Chicago’s late newscasts continues to lose steam










Maybe Chicago viewers are tired of hearing about all the shootings and murders. Maybe viewers are tired of the constant weather hype, even when its nice and only 75 degrees. Maybe viewers are tired of the Breaking News and Developing Story monikers every four goddamn minutes.

Or maybe viewers are just tired (and going to bed earlier.)

Either way you paint it, Chicago’s late and primetime newscasts continue their slide in the July sweeps, mirroring a similar decline in May, with four of the five local late newscasts continuing to lose stream.

According to Lewis Lazare at Chicago Business Journal, ABC-owned WLS-TV was the only station to show an increase at 10 p.m. to destroy the competition (once again) with an 8.7 household rating, up 12  percent from July 2013. The others were down: NBC’s WMAQ were in second place (5.4, -4%), followed by WGN-TV’s 9 p.m. newscast (4.1, -11%); CBS-owned WBBM-TV (3.9, -3%) and Fox’s WFLD at 9 p.m. (1.8, -31%), whose decline can also be blamed on Fox’s weak prime-time lineup and the departure of Robin Robinson, whose contract with the station expired this week.

Granted, these are only household numbers, as the 25-54 demos for July have yet to be released. But when the numbers are translated, the results are unlikely to be encouraging.

The declining numbers continue a troubling trend as Chicago’s late newscasts continue to bleed viewers. During the May 2014 sweeps, the seven major Chicago news stations (including Spanish-language WGBO and WSNS) lost 21 percent of their adult 25-54 audience year-to-year, in various early fringe, access, primetime, and 10 p.m., according to a recent TVNewsCheck analysis of May sweeps numbers in the ten largest markets (only Boston lost more audience, at 23 percent.)

This month’s T Dog Media TV Hall Of Shame moment – which ALL the local stations are guilty of – was the ridiculous and unnecessary hype regarding the nice but unseasonably cool weather Chicago experienced during a few days last month, even making it the lead story at 10 p.m. one night. One local station even interviewed slacked-jawed yokels whose complaints about the weather was more suited for winter (one person said she would even move!) The piece made Chicagoans look like wimps and pansties. Little wonder why foreigners look at Chicago with such disdain.

It’s too bad some of the local stations didn’t show that same kind of commitment when the weather was really nasty the night of June 30, preferring to integrate the weather coverage with commercials instead. It’s hard enough worrying if your house might get blown down without Jan trying to sell you a Toyota or Flo selling you insurance you need for that Toyota or hearing that stupid “I’m feeling Subway” jingle.

When it comes to local news, Chicagoans en masse are feeling the urge to reach for the remote.

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Journal, Scripps continue to fuel media merger frenzy

ScrippsTwo Midwest media companies combine as media merger frenzy continues to sweep the nation

In the latest media hookup, Milwaukee-based Journal Communications announced a merger with Cincinnati-based E.W. Scripps. With the merger, the newspaper division would be spun-off into a separate company.

Once everything is said and done, Scripps would would own and operate 34 television stations in 24 markets, and 35 radio stations in eight markets (none in Illinois.) The new Journal Media Group would operate newspapers in 14 markets, based in Milwaukee.

Currently, Journal owns The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel; News/Talk/Sports outlet WTMJ-AM (which can be picked up in the Chicago area, especially after dark); adult contemporary music station WLWK-FM (once known as Top 40 powerhouse WKTI-FM); and NBC affiliate WTMJ-TV, which Journal signed on in 1947. Journal also owns NBC affiliate WGBA in Green Bay and CBS affiliates WTVF in Nashville and KMTV in Omaha, Neb.

With the purchase, Scripps would have a significant presence in the Midwest, with stations in Detroit; Cincinnati,; Cleveland; Indianapolis; Milwaukee; Omaha; Green Bay; and Lansing, Mich.

The combined company would not own any station in Illinois.

The Scripps-Journal marriage is the latest in one of the biggest media merger frenzies not seen since the mid 1980′s. Recently, broadcasters such as Media General, Tribune, and Sinclair have been merging with others to gain leverage over cable and satellite providers (in retransmission consent negotiations) and over studios and other program suppliers.

Meanwhile, the cable and satellite providers are playing their own game of merger mania with Comcast hooking up with Time Warner Cable and DirecTV hooking up with AT & T. Other companies (such as Cox Cable, Dish, and Charter) could also be on the block.

And then there’s the studios. Two weeks ago, 21st Century Fox’s Rupert Murdoch placed a bid to buy Time Warner, but was rejected because the bid was “too low”. However, this is n’t expected to stop Murdoch in his pursuit – he’ll likely come back with a sweeter bid in his attempt for a hostile takeover.

A Fox-Time Warner merger would mean the combined company would control 40 percent of the primetime programming on the major networks. It would also have a near monopoly on adult animation, with Fox’s animation (Family Guy, American Dad) in the same house as Adult Swim (Aqua Teen, Squidbillies.) And the syndication outfits of both companies would certainly merge.

With all the mergers and threats of mergers, this is increasingly becoming like a high-stakes auction in a game of “can you top this”?

This comes as more and more viewers are watching their programs on DVRs and video-on-demand services such as Amazon, Hulu, and Netflix – all are now producing original programming – and thus bypassing the middleman – the network affiliate. In order to stay competitive, stations have been expanding their local newscasts, which attracts blue-chip and political advertising as the networks eliminated network compensation a long time ago.

The Scripps-Journal merger is already bad news for studios as Scripps has dropped several expensive first-run syndicated programming for cheaper, in-house produced programming, such as Let’s Ask America and The List, and the recently launched The Now, which no doubt would be placed on Journal stations once the deal closes in 2015. For syndicators, this development makes the job of selling syndicated shows a lot tougher.

Two years ago, Scripps stations pulled the plug on Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy!, which they deemed as too expensive. In Cincinnati, Ellen is moving from Scripps’ ABC affiliate WCPO to Hearst’s WLWT, the market’s NBC affiliate this fall. In Cleveland, Dr. Oz is switching from Scripps’ WEWS to Tribune’s WJW.

In an era where everything in the media business is now changing, this frenzy is only just the beginning.


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T Dog Media’s Comic-Con mess

CconDue to unfortunate circumstances not under my control and time constraints, yours truly has had to suspend Comic-Con coverage on T Dog Media.

I’m not happy about this, and Comic-Con is one of those big media events (TCA and NATPE are the others) that I cover very extensively on this blog. This is truly disappointing.

But good news: if its trailers and panels you seek, I will soon post them on T Dog Media’s Facebook and Google Plus pages. Follow T Dog Media on Twitter and I’ll let you know when they’ll be posted up.

Thanks for your understanding.


Comic-Con: A lot of fun on day one

Comic-ConThe 45th annual San Diego Comic-Con extravaganza began on Thursday with all the pageantry, pomp, and circumstance one could ask for.

There was some bad news – the legendary Stan Lee had to bow out of Comic-Con due to illness (laryngitis.) Production delays earlier forced the cancellation of Star Wars VII panel and iZombie screening due to cast changes (but the panel went on as planned.)

But the show must go on – and go on it did! Here are some selected highlights from day one of Comic-Con.

- You can bet your Big Mac that fans were dancing in the aisles when this was announced at the Con: MTV renewed audience favorite Teen Wolf for a fifth season of twenty episodes, which will be split into two mini-seasons. The stars were on hand in Ballroom 20 answering happy fans’ questions.

Based on the 1985 Paramount movie starring Michael J. Fox (a sequel surfaced in 1987 with Jason Bateman in Fox’s role), Wolf was developed for television by Jeff Davis (no relation to the former WLS-AM personality of the same name), who also created Criminal Minds. Teen Wolf draws nearly a million viewers per week and is one of Twitter’s most talked about TV shows.

- While fans of Community are overjoyed their beloved series will be coming back for a sixth season on Yahoo, don’t look for the series to be “binged” i.e., releasing all the episodes at once, similar to what Netflix did with Orange Is The New Black and Arrested Development. Instead, each episode will be released on a weekly basis. Creator Dan Harmon didn’t specify a time table for the show to arrive on Yahoo, but it won’t be before Christmas 2014. He said the audience will be watching the show the same as before – “except now legally”.

- Stan Lee may not be in San Diego but according to a tweet he sent, he’s in Quahog, thanks to a new app you can download from Apple’s App Store or Google Play, called Family Guy: The Quest For Stuff. You won’t find Lee in the game, but you find a lot of other things, including playing stuff as one of your favorite Family Guy characters (however, you can’t drive Meg off a cliff. Sorry.)

-Things didn’t exactly go over well at the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles panel on Thursday. The remake of the 1990 box office hit was criticized by many in the crowd for the producers “choices”. Worse, a person who moderated the panel for Paramount thought star Megan Fox was a fan and told her “no more questions.”

- Bryan Fuller (Heroes, Pushing Daisies) was on hand for the Hannibal panel at Ballroom 20, though the show’s two leads (Mads Mikkelsen and Hugh Dancy) were not present, being out of the country. Fuller revealed in great detail about the upcoming third season of the show, which returns to NBC this fall. To read what Fuller had to say about Hannibal’s third season and more, click here.

- Even though Microsoft’s Xbox studios in now closed, its Halo: Nightfall live-action series from Ridley Scott is debuting this November. Running as a five-part miniseries and set between the fourth and the upcoming fifth edition of the video game, Halo follows the exploits of a new character (Jameson Locke) created for the show played by Mike Colter, late of The Good Wife. An agent with the Office of Naval Intelligence, Locke and his unit must hunt down and find an artifact after a biological attack.

Prison Break’s Paul Schering penned the script for Halo: Nightfall while Scott is the executive producer. Watch the trailer below:

And as a bonus, you can watch the entire Halo: Nightfall panel below:




TCA Summer Tour 2014: FX bids adieu to “Sons Of Anarchy”

From left, Creator Kurt Sutter, Director Paris Barclay and actor Charlie Hunnam speak on stage during the “Sons of Anarchy” panel at the The FX 2014 Summer TCA Tour

From left, Creator Kurt Sutter, Director Paris Barclay and actor Charlie Hunnam speak on stage during the “Sons of Anarchy” panel at the The FX 2014 Summer TCA Tour

The final commercial network to present at TCA did so Monday, and FX had a lot to say, with panels for a whopping nine shows (yours truly won’t be able to cover them all here, so here’s the selected stuff:)

- Exec session: John Landgraf took the stage and talked about where his network stood – and it was looking good – FX was nominated for 45 Emmy Awards – the most of any basic cable network. Landgraf even had to jokingly apologize to critics to contributing “too much good TV”.

Much like Showtime chief David Nevins, Landgraf talked about the FX brand taking risks, pushing against the confines of storytelling.  “We’d rather fail spectacularly and nobly than succeed in a quiet, middling way”, he said. Landgraf also previewed the fourth season of American Horror story, and talked about the failure of W. Kamau Bell’s late-night talk show, one of two African-American late-night hosts who lost shows the past year (the other was Arsenio Hall, whose show premiered days after Bell’s was expanded to a late-night strip.)

Landgraf also announced renewal for Louie and for Fargo, but the latter’s next season won’t be until fall 2015.

- The finale for Sons Of Anarchy still hasn’t been written, so even the creator of the show (Kurt Sutter) doesn’t know how it’ll end, so stop asking him. But you ask about if he cares if the series gets an Emmy (which it never did.). Sutter’s response: “I don’t give a shit.” Big changes are in store, with Ron Pearlman gone (character was killed off) and Jax Teller (Charlie Hunnam) ascending to the leadership of Sons Of Anarchy. The final season premieres Sept. 9.

- Here comes another vampire show: this one is The Strain, from co-creator Guillermo Tel Doro, and he was joined by co-creator Chuck Hogan (who also co-authored The Strain books with Del Toro) and exec prodcer/showrunner Carlton Cuse (Lost) at the panel. The premise: A government head investigates a runaway full of dead bodies at JFK airport – and it turns out the bodies are infected with vampiric worms that spreads into the populace.

As for the books, don’t assume that’s how it will go onscreen“The way things happen and the fate of the characters is not completely determined by the books,” Cuse said. But let’s have Del Toro have the last word on vampires: “[They] are truly revolting parasites. They drink you like a Capri Sun. They don’t hold you and say, ‘Now I give you my life.’ No, they crush you and throw you away.”

- At the Fargo panel, the just-renewed show announced some major changes for season two: according to creator Noah Hawley, the series is relocating to Sioux Falls, S. D. and based in 1979, with an all-new cast. In fact, only Keith Carradine is returning for season two, only his character is now 33 and just returning home from Vietnam.

How fans would react to these changes remains to be seen – and we won’t find out until fall 2015 – that’s when Fargo returns for its second season.

- So what’s on tap for The Bridge’s second season?  “If I’m going to tell a story about the U.S.-Mexican border, one which these characters warranted, I couldn’t tell that story while they were tracking a serial killer’, said EP Elwood Reid, who seems to be steering away from the serial killer plotline and onto other crimes in the area, which is close to the U.S.-Mexican border. Reid will exec produce the yet-to-be-announced season two solo, with co-exec producer Meredith Stheim departing for Showtime’s Homeland.

- Other FX panels held at TCA include Tyrant, Married and You’re The Worstin addition to unveiling SimpsonsWorld, a new website scheduled to October where viewers can watch every Simpsons episode ever made (but needs cable authentication since it uses the TV Everywhere platform.) Beginning August 21, FXX (the new cable companion to FX) will air all 552 episodes of The Simpsons non-stop through Labor Day.

And that’s a wrap for the TCA Press Tour. See you at Comic-Con!

Cable, Television

Conflict losing its bite at Tribune

Scenes like this may soon be history at Tribune stations. (Multimedia Entertainment)

Scenes like this may soon be history at Tribune stations. (Multimedia Entertainment)

Attention viewers: baby mama drama time may soon be over.

As reported by TVNewscheck on Friday, Tribune Broadcasting may not renew its contracts for its three conflict talk shows from NBCUniversal Television Distribution, hosted by Jerry Springer, Maury Povich, and Steve Wilkos.

Neither Tribune or NBCUniversal had comment.

Tribune is developing programming for time slots in 2015 and according to TVNewscheck, none of it conflict talk.

Many Tribune stations carry all three talkers in a daytime block; other Tribune stations carry either one or two of the shows. In Chicago, Maury is carried on Tribune’s WGN-TV, while Springer and Wilkos are carried on Weigel’s WCIU. Other markets where the three are split up among Tribune and non-Tribune stations include St. Louis, Denver, San Diego, and Sacramento.

National ratings are respectable by current daytime standards, but all three are down from several seasons ago.

While a lot could happen between now and 2016, the future for all three shows on Tribune’s stations became questionable when the company named Larry Wert as president of its broadcast division. Shortly after taking over as vice president and general manager of NBC-owned WMAQ-TV in 1998, Wert pulled the plug on Springer despite high ratings. It came a year after Springer’s ill-fated stint as a commentator on the station’s late newscast, and continuous demonstrations led by the Rev. Michael Pflager and others.

This possible move by Tribune comes at a time as viewers are shifting away from the “conflict” talk show – pioneered in the mid-1960′s by Joe Pyne and made popular in the late 1980′s by Geraldo Rivera and Morton Downey Jr.  - to “conflict” reality shows on VH1, MTV, and Bravo, whose reruns of such fare now appears opposite those talk shows during the day.

In other words, viewers now prefer Kenya Moore yanking the weave off some woman’s head rather than an unknown talk show guest doing so.

Despite the popularity of the NBCUniversal conflict shows, recent efforts to duplicate their success hasn’t worked. Recent conflict shows hosted by Jeremy Kyle, Trisha Goodard, and Kirk Fox (The Test) failed to gain traction with viewers. Plans to launch another conflict talker by Tribune and CBS (hosted by MC Serch) was scrapped earlier this year after a three-week test of the show yielded poor results.

If Tribune decides not to renew, NBCU could find a new home on another large-market station group such as CBS or Fox, but that could be a long shot. In Chicago, Fox owned the rights to Springer from 1998 to 2009, first airing on WFLD and later WPWR.

Another factor is the trio’s lack of appeal among advertisers due to the saucy content, though Tribune executives insisted this wasn’t an issue.

And of course, there’s the age of at least two of the hosts. When their contracts come up, Jerry Springer would be 72 and Maury Povich would turn 77. If they wanted to, they could ride into the sunset and retire.

Tribune’s wavering renewal on the three shows also raises questions regarding the future of another conflict talker: The Bill Cunningham Show, which Tribune produces for CW.

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TCA Summer Tour 2014: Fox: “We need some hits”

The cast of Fox's upcoming drama "Gotham" (

The cast of Fox’s upcoming drama “Gotham” (

Fox came into the 2014 press tour finishing the most recent season in  fourth place – despite airing the Super Bowl. With new entertainment presidents Dana Walden and Gary Newman not yet ready to take the reigns, somebody had to take one of the team – and that someone was Peter Rice.

- Executive session: Rice came out and talked about the future of aging drama Bones, hoping the procedural can last a few more seasons. Rice also seem pleased with the revival of 24.

Despite declining ratings, Rice refused to throw American Idol under the bus, saying the judges aren’t the problem with the show, but the lack of charisma from the contestants.

And don’t write off New Girl just yet, said Rice, noting the show strong DVR playback numbers and the shift away from live viewing in general.

Rice conceded that this wasn’t the best season for Fox, with a fourth place finish in the 18-49 demographic: “We need some hits”, Rice said.

- Up first was the most anticipated series of the fall season – Gotham, a prequel series to the Batman franchise, featuring a young police commissioner James Gordon (Ben McKenzie) trying to get a hold of the city’s crime problem. One thing you can forget is the superhero angle – it won’t work here, says EP Bruno Heller: “This is noir. The structure that exists around James Gordon is so daunting and challenging that no single man can defeat it.  The notion is that our hero is doomed. “Gotham” is as much about the hope and struggle that everyday people are engaged in. It’s not about superheroes.”

Heller also added: “There will be victories along the way. In creating this show, we talked about New York City in the 1970s. It’s a time when that city was falling apart with decadence and decay. It was both sexy and scary. There’s something about a city as it falls apart that you’re compelled to watch.” (you’d think he was talking about Chicago in 2014.)

Gotham will have a slow rollout of villains, which has The Riddler as a police forensics analyst and Jada Pinkett Smith playing a corrupt nightclub owner, with a sidekick who later into The Penguin.

- What happens when you combine Party Of Five with the recent teen hit movie Fault In Our Stars? You get Red Band Society, Fox’s new drama set in a terminal children’s hospital. EP Margaret Nagle notes the young audience is shifting away from Twilight-like dramas: “Teens and twentysomethings aren’t about the immortality as seen in “Twilight”. Rather, they’re more focused on dramas that deal with mortality. They’re very forthright about these things.  The way that the show can work is that it has to tonally go to that place of teen life, i.e. “My So-Called Life”. Even “M.A.S.H.” was an influence with this series. Those shows were willing to go to a place with their material that were off-center, and off-center was where they thrived.”

Scheduled to air on Fox, the series is produced by ABC Studios, indeed a rarity in an era of vertical integration. And Red Band has big names in front of and behind the camera: it stars Oscar winner Octavia Spencer and is exec produced by Steven Spielberg. So why did Ms. Spencer taken on this role? “I got really tired of being a sex symbol,” she joked at the panel.

- Utopia was next on the docket, and on this show, people live in a remote area for a year and is challenged to create their own civilization. Nearly 5,000 people applied to be on the show; 40 people are left, and the number will shrink to fifteen. Viewers at home can also have people on the show replaced.

Fox brought some of the contestants to the tour, including a liberal feminist and a tea party activist, who said television needs more people with good morals and values (Oh, watch the fur fly!)

Unlike Survivor and other reality fare, there are no immunity challenges, no prizes, no $1 million being offered. This show is to thrive on conflict, but there has to be more, at least some motivation to make it more interesting. Utopia would’ve succeeded during Fox’s obsession with reality shows in the early 2000′s, but this show comes fifteen years too late. The series premieres Sept. 7 to take advantage of a football lead-in, then moves to its regular Tuesday and Friday slots.

- Next up was Gracepoint, a short-term series (ten episodes) about a small town under scrutiny after a murder takes place. As a result, the town is smack in the middle of a police investigation and a national media circus forms. The series is based on BBC America’s/ITV’s Broadchurch, and many critics pointed out the similarities between both shows in the first two episodes of Gracepoint. Even so, the show’s creator denies its a shot-by-shot remake.

Oddly enough, the person who plays the lead investigator in Broadchurch (David Tennant) also plays the same one in Gracepoint.

- The final program at Fox’s presentation was also the most panned by critics – Mulraney, a sitcom starring Chicago native John Mulraney, which many describe as reminiscent – or more like a ripoff – of Seinfeld. Mulraney even admitted (jokingly) that he came up with the show by watching Seinfeld: “Just watched “Seinfeld” and copied it. They run it all the time, so it was easy.”  Many in the crowd however, found the pilot flatteringly unfunny.

Fox has ordered sixteen episodes, but yours truly thinks this show won’t last that long.

- Finally, there was a Fox comedy showrunner panel, featuring Al Jean (Simpsons) and Mindy Kaling (The Mindy Project.) Yours truly will cover this subject soon in a separate post.

Broadcast Networks, Television ,

TCA Summer Press Tour: CW, Showtime’s turn

The cast of "Jane the Virgin" at TCA.

The cast of “Jane the Virgin” at TCA.

Friday was two other CBS Corp. other properties presenting their wares at the tour: co-owned CW and premium channel Showtime.


-Executive session : Mark Pedowitz addressed the critics and looked a happy man: despite a rocky future ahead (a possible Tribune defection and the future of co-owner Time Warner) – his network was up 14 percent in total viewers and up 5 percent in adults 18-49 for the 2013-14 season, with its competitors either flat or down. Pedowitz contribues this to adding more male-skewing fare (Arrow) to the schedule while still appealing to females.

Pedowitz also defended renewing some low-rated series such as Beauty and the Beast, noting it had some benefits for its corporate partners (ugh) and was a big international seller.

He also talked about diversity (like every other exec) and said it was a top priority for his network (and looking at CW’s shows, do we need to ask? They are miles ahead of the curve.)

- One show that will likely become a big hit with critics (and probably the first original CW show to do so) is Jane The Virgin, which is reminiscent of ABC’s Ugly Betty. Based on a Venezuelan telenovela, a woman finds out she was accidentally inseminated by a doctor. Chicago native Gina Rodriguez was a big hit in the room (as opposed to Kevin Williamson’s appearance the previous evening.) She told the crowd she was offered a role on Lifetime’s serial Devious Maids, but turned it down because she thought it was too stereotypicial: “I became an actor to see myself onscreen. Every role that I’ve chosen has been one that I think will push forward the idea of my culture. I wasn’t going to let my introduction to the world be a story that’s been told many times.”

- Next was The Flash, CW’s revival of the short-lived 1990-91 CBS series. But don’t look for any similarities between the two as the new version is decidedly less campy than its predecessor. We’re incorporating almost everything from the mythology into it and have added a whole new backstory with the S.T.A.R. Labs particle accelerator” said DC Entertainment CEO Geoff Johns, saying it would be “The most faithul DC Comic adaption ever.” 

One change from the comic books is two of the characters – Iris West and Det. Joe West – are being played by African-American actors, reflective of the world today.

One notable quote from the session: preparing for next week’s Comic-Con and the show’s importance to comic book fans, someone on the panel joked: “I don’t think there’s a “Grey’s Anatomy’s” convention.”

- CW announced at the tour it was renewing Whose Line Is It Anyway for a 24-episode third season. The series has been a constant performer on Friday nights and helped broaden the network’s appeal.

Showtime's David Nevins at the exec session.

Showtime’s David Nevins at the exec session.


- Executive session: David Nevins addressed the controversy over Shameless making the unprecedented switch in Emmy categories from drama to comedy: “There is always a degree of arbitrariness,” said Nevins, who said he’ll try to defy the categories and genres and challenge them to the limit. Nevins also addressed the status of action series Halo, which was being developed by Microsoft’s XBox Entertainment Group before it closed down last week. Plans for the show are still on track, he said, as is plans for Happy-ish, a project Phillip Seymour Hoffman was working on before he died.

- First up was The Affair, a new series about a schooteacher (played by Dominic west) and a waitress (Ruth Wilson) who… well have an affair. The story is being told through different perspectives.

- At the Ray Donovan panel, executive producer Ann Birderman seemed flattered when asked if adding a therapist character was paying a homage to The Sopranos. She said it wasn’t, noting that “No one’s in therapy for very long in this show, it’ s not a conceit we’ve carried for any length of time”, Birdman said. The panel also featured Emmy nominee Jon Voight, who recently made headlines criticizing the Obama Administration. Wisely, he stayed away from politics and focused on being grateful to work on Ray Donovan, even name-dropping stars such as Dustin Hoffman and Hal Ashby, who he collab arated with in the past. 

- The creative minds behind Homeland were none too happy about their recent Emmy snub – but the show must go on, and the producers and writers announced some major plot developments for season four, which you can read about by clicking here. 

- Finally, Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant had a laugh when he arrived late to his own panel for an upcoming Showtime documentary about his rehab from an injury that kept him out for most of the past season: “Sorry I’m late. I’m was out looking for a coach.” 

Broadcast Networks, SciFi, Sports, Television

TCA Summer Press Tour 2014: CBS sessions turn testy

cbs_logoEven though many people view CBS’ primetime time lineup with about as much excitement as watching an ice cube melt, their TCA Press Tour presentations are something different entirely.

There were a lot of people here on the hot seat, including CBS Entertainment President Nina Tassler and Dawson’s Creek creator, Kevin Williamson, whose new show (Stalker) drew the wrath of critics.

Executive session: This was a surprisingly tense session, with network chief Nina Tassler defending her network’s efforts on diversity. Many critics – some who view The Church Of Tisch with disdain – slammed the network for its fall lineup, with entirely white casts (in other words, CBS’ fall lineup looks more like Crystal Lake than Hyde Park.) Tassler pointed out new summer series Extant with Halle Berry as the lead, and Lucy Liu of Elementary. And she pointed out another show (The Talk) whose panelists are racially diverse.

Earlier in the press tour, ABC Entertainment President Paul Lee and Starz’ Chris Albericht talked about diversity, each with different takes (oddly enough, when penny-pinching fool Laurence Tisch was ruining CBS, the casts of the shows were actually more diverse.)

In other news, Tassler believes the five principal cast members of The Big Bang Theory will soon reach newdeals soon, before shooting resumes in July. She had little to say about the network’s late-night plans with David Letterman and Craig Ferguson departing (the latter she has yet to find a replacement for) and Stephen Colbert retiring.

- Onto the shows: First up was Madam Secretary, a new drama starring Tea Leoni as the new Secretary of State, facing battles in the world and (wait for it) at home. Leoni and producer Morgan Freeman were on the panel, in addition to exec producer Lori McCreary, who said the inspiration for Madam Secretary came from the time Hilary Clinton was in the position and Benghazi. The reason why Leoni returned to TV after such a long time off? Her kids turning 12 and 15 respectively, and yeah, they’re kind of sick of her hanging around the house.

- Next drama up on the panel was CSI: New Orleans… oops, I mean NCIS: New Orleans. Mark Harmon of the mothership was at the panel, and he’s helping launch the show: “I’m here to help” said Harmon to reporters at TCA. NCIS: New Orleans stars Scott Bakula (Quantum Leap) as the special agent in charge of the NCIS local office.

- Up next was Scorpion, which takes the Monday 9 p.m. (ET) slot this fall, marking the first non-sitcom to occupy the time period in get this – 64 years. Inspired by a true story, Scorpion is a drama about eccentric genius Walter O’Brien and his team of brilliant misfits who comprise the last line of defense against complex, high-tech threats of the modern age (whatever that means.) Notes exec producer Nick Santora: “It’s a Fun-Cedural.” (Huh?) This is basically The Big Bang Theory – if it were a drama.

- CBS trotted out its NFL crew for its new Thursday Night Football games, which begins September 11. Network honcho Les Moonves hopes the league extends the network’s contract beyond one year.“We knew going in this was a one-year deal,” Moonves said.“It’s our job to show the NFL what we can do. And we’re confident they’re going to feel like CBS did a tremendous job; we’re confident after this year is over they’ll sit down and hopefully give us a longer deal than that.”

Joining Moonves on stage was commissioner Roger Goodell, who defended the league’s position on player safety, and CBS Sports exec Sean McManus, saying its up to the announcers if they want to say the name “Redskins”, which has generated a firestorm of controversy since some say the name of D.C.’s football team is racially insensitive.

- But the most tense moment during the day came during the Stalker panel. Creator Kevin Williamson wound up vigorously defending his new drama, especially the opening scene of the pilot, a man, presumably a stalker, sets a woman on fire in her car. Williamson said his show “doesn’t cross a line”, regarding the show’s constant violence. “We all could be stalkers; we’ve all stalked someone at one time,” Williamson said. “How many times when we’ve broken up with someone, when we were young, and we had to drive by their house just to see who’s parked in their driveway? You know, you’re stalking.”

His comments riled up the audience, especially women. Williamson’s response? “Turn the channel”, which is the perhaps the worst way to pitch a show to the public. All I have to do is look at his Twitter feed and you can see why the radio and TV business continue to hire idiots whose IQ is below 50.

At a time when violence is gripping urban cities like Chicago – which had 80 people shot one weekend, mind you – do we really need shock shows like this? And you wonder why the broadcast networks’ dramas don’t get Emmy nominations. But people in the entertainment industry don’t give a crap (ask Kenya Moore) as long as they make a buck off the communities who suffer from violence.

And because of Stalker, the annoying Parents Television Council have the FCC complaint forms ready to file and the even more annoying Rev. Michael Pfleger is planning a protest in front of The Church Of Tisch headquarters even as I speak. Stalker isn’t a drama, it’s trailer park Trash TV.

Golden Age Of Drama my ass.

- Two other CBS panels took place: one for new Thursday night comedy The McCarthys and the other for Battle Creek, a police drama created by Breaking Bad’s Vince Gilligan.

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WGN-TV slots “Celebrity Name Game” at 10 p.m.

celebnamegamelogo-420x215Also: Hollywood Daily Live, Daily Helpline debut to microscopic audiences

In a rather unusual move, Tribune-owned WGN-TV has slotted Craig Ferguson’s new game show, Celebrity Name Game from Debmar-Mercury at 10 p.m., starting September 22.

As first reported by Robert Feder, Name Game would replace the failed revival of The Arsenio Hall Show, which was canceled in May. While other stations have downgraded Arsenio since its cancellation was announced, WGN is still running repeats of the show at 10 p.m., which are earning only a 1.0 household rating and a 0.4 rating among adults 25-54.

What makes the slotting of Name Game unusual is generally, game shows are usually scheduled for either prime access (6:30-8 p.m.), early fringe (afternoon), or daytime slots. But WGN decided to air the show in late fringe – not exactly the ideal slot for such fare (in 1990, the failed revivals of The Joker’s Wild and Tic Tac Tough did air in late fringe, but were slotted at 1:30 a.m. and 2 a.m. respectively by NBC-owned WMAQ-TV and received similar treatment by WNBC-TV in New York.)

The last time a game show aired at 10 p.m. in Chicago was in the early 1990′s when the Ray Combs-hosted edition of Family Feud, which aired on WGBO and later WPWR. On WPWR, Feud often averaged a 4.5 household rating in the time slot (the latest incarnation of Feud, now hosted by Steve Harvey, airs at 5 p.m. on WPWR and is also syndicated by Debmar-Mercury.)

WGN aired syndicated game show (Street Smarts) at 11 p.m. in the late 1990′s, but that program was targeted to late fringe.

Currently, WLS-TV dominated the 10 p.m. slot, as it has for decades, with Eyewitness News in households and key demos.

Created by Courtney Cox and her ex-husband David Arquette and based on the board game Identity Crisis, Celebrity Name Game features contestants who try to identify celebrities and fictional characters. The WGN clearance is part of a larger deal made with Tribune Broadcasting, whose major-market stations are also carrying the show, in addition to those owned by CBS, Gannett, and Sinclair.

So far, no other local station has revealed their plans for fall, though WCIU has already begun airing promos for reruns of Mike & Molly, which debuts in off-network this September.

- Meanwhile, Twentieth Television quietly began testing two first-run strips that up until Monday, yours truly (and no one else) has never heard of – and unlike past tests, both are airing in the Chicagoland area.

According to B&C, both Hollywood Daily Live and The Daily Helpline have faltered at the starting line: Airing in nine markets HDL has notched a 0.4/1 household rating/share, while Helpline earned a 0.1/0.

Hollywood Daily Live airs at 1 p.m. on WFLD-TV; Daily Helpline airs at Noon on WPWR. Both stations are owned by Fox. This marks the first time both Chicago stations have been used in tests; generally, Chicago is skipped in favor of smaller markets in the Midwest. Last year’s Kris (with Kris Jenner) and this winter’s Serch (tested on Tribune stations) never aired in the Chicago area.

Judging by the promos for HDL and Daily Line (which you could watch here), Viewers here and in eight other markets can easily “skip” these programs.

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TCA Summer Press Tour: ABC touts diversity

ABC_MeetingIt was ABC day Tuesday at the 2014 TCA Summer Press Tour, with the network bringing out the casts of several new shows to meet the hordes of TV critics.

- Executive session: ABC Entertainment President Paul Lee met with the press and talked about a wide variety of subjects from the cancellation of Trophy Wife (let it go, already!) to diversity.

Lee pointed out many of ABC’s new shows from Black-ish to midseason entry Fresh Off The Boat have diverse casts – something the industry has been accused of lacking, including from yours truly. Lee gets it: “If you look at shows now that lack diversity they actually feel dated because America doesn’t look that way anymore,” he said. “My job is to see if these shows move me. The reality is this: Great stories will resonate in the hearts and guts of audiences.” 

Diversity is wonderful, but its the material – whether black, white, Hispanic, or Asian – that matters.

Asked if The Goldbergs needs to become more Jewish (Lee is part-Jewish), he said the program reflects the vision of its creator Adam Goldberg. “I’m not to say from one Jew to another, let’s have a bar mitzvah.” After a slow start creatively, The Goldbergs has become a solid, funny comedy with its sendup of 1980′s life (The 1950′s sitcom of the same name – not related to Adam Goldberg’s show of course, was the first TV program to feature a Jewish family.)

- Other thoughts from Lee: He seems to be encouraged by the uptick in numbers and social media activity from Rising Star, ABC’s new reality music competition show. He pointed out the interactive app hasn’t had the same kind of problems NBC’s Million Dollar Quiz had last year.

- Lee also is Bullish on mid-season entries Agent Carter and Gavalant, which will be used as gaps between seasons of Agents Of Shield and Once Upon A Time, respectively. He said the failed Time spin-off Wonderland should have been used in the same manner.

- And like his colleagues, Lee put broadcast dramas over its cable counterparts: I’ll put American Crime or Scandal against any cable drama series,” he said. “Sometime limitations can provide you with better storytelling, and Shonda Rhimes is a beacon of that.”

- On to the shows: First up is the new drama How To Get Away With Murder, the new Thursday night drama from Shonda Rhimes and stars Viola Davis. She plays a criminal defense professor who teaches a class on… well, how to get away with murder. Her students wind up getting tangled in a murder plot that could being down the university. During the panel, Rhimes downplayed the historical significance of a black woman playing the lead on two of her shows. She also did seem to mind the long tweet hashtag fans are encouraged to use.

- Next was Black-ish, from Larry Wilmore, who is working on the show until he heads to Comedy Central in January to anchor The Minority Report. In this show, a father (Anthony Anderson, who is also a exec producer), is concerned his family is losing touch with its African roots. “It’s always amazing to me, it’s as if black is a bad thing or something, like we shouldn’t talk about them being black, said Wilmore at TCA. “And this show kind of celebrates black more as a cultural thing than a race thing. At the heart of it, it’s a family show.”

Wilmore, who co-created The Bernie Mac Show for Fox back a decade ago, noticed the evolution of African-American sitcoms: “It does always change through the years,” said Wilmore. “It was no big deal to have black sitcoms on TV…. The Jeffersons, all those shows. Then it kind of got segregated and it seemed like they were all ceded to UPN. It was kind of like, ‘What’s going on with that?’ I called it the Negro Leagues.” He added, “Now we’re a novelty all of a sudden.”

- Next was the panel for Forever, an ABC procedural centering around a New York medical examiner whose more like Barnabas from Dark Shadows – he can’t be killed. So when he “dies”, he reappears in the Hudson River (though he won’t die every week, this is eerily similar to Kenny from South Park.)

Creator Matt Miller was asked if a kind of death would kill his lead character permanently, he said “cancellation”.

Oh, I have a feeling that will be around the corner.

- The wildest panel of the day belonged to Hispanic stand-up Cristela Alonzo to talk about her new Friday sitcom Cristela. The show is about an aspiring lawyer (played by Alonzo) who moves back home. The ultimate rags-to-riches story, Alonzo grew up in poverty in a Texas border town to a single mother. “I don’t try to put any expectation on this show except for I want the show to portray me as me,” said Alonzo . ‘The name of the show is Cristela. The character in the show is very much who I am in person and I just want to show people the real me.”

On stereotypes, Alonzo said the best way to avoid them is to “ “try to speak honestly… don’t exaggerate what you are trying to say. Everyone is this show is based on someone I know.”

To save costs, the pilot for Criestla was shot on another sitcom’s set (which is actually commonplace), but now will get its own beginning with the second episode.

And she is a sports fan, especially her beloved Dallas Cowboys (but not of their owner, whom she was making of.) Oh yeah, Cristela’s got jokes. Hopefully, she’ll have some reserved for the Cubs.

- Other ABC panels at TCA included sitcom Selfie and drama Manhattan Love Story, which was basically a waste. 

Broadcast Networks, Television

TCA Summer Tour 2014: NBC


Jennifer Salke (left), Paul Teldgy, and Robert Greenblatt at TCA.

The broadcast network portion of the TCA 2014 began Sunday, and the tone of the press tour changed quite a bit – there was a little more bite in these sessions, as one journalist squared off with a star of a new show and the network entertainment chief whined why his network gets no love.

- Executive session: NBC Entertainment President Bob Greenblatt appeared front and center and talked about the network’s renaissance this season: successful prime-time shows such as The Voice and Sunday Night Football; new freshman hit The Blacklist; and the successful translation in late night from Jay Leno to Jimmy Fallon. He and his posse on stage (fellow execs Jennifer Salke and Paul Teldgy) knows there’s work to be done to stay on top.

But it wasn’t all smiles at the exec session. Greenblatt (and the other network chiefs) were not pleased over their dramas getting snubbed by the Emmys. And Greenblatt defended the decision to refuse a digital ad for the movie Obvious Child because it had the word “abortion” in it. Obviously, NBC is still haunted by the $1 million loss in ad revenue it suffered when it aired TV movie Roe Vs. Wade in 1989.

- On to the shows: NBC trotted out casts for its six new shows, and the first was for State Of Affairs, featuring Katherine Heigl’s comeback attempt. She plays a CIA agent whose task isto inform the President on important security matters. This panel became rather testy after NPR critic Eric Deggans asked if she really was difficult to work with because she’s female. 

- Next was The Mysteries Of Laura and if you think this is a Veronica Mars-type of drama – think again. Debra Messing plays a homicide detective who has an easier time handling criminals than her wild family. On the panel, she said: “it is the balance of the tone of drama and the comedy that is going to be the newest adventure and the newest challenge.  That we haven’t seen on network TV before.”

In the pilot, we see twin boys peeing on each other. We haven’t seen that on network TV before, either.

- Next was Marry Me, a sitcom that was generating quite a bit of positive buzz with the crowd at TCA. Casey Wilson and Ken Marino play an engaged couple who trip down the aisle isn’t easy as they think it is. Asked if she can relate to her character on the show, Ms. Wilson replied: “I am just as irrational and angry and emotional.”

- Next was Constantine, the new drama based on the DC Comics character. A schemer from London, England, A supernatural detective nasmed John Constantine is all of a sudden defending the world from dark forces. Constantine is more adult than you give him credit for - he’s a bisexual who smokes, and the adult things he does in the comics producers are trying to do an end-around on (to make it more “politically correct”.) In fact, you won’t see Constantine’s sexuality  explored in the show, according to producers.

- Panels for two awful comedies (Bad Judge and A to Z) followed. Judge features Kate Walsh (Grey’s Anatomy) who rules the bench by day and parties all night. A to Z is a typical, run-of-the-mill romantic comedy. With NBC ready to replace these Thursday night sitcoms in February with Blacklist, both will likely be gone by then, if not sooner.

TCA Quick Hits And Bits:

- The cast and producers of USA’s Dig had to field some tough questions regarding this limited-run series, including whether the series would have political ramifications since it deals with Biblical prophecies with real-life turmoil in the region. Currently, Dig is on a pre-planned hiatus and would resume filming in Jerusalem as long it was safe to do so.

Dig co-creator and executive producer Tim Kring is not expected to work on Heroes: Origins until this project is complete, and given the conflicts in Israel, there’s no telling how long that would be.

- At the Sunday Night Football panel, Al Michaels said he wasn’t too concerned about CBS’ new Thursday Night Football package: The thing about Thursday night that’s important to remember is “Thursday Night Football” has been on the air for a lot of seasons. It’s the case in every sport. How much is too much? Right now it’s not too much.”

The panel also featured Cris Collinsworth, who talked about the concussion controversy, and Michele Tafoya.

- Yeah, right: Bravo’s upcoming scripted series Girlfriends Guide to Divorce is not based on her own, says series creator Marti Noxon. The series stars House’s Lisa Edelstein as a woman who winds up divorcing her husband (Paul Adelstein) and now faces single life in her 40s… the series premieres Dec. 2.

- The critics were all treated to a premiere showing of Sharknado 2: The Second One Monday night, the sequel to the surprise hit movie airs later this month of SyFy. No spoilers!

Broadcast Networks, Cable, Television

TCA Summer Tour 2014: Crash course in cable

TCA_Logo_FINALThe Television Critics Association’s Press Tour got underway last week at the Beverly Hills Hilton in Beverly Hills, Ca. For the next two weeks, TV and media critics will be listening to executives talk a lot of BS, see actors whining, and asking tough questions while tweeting away.

But there is also the potential for some fun moments (remember a Downton Abbey cast member revealing a Free Bates T-shirt during a panel a few years ago?)

Without further ado, here’s a cliff notes version of the cable portion of the press tour (independently -owned cable networks)

- Tuesday’s and Wednesday’s sessions were pretty much straight out of Bizarro World. There were panels for Discovery’s Naked And Afraid (which featured no nudity at the panel), an Animal Planet show called Pitbulls and Parolees, and a parade of out-of-work ’90′s stars pimping Investigation Discovery programs such as Heartbreakers. Only thing missing was Sex Sent Me To The ER (and yes, that’s a real show.) And you had women dressed as mermaids hanging out the Hilton’s pool, thanks to BBC America (you try walking in that costume.)

- On Friday, Starz CEO Chris Albrecht addressed reporters at TCA and talked about his new drama, Outlander. Albrecht also addressed numerous issues at his session, including early renewals, black viewership, and the lack of buzz for his shows in this new “Golden Age Of Drama” at the cable networks. Albercht defended renewing series early (pointing out HBO does the same thing), though some series such as Boss and Magic City, were canceled after two seasons.

Albericht also noted about the composition of his new drama, Power, a hip-op drama created by Curtis Jackson, better known as 50 Cent, saying the series has a predominantly Africsan-American audience: “The not-so-surprising secret about Power is that white people don’t watch a lot of shows that don’t have a lot of white faces in them,” he said. Sure is a far cry from the past when predominately black casted shows like The Jeffersons, The Cosby Show, and Family Matters also appealed to white audiences.

- A lot was talked about regarding AMC’s Better Call Saul, the much-anticipated spinoff of Breaking Bad. Vince Gilligan was at TCA, explaining how he was putting the series together. The Breaking Bad creator pointed out Saul won’t dwell on cameos from the parent series, though he didn’t rule out cameos from Walter White himself. Despite the premiere being months away, Saul has already been picked up for a second season.

Meanwhile, AMC announced it has picked up mixed martial-arts drama Badlands as a straight-to-series (no pilot) order.

- It’s not TV, it’s too damn good: armed with 99 Emmy nominations, HBO executives Richard Pleper and Michael Lombardo were sounding pretty smug at their session. The duo talked about the addition of new cast members to True Detective and more, but seemed annoyed about the constant questions regarding Game Of Thrones, saying the series was renewed through season six.

One of the more notable panels at TCA was for HBO’s The Comeback, with Lisa Kurdow and co-creator Michael Patrick King – whose last appearance at TCA a few years for 2 Broke Girls was a complete disaster. The scribes were kinder this time around to King, who was there to discuss the revival of the 2005 series, a mockumentary of a former sitcom star played by Kudrow.

TCA Quick Hits and Bits:

- WGN America held its second TCA panel ever with the introduction of Manhattan, a new drama focusing on the development of the first Atomic bomb in a New Mexico town. Creator Sam Shaw said the straight-to-series order actually helped its creative structure, saying “it was creatively liberating.”

The first TCA panel for WGN America was just-renewed Salem, which debuted April 20 and became an instant hit.

- BBC America announced renewals for Orphan Black and Broadchurch for 2015, and has picked up two new dramas: Tatau and The Last Kingdom, the latter from the producers of Downton Abbey.

- Turner announced it was picking up four new series for TruTV and renewed the network reality western, Way Out West.

- In addition to picking up exclusive streaming rights to South Park, Hulu announced a second season renewal for original series East Los High.

- Newcomer El Rey Network announced two new unscripted series: Lucha: Uprising and Cutting Crew, and what is now becoming standard practice in cable TV, renewed Matador, Robert Ori’s spy thriller for another season ahead of its July 15 premiere.

- In the no one cares department, LeAnn Rimes and hubby/leech Eddie Cibrian “want to take their life back” via VH1 with a reality show. Good luck with that.

Cable, Television

“South Park” creators strike deal with Hulu

South ParkThree year deal gives Hulu exclusive streaming rights.

Good news for fans who can’t get enough of South Park.

Hulu and Hulu Plus have acquired exclusive streaming rights of the entire library of 293 episodes, effective immediately. The free and subscription versions of Hulu will carry the library until September 24, when South Park’s eighteenth season begins. Afterward, only Hulu Plus subscribers will have full access to all South Park episodes.

New episodes of South Park will be available the next day on both services after their initial airing on Comedy Central.

The announcement was made Saturday at The Television Critics Association Press Tour. The deal is for three years and worth around $80 million, according to the New York Times.

The library was previously on, a website run by South Park creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker. As of Saturday, Hulu will take over video operations and become the national advertising representative for the site, offering a limited number of ad-supported episodes beginning September 24. will also host new episodes a day after airing.

Comedy Central will continue to run older episodes of South Park. Except for a handful of cash-only deals, South Park disappeared from broadcast syndication in 2012 after seven years and two cycles. Debmar-Mercury still owns rights to distribute the series in domestic syndication.

Debuting on August 13, 1997, South Park is television’s second-longest running animated series currently on the air, only behind The Simpsons.

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Indianapolis radio stations unite to curb violence



You probably wouldn’t know it if you tuned in to the cable news networks or if you read major national or international publications lately, but Chicago isn’t the only American city dealing with an onslaught of gun violence.

Somewhat similar to what Chicago’s urban stations are doing to combat the epidemic, Indianapolis’ radio stations are banding together in support of public safety and to honor a police officer who was slain in the line of duty.

The shootings and killings have frustrated residents in both cities with no answers – or end in sight.

Nineteen stations belonging to Clear Channel, Cumulus, Emmis, Entercom, Radio One, and independently owned WTTS and WEDJ are participating in Indy United On The Circle, being held this Saturday (July 12) at Indianapolis’ Momentual Circle at 9 a.m. The city’s mayor, community activists, clergy, and other representatives are expected to attend.

It is not yet known if any of Indy’s radio stations plan to offer special programming to address the violence epidemic plaguing the city.

“This event shows the power of radio in a local community to reflect listener emotions and lead community dialog, says Emmis Senior Vice President Charlie Morgan, whose company is based in Indianapolis. “In my 30-plus years in Indianapolis Radio, I have never seen more immediate and universal support for an event than we have seen for Indy United.”

Last weekend was a violent one for the Circle City, which saw seven people shot in the Broad Ripple entertainment area and the murder of police officer Perry Renn. CBS affiliate WISH-TV made national headlines (at least in the trade press) by interviewing the murder suspect’s family, which drew widespread criticism – so much so that WISH’s news director Steven Bray had to address the issue on the station’s website. 

Meanwhile, stations targeting Chicago’s African-American audiences aired a second “Put The Guns Down” roadblock Sunday night, on the heels of  another violent weekend in the Windy City, which saw 84 people shot and 14 killed.

And as of this writing – Friday night – there has been already been one murder and six shootings in Chicago.

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