Why “Perfect” “Predestined” Heroes are Boring, Inspired by Agatha Raisin

Okay, it is entirely possible that only Popka and I have actually seen the TV show Agatha Raisin. But don’t worry, if you haven’t seen this then you have seen something similar where the authors created a Perfect romantic lead for the heroine and the end result is just really really dull.

Agatha Raisin! Okay book series turned into a really GREAT show thanks to very good casting of our heroine. The lead actress, Ashley Jensen, is fabulous. You know her from Ugly Betty, Accidentally on Purpose, Extras, and various other stuff. She is over 40, she has a great way of delivering a line, and she also has a charm about her that you can’t resist.

Agatha Raisin (TV Series) – Murder, She Watched

The set-up for the show is classic fish out of water. Our heroine is a tough city PR exec who takes early retirement and moves to an idyllic country village. Where she is cautiously welcomed by the very nice vicar’s wife, the lowerclass single mother cleaning lady she hires, and the handsome young cop who has a slight crush on her. And then there is a murder and she starts being nosey and fearless and insulting of the locals and solves the crime.

Here’s the problem with the set up, which is a problem that comes up ALL THE TIME in these kinds of narratives, the predestined love story. Agatha is spunky and attractive and we want good things for her and we identify with her, so of course we want her to find love. And the show picks out the person she will love right in the first episode, the very handsome retired soldier who lives next door. Problem is, he’s SO BORING.

The show didn’t write a character, they wrote a love interest. He’s handsome, he’s brave, he rescues her. But he isn’t INTERESTING.

Agatha Raisin' Returns For Third Season On SVOD Acorn TV – Deadline

This is something that I think is way more common with the genders the other way around. Super boring perfect female love interests are every where. But the thing is, when the protagonist is a man, the love story is given much less focus in the narrative. If our Police Hero hero is with a boring wife, who cares, the marriage is barely mentioned and she’s only onscreen for 10 minutes. If the protagonist is a woman then, in an accurate reflection of the reality of a woman’s emotional life, the love interest takes a far greater role in the narrative. And a boring love interest turns into an anchor that drags everything down.

In the case of Agatha Raisin, I can still wholely recommend the show! Yes, the love interest is boring, but he also isn’t around much. It’s like even the writers got bored with him. But they can’t let go of the True Love Forever idea that he represents and just allow the show to go where it wants to go.

Agatha has great chemistry with the young cop, with her old friend the rakish impoverished nobleman, even her loyal cleaner. She does not have great chemistry with Handsome Man that was destined for her.

Chemistry is sparks, right? And sparks come when two opposites rub against each other. If one of the people is just perfect, there’s nothing to rub, if that makes sense. It’s all smooth and perfect and ultimately frustrating and just DULL.

This is one of my pet peeves, when authors try to make characters do things they don’t want to do. I understand the instinct to plan it out, but plans change!!!! And then you have to just lean into it. And that’s where the magic happens. Chandler and Monica in Friends, Kajol and Shahrukh in Baazigar, even Jamie and Claire in Outlander. None of them were planned exactly, but the two characters were created separately from each other, a scene was written between them, and something interesting started happening.

Outlander': Jamie & Claire's Best Fights & Make-Up Sex Scenes – SheKnows
In the original book plan, our heroine was going to end up with Duncan, the older than her war leader of the clan. Typical hero type. But then the younger than her, injured, powerless, random guy ended up having kind of fun chemistry in their exchanges and that became the romance.

This is also why rom-coms are just so dang difficult!!! With a novel or a TV Show, you can change horses midstream pretty easily. But with a contained movie by the time you start filming, you have to be really really sure of your central couple because there are no backsies (unless it is a movie like Baazigar that was filmed in bits and pieces and they started shoving in more SRKajol stuff).

And now back to Agatha Raisin. This is the new kind of TV show that is filmed like a rom-com. The whole structure is around a central romance that is determined before filming even starts. Worst case scenario is obviously How I Met Your Mother which is still so INFURIATING in how it stuck with the original ending idea far far beyond logic that I can barely talk about it. Agatha is pretty bad too, but I have hopes they are actually going to admit a mistake and stop. They tried the couple fighting, they tried the couple flirting, they tried the couple in love, they tried the couple broken up, and finally they tried the couple living and working together. None of it worked. There was no chemistry, no matter what they did, no matter how they constantly rewrote the hero character into a new direction. And finally at the end of the most recent season, they backed off and took a break. They had the two characters just sit down together and say out loud “this isn’t working, it feels like you have more fun and are happier away from me than with me, why are we trying to force it?” It was such a satisfying moment of narrative! To have the characters speak for the writers and just say “yeah, this isn’t working”.

Okay, even if you haven’t seen Agatha Raisin, have you seen other things where the love interest hero was so perfect he just became DULL and you lost interest? Or have you seen things where the author was smart enough to just let romance develop organically? Or, rarest of all, have you see something where the chemistry was absolutely perfect right from the get go (Cheers, Grey’s Anatomy, Potentially Bridgerton, etc.)?

51 thoughts on “Why “Perfect” “Predestined” Heroes are Boring, Inspired by Agatha Raisin

  1. Funny you should mention the Bridgerton lead pair as absolutely perfect and right. I found them, and the film series, ho-hum. Daphne with her pouty mouth and flat figure was supposed to be feisty but she kept disappearing from my head the second she left the screen. Simon, model-gorgeous to be sure, was burdened by his one-note vow. I didn’t believe their love or their chemistry. The prolific sex scenes were so rigidly choreographed as to be laughable. Didn’t they ever hear of undressing SLOWLY?
    Now Bogart and Bacall? Kartikeya and Payal Rajput in RX 100 (talk about sex scenes) they were CONNECTED. Streisand and Redford in As We Were, Streisand and Kristofferson in Star is Born, Streisand and any leading man she’s not singing to, zero, zip, zilch, NOTHING.
    But that’s just me

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    • Yes! It’s magic when it happens, but you can’t quite predict it. Like Bogie and Bacall, totally random casting with a decades age gap between them, and then they were just magic on and off screen. You have to appreciate it when you have it and be aware of how rare it is.

      On Fri, Jan 29, 2021 at 12:38 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  2. That’s a good point about a flowerpot heroine vs. a flowerpot hero. The thing is that with a flowerpot heroine they make up for how boring she is with a lot of objectification and sexualisation. They don’t do that with whatshisface in Agatha Raisin (I don’t even remember his name, that’s how boring he is), and I think that’s why it fails.

    Sunil Dutt is basically a flowerpot in some of his movies, but I don’t mind because when he’s given lines he just spouts a bunch of romantic stuff and spends all his time gazing lovingly at the heroine.

    I mean, what about Shashi in Sharmilee? He does something at the end but aside from that he is basically just an award you get for being a Proper Indian Woman. But I don’t care because he’s so beautiful. Or even Prithviraj in Aiyaa.

    The problem is when they don’t realise it’s a flowerpot, I think, and don’t put in the work to make up for it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I would say, it’s about chemistry. You can have a boring attractive no backstory love interest. But if he makes eye contact with the heroine, if he turns on the sexiness and charm, then it can still be fun. Like Sid M., who is mostly just very very pretty, but is also very good at looking at the heroine and making you believe he loves her.

      Maybe it’s one of those “girls always have to do more work” things? Most actresses, even if they are just cast in a flowerpot role, put in the work and manage to make a connection with their hero. I mean, girls know how to flirt with their eyes and do body language and stuff, so they can sell me on the relationship even if there’s nothing there. But actors like Boring Man in Agatha Raisin just show up and are handsome and don’t really work to sell the chemistry.

      Oh! Maybe that’s the other thing with the predestined love stories! If the actress/actor KNOWS s/he as cast to be the final love interest, maybe s/he just gets lazy in the love scenes? Doesn’t sell it as much as s/he needs to? While if you are cast as a one off guest star, you will work your tail off to make an impact.

      On Fri, Jan 29, 2021 at 12:44 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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      • I think male actors can also get stroppy if they have to be a flowerpot, so maybe they don’t try as hard. Or you can’t get a really good actor because they think they should do more.

        Still, if they found a way to put him in some kind of sexual situation every week, that might help. Oh no, he lost his shirt, oh no, he got wet in the rain, oh no, a dog tore his trousers mostly off, oh no, he has to chop wood…

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        • That, but also “oh no, their hands brushed” and “oh no, they accidentally embraced” and so on and so forth. Instead we were supposed to be attracted by just him being good looking in the face and a soldier? BLECH!!!

          Totally makes sense to me that a male actor might be less willing to just say “okay, this is that kind of role, I’ll take off my shirt and make love eyes and etc.” Which is why I love Sid M, he knows what he is and he embraces it. Oh, and also, Bobby Jasoos!!!! Very much an ideal love interest hero and the actor goes right for it, all love eyes and handsomeness and letting the heroine take the lead.

          On Fri, Jan 29, 2021 at 1:06 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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          • I really love Colin Firth. Just saying.

            On Fri, Jan 29, 2021 at 1:28 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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          • I just had a deep thought about Agatha Raisin, because I thnk part of the problem there is they split the hero up into three. Whatshisface is a brave man with status and a stable commitment, Bill is the sweet cute one, and Charlie (is that right?) has the rakish charm. If you have a truly good hero, he’s got all of those things in one.

            I think it can also work well because now you have heroes of equal weight and flaws, but they dropped the ball on Baldy.

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          • Oooo, that is a deep thought!!!! I think it is the rakish charm Charlie that is the biggest surprise. He’s a book character I guess, so they felt like they had to include him. But that actor is SUCH a kick, I just sit up and take notice whenever he shows up onscreen, and he brings out the best in Ashley Jensen too. Bill was clearly cast as the inappropriately young but sweet eye candy, but Charlie is just a one off guy that turned out to be sooooooooooo fun. Boring Man is supposed to be the Ideal Good Boy Hero, Bill is the fun flirtation that will clearly not go anywhere, but Charlie is age appropriate and fun and why would you stay with Boring Man instead of fun Charlie?

            On Fri, Jan 29, 2021 at 1:36 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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          • I read the responses in this thread after I posted by comment. But you both make excellent points, especially with regards to Sid M. Yes, he is pretty and not terribly interesting, but he also works so hard to create chemistry. ARK on the other hand can be a hit or miss. At times, the chemistry is electric like in OK Jaanu and Kalank but then in most other films, he is gorgeous but I just don’t feel the chemistry between him and the heroine (Sadak 2)

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          • Yes! Sid M. never sleeps on the chemistry. In every movie, that’s the part he sells the best. It’s one of the reasons I sometimes wonder if he is gay. Because he is so good at going through the motions of chemistry, like it is something he has observed from the outside and analyzed and therefore can fake it real well.

            On Fri, Jan 29, 2021 at 1:54 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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    • Ahh, Popka. You just reminded me of Prithviraj in Aiyaa. He’s such a good actor but all he had to do in that film was stand there. He occasionally he lets a little sexiness show now, but mostly he’s become the southern Amitabh.
      Luckily, Rani was his match.

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    • I agree with Sunil Dutt being a flower pot in so many movies.Especially when paired with Nargis,Meena or Vyjayanthimala who would just gobble up his presence.This is the problem with many actors who neither trained theatre artists nor method actors,leading the director to have their way with them.I feel the same for Shraddha who just seems lost no matter how meaty a role she gets.

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      • I think you misunderstood. I don’t think it’s a problem or a fault in him. I like female-focused films and he did well in those parts. I don’t think he should have done something differently, in fact his choice of those roles and his performances in them are why I like him so much.

        And if there is something I dislike it’s method acting, so I am thrilled he never did that.

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  3. he started out in rock ’em sock ’em hero films. Then he gave an interview where he said that wasn’t him. Question: Does Indian cinema take guys with abs seriously as actors? Or naked ladies (Sunny Leone) seriouosly as actresses?

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    • Oh yeah. Prithviraj (is that who you mean? the replies got all messed up) had his first big hit in a thriller/romance with a really juicy part for him and he has moved between action and romance and thriller and all kinds of things ever since then. I think it’s a lot easier for a sexy muscle man to be taken seriously than a sexy “item” girl. The muscle man just has to do a movie wearing clothes and we are all ready to take him seriously.

      On Fri, Jan 29, 2021 at 1:14 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  4. Okay, let me just start with how much I agree with your statement on How I Met Your Mother. The ending is SO BAD that it ruined the entire show for me. Since the finale aired, I have never ever been able to watch that show again.

    I agree with Popka that if you are going to have a boring, dull hero, then there needs to be something more. Shashi example is perfect. Sid in Hasee Toh Phasee is another one. He is not very interesting, but he is so very very pretty.

    If not, then to me, the most interesting chemistry is created when it’s two people who were not pre-destined but ended up coming together anyways. Hart of Dixie is a perfect example to show where this worked and where it did not work. George Tucker, was clearly drafted to be the perfect, true love interest for Zoey. But then the audience and the directors saw the chemistry between Zoey and Wade Kinsella and went with it. And it worked out so well. Zoey and George just did no have the chemistry and by releasing him from a pre-destined role, they were able to make him so much less dull. Now where they went wrong with was Lavon Hayes, AnnaBeth, Lemon triangle. Lavon and AnnaBeth were not pre-destined but had such excellent chemistry but this time, the show decided to weirdly break them up for no good reason and go back to the pre-destined couple, Lavon and Lemon and it just didn’t work.

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    • Thank you! I also have not been able to rewatch. And what bothers me the most is breaking up Barney and Robin. That was a perfect naturally occurring chemistry couple. They were way more fun to watch together and had way better moments between them than the “predestined” couple. And then alllllllllllllllllllll that character growth and relationship growth just got thrown out because it wasn’t predestined. And at the same time, this new relationship that was perfectly cast and planned and developed ALSO got thrown out. It would have been so easy to just shift the ending and make it about how Robin and Barney were going through a rough patch and this was about looking back at the past and how unexpected things happen and how we got here before a finale with BARNEY showing up to give Robin the blue trumpet. It was just so insulting, to the audience and the characters and the actors, to throw away all the work of the last 8 seasons.

      Yes Hart of Dixie! In the end, all the best relationships were the surprise ones. But only Wade and Zoey and Brick and his lady were allowed to last. All the others they steered away and tried to make the original idea work.

      On Fri, Jan 29, 2021 at 1:18 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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      • Yes! If you do a post on series with the worst endings, HIMYM would top that list for me! The entire last season, me and everyone else fell in love with Robin and Barney. They were both flawed individuals that some how brought the best out of each other and grew into people people and a better couple, without ever losing their individuality. You put it best, the ending just just plain insulting to the audience and the characters. I have no idea what the writers were thinking because I have never met anyone who liked the ending of that show. Did the writers just write it in a vacuum without any consideration for the audience?

        This is also why I hope the Bridgerton series doesn’t stick to the books and goes with where the chemistry lies. I loved Kate in the book but in the show there was such great chemistry between Anthony and Marina. I would have loved it if the writers explored that in season 2.

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        • Do you think they could make Marina into the Benedict love story from the books but with Antony and the Antony story into Benedict? If you see what I mean?

          On Fri, Jan 29, 2021 at 2:25 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  5. Trying to think of other Indian films where the touted chemistry didn’t jell. Prabhas and whatsher name in Saaho, and Priyanka and Rajkumar in White Tiger. Oh, and that thing with Karina and Arjun Kapoor where he’s younger and moves into her apartment and redecorates it. Ki and Ka?

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    • UGH! Agree. I hate Ki and Ka for so many reasons but it doesn’t help that the actors have zero chemistry between them. And Kareena and Arjun are both very charming people. How is it possible to have no chemistry between charming people?

      I am one of the few people on this blog that like Priyanka but I struggle with her chemistry with her costars as well. I think she has great chemistry with Shah Rukh in Don 2 and Abhishek in Bluffmaster but that is also because I think Shah Rukh and Abhishek can create chemistry with anyone.

      Although, now that I think about it, I hated the chemistry between Shah Rukh and Madhuri in Hum Tumare Hai Sanam. I liked Madhuri’s chemistry with Salman way more in that film.

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      • Abhishek is really just the BEST actor for chemistry. And his father was as well, which he doesn’t get enough credit for I think. There is so much going on in Amitabh movies, the way he can sell you on a romance with basically anyone gets sort of lost. They are both really REALLY good at listening to the screen partner and responding to them and making you believe in the connection. And on the other hand, I would say Aish and Priyanka (for example) are really really bad at listening and reacting and responding. Oh, Dips is good too!!!! She sells you on really caring about anyone she has to pretend to be in love with in a movie (even Ranbir).

        On Fri, Jan 29, 2021 at 2:33 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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        • Yes!! Aish is another one! Why is it so hard for her to have chemistry with her costars?! On the other hand, you are so right about Deepika. She just always feels like she is flirting with/very much in love her costar on camera, no matter who it is.

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      • Priyanka was good with Shahid in Kaminey. And come to think of it, Shahid is an example of an actor who got a lot of perfect love interest roles and managed to make something out of them. I do think a lot of it has to do with the actor. Like Brad Pitt in Thelma and Louise, that was a total pretty boy part and they could have cast some jumped up model, but he did something with it and it launched his career.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Yes! Exactly! I would also add James Marsden and Channing Tatum.

          Shahid wasn’t that good when he started, but he was also only 21. By the time he was 30 or so, I find him just amazing onscreen in everything and he ALWAYS brings the chemistry.

          On Fri, Jan 29, 2021 at 11:33 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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          • Oh yes, Channing Tatum in She’s the Man! Oh oh oh, Margaret – maybe you could do a review of She’s the Man in comparison to Dil Bole Hadippa since you have seen both movies!

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          • I did a conference talk on this about 7 years ago, Twelfth Night to She’s the Man to Dil Bole Hadippa. I wonder if I still have those notes somewhere?

            Liked by 1 person

  6. Ugh I can’t think of any right now, but I know I had them. Maybe Arthur and Gwen in Merlin? I think my issue is that I often stop watching when I see bad love interests (especially if they’re important to the story in any way), so I can’t remember any right now.

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    • You are very VERY wise. It never gets better, if the chemistry is wrong at the start, it stays wrong. But I am always super impressed when a show corrects itself. Do you know the show Arrow? I watched like the first 3 seasons and then got distracted. Anyway, they had a predestined romance set up right in the first few episodes and it just did not work. And then there was this kooky one off kind of character who had amazing chemistry with the hero. And they were actually brave enough to respond to that, bring the one off character back as a regular and build up that relationship and eventually write off the predestined romance. If they hadn’t started doing that, I would have given up after the first few episodes.

      On Fri, Jan 29, 2021 at 8:53 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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        • From what I understand, the show also lost it’s way again once they decided Felicity and Ollie would be Predestined and suddenly all the pressure landed on them.

          To bring in Chandler and Monica again, one of the things I really liked about how they handled htat relationship is that they went really slow step by step and didn’t rush it. They had sex, then they started dating, then they said “I love you”, then they moved in together, and each step felt like a new decision, not like something the writers/characters were sure would happen.

          On Sat, Jan 30, 2021 at 8:40 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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      • Yes! Arrow is a perfect perfect example! Felicity and Oliver was not the predestined couple but had such amazing chemistry that the show went with it. But then they actually got together, and it became BORING!!! All that fizzle went away! I stopped watching the show sometime around then also.

        SO HOT!

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      • I think we were supposed to believe in Arthur and Gwen, at least a little. And I never did. And as an 11 year old watching the show, the moment Merlin called Arthur “my friend” in the first episode, I was like. Wait. What is BBC doing. Are they changing the legend? EVEN AT 11, with no ideas about romantic chemistry, something in me just went “OH”.

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  7. I think we can all agree that any ‘perfect’ character is boring to watch, on their own or as a love interest. I’m not sure about the ‘predestined’ part being a problem. Don’t we go into majority of films (Hindi films specifically) and shows knowing who the main couple is supposed to be? That doesn’t hinder us from enjoying the romantic development. I feel what you’re referring to might be specific to American sitcoms where we’re not supposed to know who are going to end up together? I don’t watch many of those so I don’t know the rules (totally agree about Chandler and Monica btw!).

    But yeah the ‘perfect romantic lead’ is boring because there is no scope of character growth. I can’t think of anything where that’s the case though, which is a good thing I suppose! Usually the pairings that work for me are a combination of good chemistry at the beginning and things developing organically, leading to great chemistry at the end.

    This also made me think of the opposite instance, which happens in Sanditon. The hero is extremely rude and dismissive of the heroine at the beginning. The enemies-to-lovers/ hate-to-love trope is the easiest way to develop both the characters and their love story and I have a weakness for heroes who are jerks initially who have to eat humble pie by the end, but even I felt it was too much. Of course he redeems himself eventually, but I think to make space for character growth, the writers went to the other extreme of making the love interest so imperfect that it actually turned many audiences off him entirely. I loved it but I can see why others might not.

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    • I think you are right, it’s different with something that is being changed and developed as it goes along. With a movie, you can still have a bad predestined romance, but you can’t really blame people in the same way because you don’t have a chance to change once you see the problem. Like, Madhuri and Shahrukh in Dil To Pagal Hai, Shahrukh has way more chemistry in every way with Karisma, but it’s too late to change anything.

      It’s different when it’s a TV show, or even a novel that you can write and rewrite. Then you are making a choice to stick with the bad option instead of the good option just because the bad option is the one you decided HAD to be the true love right at the start. So many times I end up thinking “huh, the funny friend guy is way more interesting with the heroine than the True Love Destiny guy”.

      Liked by 1 person

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