Mastermind (TV series)
|Also known as||Supermind
Mastermind Cup Final/Sport
Mastermind Champions/Champion of Champions
|Created by||Bill Wright|
|Presented by||Magnus Magnusson (1972–97)
John Motson (Cup Final Mastermind: 1978)
Frank Bough (Cup Final Mastermind: 1979)
Des Lynam (Cup Final Mastermind: 1980, Sport Mastermind: 2008)
Huw Evans (Mastermind International: 1981)
Peter Sinclair (Mastermind International: 1982)
Peter Snow (1998–2000)
Clive Anderson (2001–2)
John Humphrys (2003–)
|Country of origin||United Kingdom|
|No. of series||40 (Regular)
4 (Cup Final/Sport)
2 (Champions/Champion of Champions)
|No. of episodes||??? (Regular)
13 (Cup Final/Sport)
8 (Champions/Champion of Champions)
|Running time||30 minutes|
|Original channel||BBC1 (1972–97)
BBC Radio 4 (1998–2000)
Discovery Channel (2001–2)
BBC Two (2003–)
|Picture format||4:3 (1972–97, 2001–2)
|Original release||11 September 1972– present|
|Related shows||Celebrity Mastermind
Disney Q Family Mastermind
Mastermind is a British quiz show, well known for its challenging questions, intimidating setting and air of seriousness.
Devised by Bill Wright, the basic format of Mastermind has never changed—four and in later contests five contestants face two rounds, one on a specialised subject of the contestant's choice, the other a general knowledge round. Wright drew inspiration from his experiences of being interrogated by the Gestapo during World War II.
The atmosphere is helped by Mastermind's famously ominous theme music, "Approaching Menace" by the British composer Neil Richardson. The quiz programme originated and was recorded in Manchester at studios such as New Broadcasting House and Granada Studios, before permanently moving to MediaCityUK in 2011.
- 1 Format
- 2 Versions of Mastermind
- 3 Records
- 4 Specialist subjects
- 5 Champions
- 6 The Chair
- 7 Parodies
- 8 Transmissions
- 9 References
- 10 External links
For the first round, the questioner invites the first contestant to begin. He or she walks over to a black chair and sits down. The contestant is then given a set period of time, usually two minutes, to answer questions on a specialised subject which he or she has chosen (see examples below). The questioner announces the start of the time period, and then reads out a question. If the contestant gives the correct answer, he or she scores one point, and the questioner then reads out the next question. The contestant may pass (by simply saying "pass") if he or she doesn't know the answer, or prefers not to spend time trying to remember the answer: the questioner does not begin to read the next question until the contestant has given an answer or said "pass". If a question is answered incorrectly, the questioner will give the correct answer before reading out the next question; this uses some of the contestant's remaining time. However, if the contestant passes, the questioner moves straight on to the next question: the answer is not read out until the end of the round.
After the two minutes are up a buzzer is sounded, which is made up of four beeps. If, when the buzzer sounds, the questioner has already started to read out a question, but has not finished doing so, he or she reads out the rest of the question, and the contestant is then given a short period of time to answer. This convention leads to the show's famous catchphrase, "I've started so I'll finish." If a question has been read out in full when the buzzer sounds, but the contestant has not yet given an answer, the questioner allows a short period of time for an answer to be given. After this, the contestant is told how many points he or she has scored, and answers to any passes are given. The next contestant then takes his or her place in the black chair, and the procedure is repeated. This continues until every contestant has had one turn.
After the contestants have answered the specialised questions, they are given general knowledge questions. The procedure is very similar to that used in the first round, except that the contestants usually have two and a half minutes each, rather than two. As originally aired, the contestants would return for the second round in the same order as for their specialised subject. The contestants are now recalled in reverse order of number of points scored in the first round.
The winner is the contestant with the most points. If two or more contestants have an equal number of points, then the contestant with the fewer (or fewest) passes is the winner. The possibility of passing leads to tactical play as passing uses less time allowing more questions to be answered; but may count against the contestant at the end in the event of a tie.
Should the top two contestants have the same score and same number of passes at the end of the contest then a tie-breaker is employed, in which the two contenders are each asked the same five questions (one contender must leave the auditorium while the other answers). It is not clear what would happen should this fail to produce a clear winner, though it is implied that the process would simply be repeated as many times as necessary (and probably unsuccessful tie-breakers would be edited out of the final programme, to save time). It is, however, very rare for the tie-break to be required. In the version of the show hosted by John Humphrys (2003 to present), it has appeared only four times in the main series and once in the Junior Mastermind spin-off, the latter being in the final broadcast on 26 February 2006.
The winner goes through to the next round, where he or she must choose a different specialised subject. The winner of the final of the BBC version is declared "Mastermind" for that year and is the only contestant to receive a prize, in the form of a cut-glass engraved bowl. During the era of Magnus Magnusson's presentation the trophy was specially manufactured by Caithness Glass.
Versions of Mastermind
Mastermind has appeared in numerous versions:
- The BBC version was hosted between 1972 and 1997 by Magnus Magnusson. It was originally broadcast late on a Sunday night and was not expected to receive a huge audience. In 1973 it was moved to a prime-time slot as an emergency replacement for a Leslie Phillips sitcom, Casanova '73, which had been moved to a later time following complaints about its risqué content. The quiz subsequently became one of the most-watched shows on British television. Magnusson was famous for his catchphrase "I've started so I'll finish," which was also the title of his history of the show (by far the most authoritative work on the show—ISBN 0-7515-2585-5). The original series was also noted for the variety of venues where filming took place—often including academic and ecclesiastical buildings. The last programme of the original series was filmed at St Magnus Cathedral in Orkney. The original series also spawned an International Edition between 1979 and 1983.
- A version on Radio 4 hosted by Peter Snow, running between 1998 and 2000.
- A version on Discovery Channel hosted by Clive Anderson in 2001. This version shortened the amount of time available for the answering of questions and lasted just one series. This was also the first to go 'interactive'. By using the red button viewers could play the general knowledge section throughout the series. These questions had been written specifically to afford both standard and multiple-choice format in presentation. There was a one-off competition between the four highest scoring viewers.
- A new BBC Two version hosted by John Humphrys, beginning in 2003. Whereas the original series kept talk to a minimum, asking contestants only their name, occupation and specialist subject, at first the new run included some conversational elements with contestants between rounds, although these have been dropped in the 2011 series. It is also distinguished from the original BBC TV series by the fact that many more contestants' specialist subjects come from popular culture, which probably reflects cultural changes in the British middle classes in recent years. Unlike the original version, this version is studio-based. It is now made in MediaCity in Salford (although, due to asbestos being found at Granada's Manchester studios, parts of the 2006 series were filmed at Yorkshire Television's Leeds studios) .
- Supermind was an annual playoff between either the first four champions of Mastermind or champions of other TV quiz shows (inc. Mastermind) from 1976 or 1977. It ran for three years between 1976 and 1978.
- Cup Final Mastermind was an annual playoff between experts and supporters from the FA Cup Finalist teams they are supporting. It ran from 1978 and 1980. It came back in 2008 as a 10-part competition this time entitled Sport Mastermind.
- Mastermind International was an annual playoff between winners of various international versions of the show (or the nearest equivalents in some countries) and ran for five years between 1979 and 1983.
- Mastermind Champions was a 1982 3-part competition where the first ten champions of the show compete to become the Mastermind Champion of Champions. It came back in 2010 as a 5-part competition this time entitled Mastermind Champion of Champions. The finalists that emerged were the 1993 champion Gavin Fuller, 2005 winner Pat Gibson, the 1990 champion David Edwards and that year's champion Jesse Honey. Gibson eventually won that series.
- Junior Mastermind, also hosted by John Humphrys, is a children's version of the quiz programme and has the same format, the difference being that the contestants are only ten and eleven years old. The programme aired across six nights on BBC One, ending on 4 September 2004. The winner was Daniel Parker, whose specialist subjects were the Volkswagen Beetle (heat) and James Bond villains (final). There was another series in 2005 (subjects included Black Holes and the Star Wars trilogy), which was won by Robin Geddes, whose specialist subjects were The Vicar of Dibley and A Series of Unfortunate Events, with a third series airing in 2006, won by Domnhall Ryan, and featuring subjects such as Harry Potter and Chelsea Football Club, and a fourth series in 2007 won by Robert Stutter and a fifth series later that year won by David Verghese. The Junior version was cancelled after the two 2007 series'.
- An Australian version of Mastermind was broadcast by the ABC from 1978 to 1984, hosted by Huw Evans.
- A New Zealand version was broadcast in the 1980s, hosted by Peter Sinclair.
In the United States, the game show 2 Minute Drill on sports network ESPN had its roots in Mastermind. Contestants faced questions fired at them by a panel of four sports and entertainment celebrities for two minutes; like Mastermind, there were two rounds of questions, however slightly different: The 1st round had each panelist's questions representing a different sports category pertaining to their area of expertise, and the 2nd round had no categories and the contestant couldn't control who asked the questions; they were fired at random. The contestant with the highest score after two rounds would win a cash prize, and would have a chance to double those winnings by correctly answering the "Question of Great Significance," as host Kenny Mayne called it, from a specialty category chosen by the winner (usually a particular athlete or sports team from the past). In each series, winners advanced in a bracket-style playoff format, with cash prizes increasing from $5,000 in the first round to $50,000 (doubling to $100,000 by answering the final question) in the final round. Prizes such as trips to the Super Bowl or ESPY Awards were also given, known as "ESPN Experiences". The show had three series over a 15-month period, from September 2000 to December 2001. Like Mastermind, 2 Minute Drill featured a leather chair, dramatic lighting and sound effects. Willy Gibson of Columbus, Ohio was the grand champion of the first two series; he was defeated in the second round of the third and final series. Unlike Mastermind presenters, Mayne had a very dry, quirky and sometimes sarcastic sense of humour, but did a very good job of keeping the game going; he would quickly jump in if one of the celebrity panelists was tardy in posing their question, so as not to penalise the contestant.
In 2012 an Irish version of the show aired on TV3 known as Mastermind Ireland.
The highest overall Mastermind score is 41 points, set by Kevin Ashman in 1995, his specialist subject being "The Life of Martin Luther King". Ashman would go on to become four times IQA world champion. In addition he holds the record for the highest ever score on Brain of Britain and has been a member of the Eggheads since that series debut.
In August 2010 during an edition of Mastermind: Champion of Champions, the 2010 series champion, Jesse Honey, scored 23 out of 23 on "Flags of the World" in the specialist subject round, an all-time record. He finished as runner-up with a combined score of 36 points, losing out to Pat Gibson by having two more passes. Honey's score was equalled by Iwan Thomas, who scored a record 23 (in two-and-half minutes) in the general knowledge round in 2010.
On Junior Mastermind in February 2007, an 11-year-old schoolboy called Callum scored 19 points on his specialist subject, cricketer Andrew Flintoff. However he did not win, being beaten by one point after achieving a final score of 32.
The current record for the overall lowest score is 5 points, set on 29 January 2010 by software analyst Kajen Thuraaisingham, scoring 4 points for his specialist subject of the life of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. Previously, the lowest attained score had been 7 points which was first set by Colin Kidd in 2005. His specialist subject was "The World Chess Championships". The score was equalled in November 2009 by gas fitter Michael Burton; he only scored 2 for his specialist subject, Angels.
The following is a sample of specialist subjects:
- History and genealogy of European royalty.
- The life and works of Gilbert & Sullivan.
- The Moomin saga by Tove Jansson.
- The history of Lancashire County Cricket Club.
- The life-cycle and habits of the honey-bee.
- The Buddhist sage Nichiren.
- The Female Agents of the Special Operations Executive.
A special episode of Mastermind called Doctor Who Mastermind was broadcast on 19 March 2005, in which all four contestants had the specialist subject Doctor Who. The prize was awarded to the winner by the current Doctor at the time, actor Christopher Eccleston.
- Routes to anywhere in mainland Britain by road from Letchworth.
- Cremation practice and law in Britain.
- The banana industry.
- Orthopaedic bone cement in total hip replacement.
- Perfect squares from 992= 9801.
The following is a list of Mastermind champions since 1972.
|1972||Nancy Wilkinson||French literature||European antiques||History of music, 1550–1900|
|1973||Patricia Owen||Grand Opera||Byzantine art||Grand Opera|
|1974||Elizabeth Horrocks||Shakespeare's plays||Works of J.R.R. Tolkien||Works of Dorothy L. Sayers|
|1975||John Hart||Athens 500–400 BC||Rome 100–1 BC||Athens 500–400 BC|
|1976||Roger Pritchard||Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington||20th century British warships||Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington|
|1977||Sir David Hunt||World War II British campaigns in North Africa||World War II Allied campaign in Italy||Roman Revolution 60–14 BC|
|1978||Rosemary James||Roman and Greek mythology||Works of Frederick Wolfe||Roman and Greek mythology|
|1979||Philip Jenkins||Christianity AD 30–150||Vikings in Scotland and Ireland 800–1150 AD||History of Wales 400–1100|
|1980||Fred Housego||King Henry II||Westminster Abbey||Tower of London|
|1981||Leslie Grout||St. George's Chapel, Windsor Castle||Burial Grounds of London||St. George's Chapel, Windsor Castle|
|1983||Chris Hughes||British Steam Locomotives, 1900–63||Flashman novels||British Steam Locomotives, 1900–63|
|1984||Margaret Harris||Cecil Rhodes||Postal history of Southern Africa||Cecil Rhodes|
|1985||Ian Meadows||English Civil War||History of astronomy to 1700||English Civil War|
|1986||Jennifer Keaveney||Elizabeth Gaskell||E. Nesbit||Elizabeth Gaskell|
|1987||Jeremy Bradbrooke||Franco-Prussian War||War of 1812||Crimean War|
|1988||David Beamish||Nancy Astor||British Royal Family, 1714–1910||Nancy Astor|
|1989||Mary Elizabeth Raw||King Charles I||Prince Albert||Charles I|
|1990||David Edwards||Michael Faraday||Benjamin Thompson||James Clerk Maxwell|
|1991||Stephen Allen||King Henry VII||Dartmoor and its environs||Francis Drake|
|1992||Steve Williams||Surrealist art 1918–39||Peter I of Russia||Post-Socratic philosophy|
|1993||Gavin Fuller||Doctor Who||The medieval castle in the British Isles||The Crusades|
|1994||George Davidson||English coinage, 1066–1662||History of chemistry, 1500–1870||John Dalton|
|1995||Kevin Ashman||Martin Luther King, Jr.||History of the Western film||Zulu War|
|1996||Richard Sturch||Charles Williams||Frederick III, German Emperor||Operas of Gilbert and Sullivan|
|1997||Anne Ashurst||Frances Carr, Countess of Somerset||Regency novels of Georgette Heyer||Barbara Villiers, Duchess of Cleveland|
|1998||Robert Gibson||Solar System||King Charles II||Robert the Bruce|
|1999||Christopher Carter||Birds of Europe||Tudor dynasty||British customs and traditions|
|2000||Stephen Follows||Benjamin Britten||T.S. Eliot||Leoš Janáček|
|2001||Michael Penrice||Professional boxing to 1980||(no semi-final)||English history 1603–1714|
|2003||Andy Page||Academy Awards||Gilbert and Sullivan||Golfing majors since 1970|
|2004||Shaun Wallace||UEFA Champions League finals since 1970||England at the UEFA European Football Championship||FA Cup finals since 1970|
|2005||Patrick Gibson||The films of Quentin Tarantino||The Culture novels by Iain M. Banks||Father Ted|
|2006||Geoff Thomas||Édith Piaf||William Joyce||Margaret Mitchell and Gone with the Wind|
|2008||David Clark||Henry Ford||George, The Prince Regent||History of London Bridge|
|2009||Nancy Dickmann||Amelia Peabody novels of Elizabeth Peters||Life and films of Fritz Lang||Lewis and Clark Expedition|
|2010||Jesse Honey||London Borough of Wandsworth||The life and work of Antoni Gaudí||Liverpool Cathedral (Anglican)|
|2011||Ian Bayley||Life and Work of Jean Sibelius||Romanov Dynasty||Paintings in the National Gallery|
|2012||Gary Grant||Seven Wonders of the Ancient World||Monaco Grand Prix||Cetaceans|
|2013||Aidan McQuade||Michael Collins||The novels of Dennis Lehane||Abraham Lincoln|
|2014||Clive Dunning||Blackadder||Life and work of John Lennon||Life and poetry of Philip Larkin|
|2015||Marianne Fairthorne||Empress Livia||Çatalhöyük||Caterina Sforza|
|1979||John Mulcahy||Ireland||Irish History (1916-22)|
|1980||Rachel "Ray" Stewart||Australia||Life and times of Julius Caesar|
|1981||David Harvey (jurist)||New Zealand||The Lord of the Rings trilogy|
|1982||Leslie Grout||Great Britain||Windsor Castle|
|1983||Christopher Hughes||Great Britain||British Steam Locomotives|
Champions/Champion of Champions
|2004||Daniel Parker||Tudor dynasty||James Bond villains|
|2005||Robin Geddes||The Vicar of Dibley||A Series of Unfortunate Events|
|2006||Domhnall Ryan||Supermarine Spitfire||Animals of the African plains|
|2007||Robert Stutter||Madame Tussaud||Tintin|
|2007||David Verghese||Jurassic Park films||George Lucas|
Perhaps the most famous icon of the show is the black leather chair in which the contestants sit, lit by a solitary spotlight in an otherwise dark studio. The inspiration for this was the interrogations faced by the show's creator, Bill Wright, as a POW in World War II. The original black chair was given to Magnus Magnusson as a souvenir when he retired from the show.
The programme has been the target for many television spoofs, most memorably the Two Ronnies sketch written by David Renwick in 1980, featuring Ronnie Barker as Magnus Magnusson and Ronnie Corbett as a contestant named Charlie Smithers, whose specialist subject was "answering the question before last". This continually led to humorous and often rude answers. A similar sketch featured Monty Python alumni Michael Palin as Magnússon and Terry Gilliam as a contestant whose speciality was "questions to which the answer is two."
The 2003-onwards version has been spoofed by the Dead Ringers team, with Jon Culshaw playing John Humphrys. In one send-up, which appeared on the television edition of "Dead Ringers", the contestant offered to answer questions on Mary Queen of Scots, but when an answer was given, John Humphrys was shown saying "Yes, but you sexed that answer up". The sketch was a reference to the controversy caused by the aftermath of the Iraq War. One episode included Mastermind: The Opera.
Also in 2004, Johnny Vaughan's BBC Three show Live at Johnny's featured a version called Mastermind Rejects—the premise being that the specialist subjects were too ludicrously obscure even for Mastermind. In the final show of the series, Magnus Magnusson took over as the quizmaster - it was the last time he would utter the catchphrase "I've started so I'll finish" on any form of Mastermind. The specialist subject was The History of the Home Video Recorder, 1972 to 1984.
On their 2005 Christmas Special, comedy duo French & Saunders parodied the show with Jennifer Saunders playing Abigail Wilson, a pensioner whose special subject is ceramic teapots. She passes on all but one question, which she answers incorrectly anyway.
In 2005, the show was spoofed on BBC Radio 4's The Now Show where the specialist subject was "Britishness", relating to the proposed test immigrants may have to take, to prove they can fit in with British society.
In 1974, Morecambe and Wise performed a sketch based on Mastermind, which featured Magnússon and the black chair. The format was different, however, with Wise, then Morecambe, being asked 10 questions each.
In 1975 The Goodies featured Mastermind in the episode Frankenfido when a dog (Bill Oddie in a suit) appeared on the show and managed to correctly answer questions asked of it as they all had answers that could be represented by growls, such as 'bark' and 'ruff'.
In the late 1970s, Noel Edmonds radio Sunday lunchtime show used to feature a send-up called "Musty Mind" where a phone-in contestant would be asked ludicrous questions on a parody of a serious subject, such as the "Toad Racing" or, on another occasion, "The Cultural and Social History of Rockall" - Rockall being a bald lump of uninhabited rock in the eastern Atlantic.
Benny Hill parodied Mastermind on The Benny Hill Show on at least two separate occasions. In one of the parodies the show was called "Masterbrane". In each, Benny played the role of Magnússon while Jackie Wright played the hapless contestant.
Spitting Image used the Mastermind format in a sketch where a Magnus Magnusson puppet asked questions of a Jeffrey Archer puppet whose specialist subject was himself. The twist was that Archer's puppet, being incapable of answering questions about himself without exaggeration or evasion, ends the round with zero points.
The BBC's satirical current affairs quiz show Have I Got News for You has parodied the show several times, by turning the lights down - except for spotlights above select chairs - and playing the theme tune, before subjecting at least one of the panel to some rigorous questioning. The first occasion happened on the 1995 video special, where only regular captains Ian Hislop and Paul Merton were asked questions; Ian on (as he put it) "The Life and Lies of Jeffrey Archer", and Paul was asked questions on "Absurd Newspaper Stories Between 1990-1995". The second occasion was in 1998, when Magnus Magnusson appeared as a guest. All four panellists were asked questions on this occasion, Paul's being the Starr Report, Ian's being the life and times of Rupert Murdoch, while Magnus had Mastermind, which also included a moment on Quizball when he confused playwright Arthur Miller with the name of the surgeon who had once operated on his mother's kidneys. After Magnusson's questioning, the spotlight then turned onto the other guest, John Simpson, who was informed that his "specialist subject" was Christmas cracker jokes, which he received help from Ian throughout.
On another occasion, Have I Got News for You turned the Mastermind spotlight on one of its favourite guests, Boris Johnson, when he appeared in 2001. He was told his specialist subject was then-Conservative Party leader Iain Duncan Smith "whether you like it or not". The programme's final Mastermind moment to date came when John Humphrys guest-hosted an edition in 2003, shortly after taking over as Mastermind presenter. After the opening round, HIGNFY regular Ian Hislop mentioned that in accordance with a long-running theme of Humphrys' other well-known role as anchor of BBC Radio 4's Today Programme, he was about to spring a surprise on him. Hislop then asked Humphrys several questions about quotes said by him or about him, including the revelation that Iain Duncan Smith had once remarked about his "nicely balanced package".
In his early routines Bill Bailey would often parody the Mastermind music, finding it very sinister. He would then play the music on keyboard with an over-the-top hellish sounding climax.
The programme Balls of Steel parodied Mastermind with its sketch The Alex Zane Cleverness Game, in which experts were quizzed on their specialist subjects (included were "The Life of Anne Frank", "Eurovision Song Contest Winners", and "Hercule Poirot"). Unknowingly to the experts, the show was a complete hoax, and blatantly incorrect answers were included in order to frustrate them whenever they supplied the correct answer.
The comedy show Snuff Box had the two main characters Rich Fulcher and Matt Berry both appear on Mastermind. Berry chose his specialist subject as Alton Towers and only scored 3 points before a blackout, in which he apparently shoots the host after being told to sit down. Fulcher chooses 'Anglo-Saxon architecture', though displays no knowledge of the subject and makes up answers such as 'Toto from The Wizard Of Oz' and 'Elvis', and scoring no points.
In 2011, The Chris Moyles Show on BBC Radio 1 parodied the show with a feature called 'Disastermind'. Using the back-up chair from the Mastermind studio, each team member chose a specialist subject, only to have them swapped before being questioned in the chair on their randomly selected subject and general knowledge. The specialist subjects were The World of Glee; UK Dialling Codes; U2; Husky Dogs and Back to the Future.
In 2013, Mastermind featured on the ITV show Ant & Dec's Saturday Night Takeaway, as part of an Ant Vs Dec segment where Ant and Dec had to answer questions based around a school challenge they took part in. Ant won.
Champions/Champion of Champions
Very few episode copies from Series 1-10 survive from the archives due to a mass archive wiping from the BBC. The episodes that survived in the archives are Episodes 6, 9, 12 & 15 of Series 1, Episode 17 of Series 2, 4 & 5, Episodes 15 & 17 of Series 3, Episodes 1-10 & 12-16 of Series 6, Episodes 1-15 of Series 7, Episodes 1-2 & 4-17 of Series 8, All 17 episodes of Series 9 and Episodes 1-16 of Series 10.
- As described on the BBC website's Mastermind page
- Jones, Sam (2 February 2010). "Mastermind's lowest scorer: 'It wasn't my night'". The Guardian. Retrieved 2 February 2010.
- Gabbatt, Adam (19 November 2009). "Black chair brings ignominy for Mastermind contestant". The Guardian. Retrieved 29 November 2009.
- "Mastermind: The Show". BBC. Retrieved 24 March 2008.
- Kirsty Rowland; aired 6 March 2009
- Mastermind - 6 March 2009 - Part 1 - YouTube
- Mastermind - UKGameshows
- Conversation with Magnus Magnusson, March 2004
- The details of Mastermind Rejects were provided by the contestant on that show, Andy Hain
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