [6 Music's] listeners - thirty seven - is at the heart of the demographic targeted by commercial radio,' she said. 'There just isn't the luxury of closing something that no-one cares about. All the BBC services are loved by some.' Thomson stressed that the money saved from 6 Music's closure would be re-directed towards digital radio services, with BBC Radio 7 to be given extra investment and rebranded as Radio 4 Extra. She also accepted that some commercial competitors hold legitimate concerns about the BBC's 'existing boundaries and its future ambition. We must be prepared to define the boundaries of our public service. We must be prepared to know our limits,' said Thomson. 'We are in a world where we can't do everything. We need to move to the world of "either/or."' Despite repeating plans to cut the BBC's budget for overseas acquisitions, Thomson said that it will not signal an end to popular US shows such as The Wire and Mad Men being offered on BBC channels.

BBC drama will forge closer links with independent production companies in the north of England, controller of commissioning Ben Stephenson has promised. Buoyed by the recent ratings success of the Leeds-based drama Five Days, Stephenson told attendees at a premiere of Kay Mellor's two-parter A Passionate Woman that the BBC 'wants to spend more time up here, engaging with the creative community. In three years I want to look back and see that we have provided more voices and different people with different things to say,' he said. 'I hope we can create the best environment where the best writers can create their best work without commercial pressures. We will definitely have more of a presence here. And if we don't, let me know.' Trust me, Ben, this blog certainly will if you fall short on that promise. Stephenson pinpointed two decisions that he considered crucial in the BBC's new approach to the North: The changing of the name of the Independent Drama team from BBC London to BBC England and the appointment of Hilary Martin, in 2008, to the role of development executive for BBC TV Drama North. Of the two hundred hours of drama on BBC channels this year, Stephenson said that twenty would have originated in the North, citing examples of medical horror pilot Pulse and Jimmy McGovern's The Accused. Stephenson, who spent a year and a half working on Yorkshire-based Heartbeat, described his upcoming drama slate as being full of shows that will both 'engage and enrage' viewers. He said A Passionate Woman, which stars Billy Piper, Sue Johnston and Alun and Joe Armstrong, was 'at the very heart of what we believe the BBC should be about.' Set in Leeds, the love story focuses on a mother's affair in the Fifties and its consequences thirty years later.

Ian Wright has suggested that he does not miss his former Live From Studio Five co-host Melinda Messenger, branding her as 'annoying.' Hang on, Ian Wright is describing someone else as 'annoying'? God, Melinda, that's really got to hurt. The rubbish ex-footballer told the Sun that Messenger was 'a turn-off' for viewers. Hang on, Ian Wright is describing someone else as 'a turn-off for viewers'? God, Melinda, that's really got to hurt, too. Wright claimed that this was because she would not give her colleagues a chance to speak during discussions on the programme. Hang on, Ian Wright is criticising someone for talking all over their colleagues - and their guests - like a loud-mouthed buffoon? God, Melinda, that's got to hurt more than the other two put together. Messenger announced that she was leaving Studio Five in January and made her final appearance on the show on 26 February. Reflecting on his time working with her, Wright complained: 'Melinda would drown us out so many times and it was annoying. People don't want to turn on to see people arguing.' Well, to be honest, Ian, people don't really want to turn on to see any of you, at all. As your ratings figures kind of prove. I think most viewers seem to regard all three presenter of the show as a trio of gibbering nincompoops albeit, Melinda at least, had the ability to read her sodding autocue. Messenger has so far been replaced by guest presenters who are joining Wright and co-host Kate Walsh. Emma Willis and Natalie Pinkham have been seen filling in over the past few days. It is thought that the magazine show's producers are currently searching for a new recruit to become the third anchor on a permanent basis. But that, so far, they haven't been able to find anybody willing to commit career suicide or that desperate to get their face on television at all costs. Not even Kerry Katona.

Being Human actress Lenora Crichlow will star in a new BBC3 comedy, it has been announced. Dappers, which also features Tom Ellis, Ty Glaser and Eddie Large, was recently filmed in Bristol. The plot revolves around two young mothers, Ashley (Crichlow) and Faye (Glaser) who live in Housing Association flats. Ellis plays Ashley's boyfriend, a nightclub impresario called Marco. Writer Catherine Johnson, who also penned Mamma Mia!, said: 'I'm so happy to have filmed in my home town of Bristol. This beats a Greek isle with Pierce Brosnan and Colin Firth any day!'

BSkyB have launched a public counter-offensive after BBC Trust chairman Sir Michael Lyons named the broadcaster in an attack on the corporation's critics. Sky group director of corporate affairs Graham McWilliam said Lyon's speech to the Manchester Statistics Society came as no surprise to the satellite broadcaster. 'The commercial sector is used to hearing the Trust dismiss legitimate concerns about the scale and scope of the BBC,' he said. 'When it is hard to find anyone who thinks the Trust is doing a good job, public outbursts from its chairman will do nothing to inspire increased confidence.' Sky has been among the most vocal critics of the BBC's services, claiming it has expanded beyond a legitimate size. Its chairman James Murdoch famously paraded a board covered in logos of the BBC's services at last year's Edinburgh TV Festival. Lyons used his speech yesterday to both attack the BBC's critics and defend the BBC Trust.

ITV has gone back to the drawing board after a five million pound deal to sell its Bristol studios fell through. London based firm Verve Properties, which owns the Paintworks media park near the Arnos Vale site, has spent six months negotiating with ITV to buy the remaining seventy three years of its one hundred and twenty five-year leasehold. ITV planned to make the disposal to raise capital and then rent back a portion of the building to house its Westcountry news operation. Bristol City Council signed a peppercorn rent deal with ITV predecessor, TWW, in 1958 for one hundred and twenty five years, with a covenant that it must be used for entertainment purposes. ITV currently leases building space to companies including indepedent producer Films@59, Whirlwind Media and computer firm Ocean Blue Software. Verve Properties director Tim Pain said the sale fell through because the running costs were 'too high. We were keen to link the facility with the Paintworks site, by offering a similar proposition, but the numbers just didn't add up for us,' he said.

IMG have hired John Hollywood, the man behind ITV's independent acquisition strategy, to be director of production for all of its sports coverage. Hollywood held a series of senior roles at the broadcaster, including director of business development, where he oversaw its strategy to acquire or take stakes in a string of independent companies such as 12 Yard and Carbon Media, and to back in-house productions. More recently, he consulted on the launches of ITV Spain and ITV France. He has also held roles as commercial director and director of production, working on shows such as I'm A Celebrity ..., Hell's Kitchen, Ant & Dec's Saturday Night Takeaway and Tonight With Trevor McDonald. He is joining IMG Sports Media Production and will be based at IMG's regional headquarters in London, reporting directly to the division's managing director Graham Fry.

Complaints about a television advert for a sex lubricant that appeared before its 11pm restriction have not been upheld by an industry watchdog. An unspecified number of viewers (so, that'd be one then) are (or is) said to have complained about the advert for Durex Play O gel, which showed the facial expressions of women who appeared to be experiencing sexual ecstasy. The complainant - or complainants - stated that this was 'offensive and unsuitable for broadcast.' At least, according to the Daily Telegraph anyway who seem suspiciously well-informed about who, exactly, was complaining about what. The advert had been cleared for broadcast after 11pm but appeared on Channel 4 shortly after 10pm during Gordon Ramsay's F Word and Derren Brown Presents the 3D Magic Spectacular programmes. Channel 4 said in its defence that Gordon Ramsay's F Word was of an adult nature and contained strong language and sexual innuendo, and that viewers of the programme would not have been offended by the advert. And, presumably, that Dazzling Dezza's audience we too busy being mesmerised by his tricky prestidigitation to even notice. The Advertising Standards Authority noted that the viewer or viewers who complained believed that the advert was unsuitable for broadcast at any time. Rejecting the complaints, the ASA said: 'We acknowledged the viewers' concern and appreciated that advertisers and broadcasters needed to be aware of the sensitive nature of ads for this type of product. We considered that this ad was not overtly graphic, contained no explicit material and was unlikely to cause offence, provided it was scheduled appropriately.'

Actress Farrah Fawcett was not included in the Oscars In Memoriam segment because she was better known as a TV star, the Academy has said. Fawcett's family said on Tuesday that they were 'deeply saddened' and 'bereft' over her omission from the ceremony. But the academy said as the star was known for her 'remarkable television work,' it would be more appropriate to honour her at the Emmy Awards. Charlie's Angels star Fawcett died of cancer in June last year. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences executive director Bruce Davis said he was not surprised some fans and family members were upset at the exclusion. He said the committee debated including Fawcett in the memorial segment, but 'an unusual number of extremely distinguished screenwriters' died this year, and the academy tried to honour many of them in the short time allowed. 'In every category, you're going to miss some wonderful people,' said Davis, who has helped assemble Oscars In Memoriam montage since it began in 1993. When asked why Michael Jackson was included when other actors were left out, Davis said the singer had appeared in a popular theatrical film recently. But he appreciated that the actress's omission would upset some people. 'There's nothing you can say to people, particularly to family members, within a day or two of the show that helps at all,' Davis said. 'They tend to be surprised and hurt, and we understand that and we're sorry for it.'

Sky Sports newsreader Georgie Thompson has admitted that she is 'out of her comfort zone' on the sports quiz show A League Of Their Own. The Sky Sports News presenter described the comedy programme, which is hosted by James Corden (oh God, not him again), as 'an exciting opportunity' in her career. 'James [Corden] is brilliant fun and then Jamie [Redknapp] and Freddie [Flintoff] as team captains are fantastic,' she told Sky. 'I love being Freddie's side-kick too, we have a good giggle. And John Bishop constantly has me in stitches.' Well, stop provoking him, then, he's a big hard scouser, what do you expect? 'If I can get a sentence out I'm really pleased with myself because I'm always laughing.' Well, she's really making this sound unmissable, isn't she? Tune in to A League Of Their Own to witness some woman giggling, inanely, for half-an-hour a week. Sounds terrific. Speaking about being the only permanent female on the show, she added: 'I was a bit nervous at first. I'm representing womankind in this arena, which was quite a scary thought.' So, you realise in advance that you're being used as an example of crass tokenism, then Georgie? And, you're happy about it? By hell, what a thorough triumph you are for the modern, intelligent, mind-of-her-own woman. Make sure you remember to have Dec's tea on the table at five o'clock too, or they're'll be war-on. 'But we have female guests coming on which is good for me. But it doesn't come down to being a girl/guy thing, we're all a big team together. It's a great show to be part of and it's the fun factor that I've been looking for. I'm loving being a part of it.' Eveything I hear about this programme just makes it sound worse and worse!

The comedian Roy Chubby Brown allegedly hit a woman in the face during a foul-mouthed dispute in a Teesside supermarket car park, a court has heard. The comic is said to have hit twenty one-year-old Kelly Oliver after almost colliding with her grandmother's car in Middlesbrough last September. Brown, sixty five and charged under his real name, Royston Vasey, denied common assault at Teesside Magistrates' Court. The comedian, from Northallerton, is known for his explicit sexual material in his stage act. Viviene Turner, prosecuting, said that Brown reacted angrily after Oliver watched him reverse his silver Lexus within an inch of her grandmother's car in the car of park of the Middlesbrough branch of Sainsbury's on 2 September. The court heard that he wound down his window and swore at her. Oliver, now six months pregnant, said that she did not respond. She claims when she walked over to a ticket machine, Brown got out of his car and began shouting at her. Brown is then said to have hit her with his right hand on the left side of her face. The court heard it alleged that Brown drove off when Oliver's grandmother said she would note down his registration number. The court was told that Brown had admitted in 1996 to common assault occasioning actual bodily harm against his ex-wife, for which he was fined three hundred pounds and ordered to pay compensation. Miss Oliver herself had two cautions relating to violent incidents and failed to comply with a dispersal notice in 2008, the court heard. Sound like a right pair of naughty scallywags, the both of 'em. The case continues.

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