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10 Actors' Dramatic Departures from Popular Shows

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As the season premiere of Two and a Half Men edges closer, many fans are alternately waiting to see how the addition of Ashton Kutcher to the cast will change the show while simultaneously shaking their heads over an actor (we're looking at you, Charlie Sheen) who was unwilling to rein in his self-destructive behavior just a tad during production season in exchange for almost two million dollars per episode...! Mr. Sheen's isn't the first major character to be axed from a hit show, and there are others who (sometimes) ill-advisedly killed their own golden goose while their former show, despite dire predictions, went on. Here are some memorable examples:

Co-workers bid Shelley Long Cheers

When Cheers debuted in 1982, one of the main continuing story threads was the love/hate relationship between wannabe-intellectual waitress Diane (Shelley Long) and retired athlete/bar owner Sam (Ted Danson). But behind the scenes, Long's relationship with not only Danson but the rest of the cast and crew of Cheers leaned more toward the "hate" side of the equation. Long was a perfectionist and, among other quirks, often held up taping for 45 minutes or more to have her hair and make-up redone (all the while, the studio audience was sitting and waiting). After the box office success of her 1987 film Outrageous Fortune, Long decided to leave Cheers to pursue her movie career. Unbeknowst to critics and viewers who predicted certain death for the sitcom with the departure of such a major character, Long's departure actually relieved a good deal of on-set tension and virtually revitalized the cast and writers. Cheers ran for another very successful six seasons until Ted Danson finally decided to call it quits.

He found his thrill behind the camera

Red-haired aw-shucks all-wholesome-American Ron Howard starred as Richie Cunningham on Happy Days for the first seven years of the long-running sitcom's 10 year run. Howard had been acting since the age of four, including a nine-year stint as Opie on The Andy Griffith Show. Having spent most of his life on studio sets, he developed a serious interest in acting directing, and the respectable box office results of 1977's Grand Theft Auto, his directorial debut, further whetted his creative appetite. He was itching to stop playing a teenager and start pursuing his dream. Since virtually every Happy Days plot revolved around Richie, the producers were panicked when Howard gave his notice, so he agreed to return for a limited number of guest shots after his character joined the Army and was shipped off to Greenland. Happy Days continued for another four seasons, but the changes wrought by Howard's departure were mind-boggling. Somehow Joanie, Chachi, Fonzie, et al., were magically transported 30 years into the future. Instead of a feel-good slice of 1950s nostalgia, viewers were treated to a barrage of Very Special Episodes (with formerly apolitical Fonzie suddenly solving the problem du jour—be it racism, single parenthood, or alcoholism—in 30 minutes) and featuring cast members who looked like they'd stepped out of an Izod ad rather than the Eisenhower era. Of course, Howard hasn't done too badly for himself since hanging up his Jefferson High jacket...

It was high treason, and it mattered a great deal

When Rob Lowe first signed on to play Deputy Communications Director Sam Seaborn on The West Wing, he was considered the "box office draw" and was likewise given both top billing and the highest salary. But after the first season, the show started to gain critical acclaim and the supporting cast attracted more attention. Once The West Wing became a bona fide ratings hit, supporting actors Allison Janney, Bradley Whitford, Richard Schiff, and John Spencer joined forces and demanded a sizable salary increase. The granted pay raise brought the quartet up to the same salary level as original "main" star Rob Lowe. When Lowe asked for a raise, the producers refused him and, as Lowe later stated in his autobiography, he thought, "You know what? This is not right. It's just not right," so he called it quits in 2003. Despite his bitter departure, Lowe was still appreciative to the series' producers for essentially reviving his career (which had been in a slump after a notorious hotel sex video was made public) and he appeared in two parts of a four-episode story arc that served as the series finale in 2006.

What do you think, sirs?

Joel Hodgson was a successful stand-up comic (with appearances on The Tonight Show and Saturday Night Live under his belt) when he bid farewell to Los Angeles and returned to his hometown in Minnesota. While deciding his next career move, he did local stand-up and also sold personally constructed robots (his passion since childhood) at a local shop. The industrial space he rented in which to construct his creations was next door to the studios of KTMA, a local St. Paul UHF station managed by Jim Mallon. Jim and Joel became friendly, and eventually when Mallon had two hours of air time to fill on Sunday afternoons he asked Hodgson if he could somehow use his comedy act along with his robot puppets to fill the time. The show the two co-created, Mystery Science Theater 3000, eventually became a cable hit — so popular that Hollywood came a-calling.

When the prospect of a major motion picture version of MST3K became a reality, Jim Mallon suddenly took charge and insisted upon being named director. He then offered Joel, who was supposedly his equal partner in the MST franchise, various associate producer-type credits. Joel felt that his overall role in the show was being minimized, and that to object would start a legal fight that could jeopardize not only the movie but the series as a whole, so he left the show during the fifth season. Michael J. Nelson, who had been head writer for the series since the beginning, took over the hosting duties after Joel's departure. Joel has since confessed in subsequent interviews that he really didn't think the show would last five more seasons without him and that he occasionally has had some 20/20 hindsight twinges of doubt about his decision to leave.

Wild child

When One Day at a Time debuted in 1975, it was one of the first sitcoms to realistically portray a newly divorced single mom as its main character. Bonnie Franklin played 34-year-old Ann Romano, who had recently ended a 17-year marriage and moved into an apartment with her two teenage daughters. Valerie Bertinelli was the adorable and angelic (she had to make up sins when she went to Confession) younger daughter, Barbara, while Mackenzie Phillips was the rebellious older daughter, Julie. While Julie's biggest offenses were of the breaking curfew variety, off-screen Mackenzie's behavior would have shocked even the worldly Schneider. The troubled teen was not only addicted to heroin and cocaine, she was also having an incestuous relationship with her father, John Phillips. She was arrested for cocaine possession during the third season of the show and her character was written out for six episodes so Phillips could go through rehab. She was eventually fired, then briefly rehired for limited guest appearances, then written out entirely in 1982. One Day at a Time continued on for an additional two years, with the plot focus shifted to newly married Barbara and her husband.

"It wasn't supposed to be like this

Has there ever been a more compassionate and selfless character on television than Edith Bunker? She would've given Archie her corneas and kidneys if he needed them, and she would've had them removed without anesthetic if sodium pentothal cost extra. So it's understandable that the death of Edith Bunker turned out to be one of the most poignant moments ever shown on a sitcom. Funny thing is, many All in the Family fans recall and reminisce seeing "the episode where Edith died," even though there never was such an episode during the run of that series.

When All in the Family ended its run, Jean Stapleton had decided that after nine seasons the character of Edith was as developed as it would get and had nowhere else to go. She signed on for the first season of Archie Bunker's Place with the understanding that it would be Edith's swan song. As the first episode of Season Two of ABP opened, Archie and Stephanie are eating an awkward breakfast together. As the dialog progresses, we learn that Edith had died suddenly of a stroke in her sleep three weeks earlier. Archie's soliloquy after finding Edith's bedroom slipper was very emotional, but ABP had another three seasons to go, so he had to get over his grief fairly quickly so that the writers could have his character date other women in future episodes.

Better late than homophobic

Isaiah Washington won a Screen Actors Guild Award for his portrayal of gifted thoracic surgeon Dr. Preston Burke on Grey's Anatomy and was named "one of TV's sexiest men" by TV Guide. The future seemed rosy for the actor until one day during Season Three when co-star T.R. Knight was late reporting to the set. Washington made no secret of his agitation at the production delay, and the situation escalated when Patrick "Dr. McDreamy" Dempsey defended Knight and urged Washington to cool down. According to backstage witnesses, Washington then directed his anger toward Dempsey and grabbed him by the neck and shoved him while yelling, "I'm not your little f***** like [Knight]!" The scuffle was leaked to the National Enquirer, and Knight, feeling cornered, came out to the press shortly afterward. ABC announced in June 2007 that Washington's contract would not be renewed, and a month later the actor appeared on Larry King Live and blamed Patrick Dempsey for his outburst, stating that McDreamy "was treating him like a 'B-word,' a 'P-word,' and the 'F-word,'" which Washington said implied that he was weak and afraid to fight back. Four years later, Grey's Anatomy is still going strong and viewers are still trying to figure out what all those "-words" are.

Second time wasn't the charm

Shannen Doherty had some previous TV roles under her belt, but it was the part of Midwestern transplant Brenda Walsh on Fox's Beverly Hills 90210 that made her a star (and a tabloid favorite). By the third season of the series, Doherty was apparently having trouble separating herself from the character she played on TV and spent many late nights on the town, occasionally brawling with boyfriends, and frequently showing up to work late and hungover. She wasn't winning any popularity contests with her co-stars, either; she and Jennie Garth once got into a fistfight, and Luke Perry asked the writers to cool off the love story between Dylan and Brenda because he wanted as few up-close-and-personal scenes with Doherty as possible. Doherty was fired after Season Four and Brenda was shipped off to London to study theater. Four years later, producer Aaron Spelling gave Doherty a second chance and hired her to play one of the three magical sisters on Charmed. By the third season things weren't so peachy-keen behind the scenes; rumor has it that Alyssa Milano and Doherty only spoke to one another when the script required it. Finally Milano approached the Paramount execs with an ultimatum—either Doherty went or she'd leave. Doherty had just recently been arrested for a DWI and had a track record of being difficult, while Milano was, well, more of an America's Sweetheart type. Guess which way the ax fell.

A dark and depressing crime show? Who'd-a thunk it?!

Broadway veteran Mandy Patinkin signed up to be the main star of police procedural drama Criminal Minds in 2005. His character, Jason Gideon, was the academic, gifted profiler of a special FBI team that was designated as the National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime. Somehow the gifted actor apparently missed these few clues that indicated his character might be involved with the darker side of life, because during the Festival de Télévision de Monte-Carlo in 2007, Patinkin told the assembled journalists, "I loathe those violent images and I want no part of that type of violence. I work with the writers and producers constantly to try and tamper that violence down." At the first table read of the premiere episode of Season Three in July 2007, Patinkin simply didn't show up. He didn't bother to call in "sick" and had never hinted that he was considering leaving, so his cast mates and the production staff were stunned. Patinkin soon began the legal maneuvers necessary to be released from his contract, stating that he wanted to go back to musical theater to inject laughter and happiness into the entertainment industry. When he did return for a day so that his character could be given a proper send-off, his part was reduced to one scene, filmed on a separate soundstage with an alternate crew because his former co-workers were still very bitter at his abrupt, no-explanation-given departure.

Behavior unbecoming a Huxtable

Dr. Heathcliff Huxtable was one of America's favorite TV dads during the 1980s. Bill Cosby was just as paternal, and perhaps even more so, behind the scenes. All the regular actors had to sign a morals clause as a condition of being hired, and Cosby rode roughshod on the school-age actors to always put their studies first. In any such tightly regimented atmosphere there is bound to be one rebel, and in this case it was Lisa Bonet, the most popular (according to fan mail and press coverage) member of the Huxtable clan.

Bonet's first "offense" was co-starring in 1987's Angel Heart, a film in which her explicit sex scene with Mickey Rourke had to be seriously edited so that the rating could be reduced from X to R. Less than a year later Bonet appeared semi-nude on the cover of Rolling Stone. Producers felt that Bonet's off-stage antics could potentially harm the squeaky-clean Huxtable image, but Dr. Cosby (who already had a spin-off in development) intervened and allowed Lisa to continue playing the character of Denise on A Different World. Bonet's eventual pregnancy threw a further wrench into the works; she was married but Denise was not, and even though A Different World sometimes explored controversial issues, an unwed pregnant college student was not one of the plot lines the producers had in mind. Bonet returned briefly to The Cosby Show, but when her marriage to Lenny Kravitz began unraveling, she often turned up late to the set or not at all and was ultimately let go due to "creative differences." Not only was Bonet absent from the series finale (geez, even Vanessa’s former fiancé Dabnis was present!), she has thus far not been invited to attend any of the subsequent Cosby Show reunions.

From saving lives to saving money

When Wayne Rogers signed on for the role of Trapper John on M*A*S*H, he was told that the TV series would be as similar to the movie as TV would allow and, accordingly, that the characters of Hawkeye and Trapper would be equal. But as Alan Alda got more involved with the creative aspects of the show, the writers started giving Hawkeye all the best jokes and most poignant monologues. Rogers was suddenly Alda's second banana and not at all pleased about the situation. He resigned abruptly after Season Three, which prompted a multi-million dollar breach-of-contract lawsuit from the producers. Rogers, however, had never signed his contract (he'd objected to a morals clause), so the last laugh was his.

Sort of.

M*A*S*H soldiered on for eight more seasons, and Wayne Rogers' acting career never got completely back on track. However, Rogers is one of the few actors in Hollywood who works for the sake of artistry, not a paycheck. When he first started out in the business he saw too many stars losing everything they'd earned thanks to bad investments, so he set out to educate himself in the world of finance. He befriended entrepreneur Lew Wolff (head of real estate at 20th Century Fox) and learned all about real estate and money management. Today, Rogers owns the Stop-N-Save convenience store chain, an upscale chain of New York bridal stores, and Wayne M. Rogers & Company, an investment strategy firm.

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12 Fast Facts About Magnum, P.I.
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Magnum, P.I. was appointment television in a world before peak TV made that sort of thing commonplace. Starring Tom Selleck and set against a lush Hawaiian backdrop, the series was a triumph thanks to its tense action, humor, and eclectic cast of characters. Selleck’s Thomas Magnum shed the typical action hero mold for something far more relatable, and for eight seasons, the series was among the most popular on the air. To bring you back to a time when all you needed was a Hawaiian shirt and a Detroit Tigers cap to be a star, here are 12 facts about Magnum, P.I.


Magnum, P.I. made its premiere on CBS in 1980, the same year the network’s long-running Hawaii Five-0 was taking its final bow. Magnum’s location was picked because the network didn't want to let its Hawaiian production facilities go to waste, so the Tom Selleck-led show filmed many of its indoor scenes on the old Hawaii Five-0 soundstage.

The two shows are even set in the same universe, as Thomas Magnum would make references to Detective Steve McGarrett, who was famously played by Jack Lord on Hawaii Five-0. Though Lord never did accept the offer to make a cameo, the link between the two shows was never broken.


Can you imagine Indiana Jones with a mustache? Or Tom Selleck without one? Well one of those almost became a reality as Selleck was the top choice for the swashbuckling archaeologist when production on Raiders of the Lost Ark began. Unfortunately, the actor’s contractual commitment to Magnum, P.I. prevented him from taking the role.

In a cruel twist of fate, a writers strike subsequently delayed filming on the first season of Magnum, theoretically freeing up Selleck for the role—if he hadn’t already dropped out of consideration. Though the part will forever be linked to Harrison Ford, the ever-excitable George Lucas described Selleck’s screentest as “really, really good.”


If you think the Magnum, P.I. theme is a miracle of network television, you’re not alone. The song, composed by Mike Post, reached number 25 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in 1982—a rare feat for a TV theme. Post is also the man behind hit TV songs like The A-Team, The Rockford Files, Quantum Leap, The Greatest American Hero, and plenty of other ‘80s and ‘90s staples. He’s probably best known as the man behind the ubiquitous “dun, dun” sting from Law & Order. (The Who's Pete Townshend actually wrote a song about Post's theme work, title "Mike Post Theme," which was released on the band's 2006 album, Endless Wire.)

The Magnum, P.I. tune you’re bopping your head to right now wasn’t the original opening song, though. For the first handful of episodes, including the pilot, the series had a much less memorable intro song.


Orson Welles’s final years were a blur of voiceover work and jug-o’-wine commercials, and one of his last jobs was acting as the voice of Robin Masters—the mysterious author who lends Magnum his guesthouse in exchange for security services. Masters is only heard, never fully seen, in the show, leading to plenty of conspiracy theories over his actual identity (some fans still think he was Higgins all along).

Occasionally Masters would be seen only briefly and from behind. For those rare moments, actor Bruce Atkinson would provide the necessary body parts for filming. Though his voice was only heard rarely during the series’ first five seasons, Welles was scheduled to play the role for as long as the show was on the air, but the actor’s death in 1985 brought a premature end to his tenure.


Donald Bellisario’s TV empire is one of the industry’s most impressive feats, resulting in multiple top-rated shows and critical favorites. But getting two of his most popular series to cross over proved to be more trouble than anyone would have anticipated.

In order to secure a fifth season for Quantum Leap, Bellisario suggested that Scott Bakula’s Dr. Sam Beckett character “leap” into the body of Thomas Magnum in the final moments of season four, leading to the following year’s premiere. But there was a snag with securing Selleck; his publicist even claimed he was never formally approached about the subject, saying, "We’re hoping. It’s on hold. We don’t have an answer.” The idea was soon dropped, and a fifth season of Quantum Leap went on without any help from Magnum.

Magnum, P.I. was off the air at this point, so Selleck was already on different projects. Some test footage of Bakula as Thomas Magnum was shot and shown at a Quantum Leap fan convention, but that’s as far as viewers got.



A crossover between Magnum and Murder, She Wrote? That did happen, oddly enough. The event took place in the Magnum, P.I. episode "Novel Connection" during season seven and Murder, She Wrote’s “Magnum on Ice.” In the story, Magnum is arrested for murder, and the only person who can clear his name is Jessica Fletcher, played as always by Dame Angela Lansbury.

During its third season, Magnum also crossed over with his fellow CBS private investigators on the show Simon & Simon. Both series ran simultaneously on CBS for almost the entirety of the ‘80s, and in this episode the trio banded together to secure a Hawaiian artifact that supposedly had a death curse attached to it.


If you’re not old enough to appreciate what a phenomenon Magnum, P.I. was, consider this: Selleck’s iconic Hawaiian shirt, Detroit Tigers hat, and insignia ring from the show were all donated to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History.

The objects joined other culturally significant TV relics from over the years, including Archie Bunker’s chair from All in the Family, the Lone Ranger’s mask, and a Kermit the Frog puppet. Perhaps just as big of an honor, Selleck found himself in the Mustache Hall of Fame for the memorable lip fuzz he sported throughout the series. His digital plaque reads:

“Throughout his acting career, Selleck’s charismatic grin, unflinching masculinity and robust, stocky lipholstery have made him the stuff of legend.”


The first season of Magnum, P.I. was about more than just establishing Tom Selleck as a household name; CBS executives also wanted an episode to act as a backdoor pilot for an action series starring Erin Gray. In the episode “J. ‘Digger’ Doyle,” viewers meet Gray as the titular Doyle, a security expert that Magnum calls on to help thwart a potential assassination attempt against Robin Masters.

Though the episode went off without a hitch, the spinoff never materialized. In fact, Gray never reappeared on the series after that.


By the time season seven rolled around, it seemed that Magnum, P.I. had run its course—so much so that the network had planned for that to be the show’s sendoff.

In the season’s final episode, “Limbo,” Magnum winds up in critical condition after taking a bullet during a warehouse shootout. The episode gets Dickensian as Magnum, caught between life and death, drops in on all his closest friends (and supporting cast) as a specter no one can see or hear. He makes peace with everyone around him before he apparently walks off into heaven, punctuated by the John Denver song “Looking For Space.”

To the surprise of the cast, crew, and fans, the series was renewed for a shortened eighth season, meaning Magnum had to come back from the beyond and continue his adventures for another 13 episodes.


When Magnum, P.I. actually ended, it ended with one of the most-watched finales of all time. It currently sits as the fifth most-watched series finale, not far behind the likes of Cheers, M*A*S*H, Friends, and Seinfeld. The grand total of viewers? 50.7 million.


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Rumors of a Magnum, P.I. movie have been rumbling since shortly after the credits rolled on the series' final episode (and likely well before that). It got close in the ‘90s when Selleck teamed with famed novelist Tom Clancy to pitch a Magnum movie to Universal.

Clancy was a big fan of the show and was ready to crack the story with Selleck, but nothing ever came of it. Selleck later recounted:

"We got together, and I went to Universal, and I said ‘It's time we could do a series of feature films.’ They were very interested, and I had Tom, who wanted to do the story, and I had this package put together, but Universal's the only studio that could make it, and they went through three ownership changes in the '90s, and I think that was the real window for Magnum."


The time for a Selleck-led Magnum, P.I. movie may have passed, but there’s still hope for the franchise. In 2016, The Hollywood Reporter broke the news that ABC had a pilot in the works for a Magnum sequel, which would put an end to the constant reports of a full-fledged reboot or movie adaptation of the show.

According to the site, the show would follow Magnum's daughter, Lily, "who returns to Hawaii to take up the mantle of her father's PI firm.” It remains to be seen whether or not the project will ever come to fruition.

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Pop Culture
5 Bizarre Comic-Con News Stories from Years Past
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At its best, Comic-Con is a friendly place where like-minded people can celebrate their pop culture obsessions, and each other. And no one can make fun of you, no matter how lazy your cosplaying might be. You might think that at its worst, it’s just a series of long lines of costumed fans and small stores crammed into a convention center. But sometimes, throwing together 100,000-plus people from around the world in what feels like a carnival-type atmosphere where anything goes can have less than stellar results. Here are some highlights from past Comic-Con-tastrophes.


In 2010, two men waiting for a Comic-Con screening of the Seth Rogen alien comedy Paul got into a very adult argument about whether one of them was sitting too close to the other. Unable to come to a satisfactory conclusion with words, one man stabbed the other in the face with a pen. According to CNN, the attacker was led away wearing handcuffs and a Harry Potter T-shirt. In the aftermath, some Comic-Con attendees dealt with the attack in an oddly fitting way: They cosplayed as the victim, with pens protruding from bloody eye sockets.


Since its founding in 2006, New York Comic Con has attracted a few sticky-fingered attendees. In 2010, a man stole several rare comics from vendor Matt Nelson, co-founder of Texas’ Worldwide Comics. Just one of those, Whiz Comics No. 1, was worth $11,000, according to the New York Post. A few years later, in 2014, someone stole a $2000 “Dunny” action figure, which artist Jon-Paul Kaiser had painted during the event for Clutter magazine. And those are just the incidents that involved police; lower-scale cases of toys and comics disappearing from booths are an increasingly frustrating epidemic, according to some. “Comic Con theft is an issue we all sort of ignore,” collector Tracy Isenhour wrote on the blog of his company, Needless Essentials, in 2015. “I am here to tell you no more. It’s time for this garbage to stop."


John Sciulli/Getty Images for Xbox

Adrianne Curry, winner of the first cycle of America’s Next Top Model, has made a career of chasing viral fame. Ironically, it was at Comic-Con in 2014 that Curry did something truly worthy of attention—though there wasn’t a camera in sight. Dressed as Catwoman, she was posing with fans alongside her friend Alicia Marie, who was dressed as Tigra. According to a Facebook post Marie wrote at the time, a fan tried to shove his hands into her bikini bottoms. She screamed, the man ran off, and Curry jumped to action. She “literally took off after dude WITH her Catwoman whip and chased him down, beat his a**,” Marie wrote. “Punched him across the face with the butt of her whip—he had zombie blood on his face—got on her costume.”


The lines at Comic-Con are legendary, so one Utah man came up with a novel way to try and skip them altogether. In 2015, Jonathon M. Wall tried to get into Salt Lake Comic Con’s exclusive VIP enclave (normally a $10,000 ticket) by claiming he was an agent with the Air Force Office of Special Investigations, and needed to get into the VIP room “to catch a fugitive,” according to The San Diego Union Tribune. Not only does that story not even come close to making sense, it also adds up to impersonating a federal agent, a crime to which Wall pleaded guilty in April of this year and which carried a sentence of up to three years in prison and a $250,000 fine. In June, prosecutors announced that they were planning to reduce his crime from a felony to a misdemeanor.


Michael Buckner/Getty Images for Disney

In 2015, Kevin Doyle walked 645 miles along the California coast to honor his late wife, Eileen. Doyle had met Eileen relatively late in life, when he was in his 50s, and they bonded over their shared love of Star Wars (he even proposed to her while dressed as Darth Vader). However, she died of cancer barely a year after they were married. Adrift and lonely, Doyle decided to honor her memory and their love of Star Wars by walking to Comic-Con—from San Francisco. “I feel like I’m so much better in the healing process than if I’d stayed home,” he told The San Diego Union Tribune.


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