Writer? We’re Talking About a Sitcom!

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News of a re-launch of Full House seemed to be lighting up social media over the past few months.  It makes complete sense as to why this is causing waves.  Full House, which spanned from 1987 to 1995, captured a young audience that grew up alongside the Tanner girls.  People in this age group became the first generation to grow up with the internet as a major aspect of their daily lives.  Nostalgia always seems to rule the roost on the internet, with several popular Youtube channels dedicated to recalling significant pop culture that surrounded them in the first decade or so of their existence.  This makes the timing for a reboot perfect.  Naturally, you’d expect someone around my age (born in 1985) to be excited about catching a glimpse of the new series. I’m not among them.

Looking back in retrospect, I never really liked Full House.  Sure, I thought of Uncle Jesse as the man I’d want to be (much like he was the man young girls wanted to be with), but the rest of the cast always seemed like total squares to me.  If Danny Tanner taught me anything, it was not to act awkwardly around women, and to stake your claim on a good one when you see her before your more charming brother-in-law gets a chance to seduce her with his half-assed Elvis impressions.  Joey Gladstone’s comedic stylings annoyed me even as a child.  It still brings a smile to my face remembering the episode when he lost on Star Search.  I appreciate that he’s a clean, family-friendly comic, but his material and delivery almost feels as if it is dumbed-down to reach that wider audience.  That’s not necessary at all.  Give the kids a little bit of credit.  Keep in mind that your audience has grown up with you, so perhaps you’ll be ready to unleash on the world how a Popeye/Bullwinkle/Scooby Doo orgy would play out.  If you don’t have the stomach, let Saget write it for you.

There was nothing particularly off-putting about D.J. and Stephanie.  Maybe I just couldn’t relate to young girls at the time.  God knows I tried!  Playing Barbies with my older sister didn’t help matters any (as previously discussed).  It was just a lackluster attempt at filling the void caused by the GI Joe, Masters of the Universe, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles household ban.  However, I thank my parents about the He-Man one to this day.

Michelle I definitely remember pissing me off.  I could detect bad acting at a young age, and maybe it’s the whole girl thing with me, but I could only buy those too-wise-for-your-age quips when delivered by Macaulay Culkin.  There has to be a message board argument somewhere debating over whether Mary Kate or Ashely Olsen was the better Michelle.  I know I have my favourite Olsen sister, but it ain’t one of the twins (The phrase “Have Mercy!” seems fitting enough here).

There isn’t much there that has me looking back at Full House with fondness.  The coolest thing I now know about the show was that Gil and Rani Sharone, who played teenage versions of Katsopolis twins Nicky and Alex in a dream sequence of Jesse’s, grew up to form the band Stolen Babies (with Gil playing drums briefly with The Dillinger Escape Plan).  Pretty much the whole Miller-Boyett family-friendly block of programming falls into the “it’s so bad that it’s good” category.  There might be the equivalent type of shows today on The Disney Channel or something, but it’s off my radar now.  With a greater variety of shows available to choose from on both television and online, I see these types of sitcoms as virtually unwatchable in the year 2016.  That being said, I’d book time off work if I learned of an upcoming Family Matters marathon.

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One good thing that arose from the ashes of these shows is that they gave a young boy (as opposed to an old boy) hope that one day he could become a writer himself.  That boy did not become a professional writer, but he did start a blog to try his hand at it every now and then.  In case I lost some of you there, that boy grew up to be me, so here’s my stab at putting together a little sitcom that I can call my own.

Any show or movie is only as strong as the cast.  I can’t just lump any group of actors together and expect magic to happen.  There are a few factors that should be considered.

1. Chemistry – It’s of the utmost importance.  Put Sasha Mitchell and David Faustino in the same room together, and one of them is coming out in a body bag. I’ll give you a hint as to which one: One is 6’3” with a Tae Kwon Do black belt. The other is 5’3”, and once rocked the finest mullet in the business, which to my knowledge didn’t do him any favours in a fight.

2. Over-Exposure – While casting someone like Charlie Sheen seems like a fine way to guarantee at least one full season out of a show, I’d rather put the spotlight on others.  Does the world want to see another in a long list of Charlie Sheen vehicles, or do they want something fresh?  I know the answer, but I’m not casting Charlie Sheen.

3. Like-Ability – Who’s going to watch a show with nothing but hateable characters? Let me re-phrase that: Who’s going to watch a show with nothing but hateable characters that doesn’t feature a Kardashian or vomit-inducing stereotypes?

With that all squared away, let me introduce the cast.

Joey Lawrence as Blake Preston

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Joey Lawrence (of Blossom fame) will be the focal point of the series.  He plays a former child actor who’s not willing to give up on his dream of becoming a stand-up comedian.  You can draw all the parallels you want to Dave Coulier’s Full House character, but there is no debate as to where Blake’s showbiz prospects lie.

He is horrible.  Painfully so.  Undeniably so.  Like a “Material I Wrote When I Was 19”-level of horrible.  Don’t believe me?  Have a taste:

I’ll be the first to admit it.  I never got laid during my high school years.  One guy even had the nerve to yell at me “You couldn’t even lay an egg!”  Excuse me?  Lay an egg?  I’m a human male!  What does he think that our species is capable of?  People this dumb shouldn’t be roaming the streets. Give his brain to science!!”

If you even chuckled in the slightest at that, I have a notebook full of the stuff somewhere under my bed that you’d die reading.  But really, that would be the man’s strongest material in his never-changing set, much of which would often consist of improvised crowd work.  Did I mention he was blind?  Considering that his boyish good looks have faded slightly over the years, he’s got an uphill battle to deal with when it comes to winning over a crowd.  And with this handicap I’ve just randomly bestowed upon him, he can’t even get sympathy laughs.

No, making him blind would lead to far too many potential plot obstacles.  I need to save myself from writing some sort of highly unlikely origin story with regards to his loss of vision.  I’m going to have to give him odd jobs to help make ends meet, and I’ve got to make his work somewhat believable.  I’m not going try to chalk up his landing a lifeguard position at the community pool based off an acute sense of smell.  He could have the nose of a police dog, but if he can smell someone through all the chlorine, he’d probably be too late.

Like many child stars, Blake also pushes to re-establish himself in the acting scene.  Unlike many actors, Blake never gets stopped by fans on the streets out of recognition even though he wears the production jacket from his most famous film, Teenage Cyborg 199X, on a regular basis.  He was out of the business by the time the sequels were out, and Matthew Lawrence took over the role.  It may be a bit confusing, but Matthew is the oldest Lawrence brother in this timeline, and (sadly) Brotherly Love never happened.

This show is all about piecing together a cast that has seemingly little to do.  Kirk Cameron briefly came to mind for a second character, but he seems to have a healthy career in produce.  Then it struck me: Bronson Pinchot!

Bronson Pinchot as Luc Dubois

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From what I’ve seen him in from Perfect Strangers and in Beverly Hills Cop, Bronson can pull off some interesting character voices.  I’ll probably make him to be a foreigner to America, but not from Europe.  Luc Dubois hails from Val-d’Or, Quebec, which allows him to give the character the best/worst of both French and Canadian accents.  I can hide behind my own Canadian-ness and give him as cliché a background as I want.  Most Canadians tend to embrace things that make our country and citizens unique, but tend to take offense more than they are willing to admit.  As long as he doesn’t wear maple syrup-stained hockey jerseys 24/7 or wasn’t raised in an igloo by a pack of huskies, then I’m probably safe.

Luc and Blake met one afternoon when Blake was making his weekly trip to the local video rental store to keep tabs on his latest straight-to-DVD masterwork.  Hearing a rustling sound around the side of the mini-mall, he caught Luc in the midst of a highly fruitful dumpster diving excursion.  Impressed by Luc’s resourcefulness and a lack of shame that rivalled his own, Blake knew this francophone would be worth hanging around.  Luc’s been a fixture on Blake’s pull-out couch from that point on, and brought the crème de la crème of the neighbourhood trash with him.

Of all characters, this one is going to be the catchphrase machine.  Anything said with a strange accent is guaranteed to get laughs, especially when I’m the one with my finger on the laugh track button.  “Are You Poutine Me On?” would look great on a t-shirt.  My writing team will often construct a scene by working backwards from one of his applause avalanche-inducing quips when they have writer’s block.

I suppose he needs a job, doesn’t he?  Dog walker?  Bicycle repairman?  Volunteer restroom attendant?  What do I care?

Reginald VelJohnson as Horace “Slim” Bannister

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We have to get Reginald VelJohnson involved.  No, I won’t make him play a cop.  He’s been thrown that occupation too many times.  It’s about time to give the typecasting a rest.

He’ll be a retired cop.  His fat pension supplements the lack of income coming from the other two, with whom he shares an apartment.  Slim lived alone during his years on the force in fear of being killed on duty and leaving a loving family behind.  He’s now 65 years old, still single, and finally ready to mingle.

He’ll also be the supplier of the most dirty and perverted jokes on the show, which may or may not be why he was single for all those years.  It’s all the more charming when it comes from the mouth of a senior citizen, and a good way to get people to tune in.

I’m a tad concerned about whether or not he is old enough to be playing the old guy.  I’d be hesitant to hire a cast member entering their 80s in the event he or she croaks just as the show picks up steam.  Besides, Betty White gets harder to book with age, and so many others seem content doing hot sauce commercials and playing cadavers in crime dramas, so let me pull an aging man out of obscurity to give him a second chance.

You want to know how he met up with the guys?  He was once called in to a bar to investigate a public disturbance, but it turns out it was just Blake bombing hard at an open mic.  Slim laughed at his jokes when nobody else would, leading Blake to believe he was being heckled.  Blake stormed off stage on the verge of tears, Slim consoled him, and they’ve been tight ever since.

Patricia Richardson as Helen McCreary

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I wanted to work a Home Improvement cast member into the mix, and needed to find a way to keep this from being a sausage party.  I’ve drafted Patricia Richardson into the mix to kill two birds with one stone.  Home Improvement was definitely one of my favorite family-oriented sitcoms of the 90s.  The parents had a great dynamic, their children’s wise-cracking and roughhousing was legitimately believable, and Tool Time was truly the foundation of the Detroit entertainment industry.

In my opinion, she played one of the more believable mothers on television. Jill Taylor’s reactions to other characters on the show seemed to come from an honest place.  I can see her proudly hanging my latest math test on the fridge or organizing bake sales to fund-raise for my grade eight class trip.  On the other hand, I can picture her erupting in anger and delivering just punishment for scribbling crayon on a lampshade or stabbing my brother in the back with a pencil (both of which are on my actual rap-sheet).

Helen McCreary will act as the owner/superintendent of the apartment complex in which the show is centered around.  Her primary role in the show is to act as the voice of reason for the men.  Most of her reasoning happens to be based around the fact she needs to collect their rent every month, and that she cheaped out when it came to insuring the building, so it’s in everyone’s best interest that any indoor campfires get snuffed out.

One women in the main cast won’t cut it.  How about someone that isn’t so long in the tooth?  These guys need a neighbour who gets tied up in their lives much like Penny from The Big Bang Theory.  I’ll do you one better.  In fact, I’ll do you five times better.  Meet Nickel, the woman from across the hall.

Nicole “Nickel” Jeffries

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You may be confused by the above image.  Casting is undetermined on this one. The idea for this spot is to bring in a relative unknown.  This role will serve like Pamela Anderson’s role as the Tool Time girl Lisa on Home Improvement, a launch pad for hotness. The danger with this is that you can either catch lightning in a bottle or get struck by the very lightning bolt you were trying to catch, which (I’m guessing) would cause you to drop the bottle (the show), leaving you to pick up the broken pieces when you are much better off seeking medical attention (showbiz is a cruel mistress).

In lieu of making a hasty casting decision, as Hollywood is littered with beautiful women looking for work, she will be portrayed by a different actress in each episode.  It’s my shallow way of being an equal opportunity employer.  The series will wrap once we find the sexiest woman alive.  Each actress will be more attractive than the last so that not a single complaint will be registered.  In the off-chance that we have a few angry letters, they will be read aloud at the end of each episode to get publicly called out for hot-shaming.

Obviously, I won’t actually attach the name Nickel to this role.  I’m really not a big fan of outside-the-box names.  Her name will be the much less goofy-sounding Nicole, but I will insist that it be pronounced like a five cent piece to plant the subliminal message in viewers that this show will have The Big Bang Theory levels of success from Day One.  When an actor or even a crew member fails to make this pronunciation, they will have to put five cents into what I’ll publicly call the swear jar, but privately call my vacation fund.  Greedy?  Perhaps, but guilt would eventually consume me. I buy the crew dinner as an apology, mostly self-financed as the jar contained just $1.65 after mid-season.  It turns out they’re fast learners.

I’ll make one thing perfectly clear: There will not be any “Will they? / Won’t they?” thing between her and Blake or one of the other two guys. If my show is to have any semblance of reality, all the lust will have to be uni-directional. This is a twenty-something women in her physical prime who will be getting courted by much-more successful men, all of whom will be A-list celebrities begging to make a guest appearance.

Why would she be hanging with this group of misfits then?  It started out of curiousity before a genuine friendship blossomed.  Wouldn’t you be curious to see what would bring such a seemingly odd pairing of men together under one roof? Of course, you would! That’s why viewer demand will help this show reach syndication on the pre-pilot buzz alone.  From the men’s viewpoint, all it takes is a little eye candy every once in a while to break the monotony of their lives. Naturally, greasy ol’ Slim will find any excuse he can to get her over for a visit.  Watch out for an episode where Slim has a heart attack after somehow tricking her into giving him a sponge bath while dressed as a candy striper.  Nobody said she had to be bright.

Nickel/Nicole will serve nicely as an exaggerated version of Darrin from Bewitched or Vivian Banks from Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, but this show needs a Chuck Cunningham. There is bound to be casting tweaks after a few episodes or the first season, so I’ve thought up a character that, based on his success, can be jettisoned without much thought. That’s why I want to give John Ratzenberg another shot at television.

John Ratzenberg as Fred Grimsby

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He, of course, did a fantastic job as mailman Cliff Clavin on Cheers.  He also does highly enjoyable voice-acting work on several Pixar films, so he has other work to fall back on after his role on this show is complete.  That’s why John’s place on the show might not be a permanent one.

What could his role be?  I don’t want to follow the precedent set where a family member can vanish without any reference made to them later on.  I thought about a fourth roommate, but as they are only sharing a two bedroom apartment, it would be a bit cruel forcing one of them to sleep in the bathtub.  A janitor would make all the sense in the world.  They can exist in the first eight or so episodes, enough time for familiarity but possibly not long enough to be established as a core member of the cast.  The landlord character can always take on more custodial duties later on should a plot call for it.

Perhaps giving the character an unexplained exit, in spite of the entertaining but outlandish conspiracy theories that would develop, wouldn’t be serving him justice.  Fred’s been janitor at this apartment complex for forty years, so his disappearance would surely raise questions.  We might just have to give him a going away story after all.  Does he retire?  Die in a tragic plumbing accident?  Take his talents to a new building that won’t make him re-bristle his push broom on his own dime?  Give a good enough suggestion in the comments below, and maybe it will make it to the script.

I know what you’re thinking, and yes, he will be included in any casting promotional cast photo-shoots even though his stay may be temporary.  In fact, I’ll have him playfully embraced by Blake in a headlock as a demonstration of endearment.  It may cause problems when it comes to editing his image out should he leave the show mid-season.  I’m not going to spring for new photos until the second season, but I can always swap his head out for a football in a pinch, though the body can’t be as easily explained away.  The ever-changing Nicole would be another story altogether.  I’ll pull a similar stunt to what Time magazine did in 2006.  I’ll have a mirror-like image over where she stands, leading the observer to have true beauty (themselves!!) reflecting right back at them.  The illusion best works if you have a life-size version of the promotional photo, and are actually photogenic.

I remember an interesting quote by Ren & Stimpy creator John Kricfalusi.  When he was a young cartoonist in the 1980s, he was told that there are only six possible story structures to be used in cartoons.  I think there is some basic truth to that, even when applied to sitcoms. It’s a bit like how George Carlin was able to reduce the Ten Commandments down to three.  While the variety of plots can seem limiting, we’ll try to make quality entertainment regardless.

Let me get the inevitable one out of the way first: The Clip Show

Every North American TV series needs a clip show to help meet the required episode count, so I’ll account for that my own way. On The Cost of Living (the name I just now spontaneously gave this show), we do things a little differently around here. We’ll do ours without the clips. We might be forced into doing so if the show switches networks mid-season, and we’d need to purchase the rights to use some of the relevant footage. I’m not going to be held hostage by a former boss, and I’ll be damned if we are re-shooting old scenes. That money is probably better spent on those life-sized cast photos I hinted at earlier, but I’m no accountant.

My plan essentially involves twenty minutes of really bad storytelling. The main cast will be gathered together in some setting, be it the living room of the main apartment, stuck in an elevator, or being caught in a snowstorm, and they’ll try to recall previous episodes from memory. I anticipate dreadful results, so much so that even the behind-the-scenes crew can’t keep awake. Don’t be surprised if you hear audible snoring from off-screen or spot boom mics falling into the shot. We may institute a three drink minimum to make sure emotions run high while accuracy drops as low as possible.

As for the rest of them, I can write plots for days for these things. Let’s see what I can whip up over the course of my lunch break. I’ll leave the descriptions in relatively brief TV Guide form, but elaborate below when necessary.

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They don’t make jean shorts like they used to.

A local convenience store is held up, leading Slim to come out of retirement for one last mission.

(This is partially ripped right out of Die Hard, with Slim making a late-night Twinkies run for his “wife”.  He gets permission to use the store’s washroom, which is when the robbers come in.  He is counselled by Blake, Luc, and Nicole over his cell phone while he is on the toilet.  Initially struggling in his attempt at stalling the criminals, Blake enters the store acting as another robber in an attempt to add more confusion to the situation until the real professionals apprehend the two thugs.  When asked why they didn’t call 911 earlier, Blake’s response is “Let’s just say the chances of that happening were Slim to none!” to an uproar of undeserved audience cheers.)

The ghost of Helen’s husband (Tim Allen) comes to haunt the gang’s apartment building.

(Re-establishing chemistry from older TV series gives extra incentive for viewers to tune in. We will see a glimpse of the old Tim/Jill Taylor double-act, with Tim Allen’s character often being outsmarted and the butt of most jokes.  The ghost makes an appearances at the building to keep tabs on his wife.  He fears that she re-married, and thinks Fred is her new husband.

This creates the perfect opportunity for the gang to do a little Ghostbusting.  I’d love to get an original Ghostbuster to make a guest spot, but we all know it would end up being Ernie Hudson.  Bringing Bill Murray in could possibly eat most of the acting budget for the entire first season, but don’t let that discourage you from watching.)

Blake comes to a crossroads, forced to make a tough choice when offered a lucrative office job by an old school buddy (Rider Strong).

(I want to call this a reunion, but I don’t think Joey Lawrence or Rider Strong ever worked together.  Do their matching Tiger Beat “Hunkiest Dreamboats of ’95” nominations count? This job offer will be something that seems almost too good to be true to give Blake a legitimate struggle: Chief of Product Development at WayFun Toys.  No matter what, we all know he’d end up turning down the job at the end of the episode, but why?  It all comes down to morals.  He learns that the company is planning to shift their focus towards educational toys, and thought that shit was for nerds.)

Investors try to buy the apartment building, causing the gang to be inventive on how to get rid of them.

(I’ll make them foreign investors from Japan even though it seems rather cliche.  It can result in leading to some hilarious mistranslations between an inexperienced Japanese/English translator and both parties, but having to speak through a middle-man might eat up too much air time.  I’ll have the Japanese actors voices dubbed over in English like they do in old monster movies, and they can be perfectly understood by the main cast.  Conversely, all English actors will have their voices dubbed in Japanese for the version that airs in Japan.  That will be for this episode only.  God forbid they have to read subtitles for the rest of them.

The only way that they can get these investors away is to convince the city the apartment is a historic landmark.  It isn’t, of course, but they’ll get clever and craft up a few lies.  It was Travis Bickle’s apartment in Taxi Driver, President Obama rented here for a month he’s not so proud of, it was the birthplace of the selfie, etc.  Each of their dozens of claims were proved incorrect, but the dragged-out process sapped the investors of their will to live.  Victory!)

Nicole agrees to go on a double date with Luc and his visiting cousin (Sasha Baron Cohen).

(When I first thought of this premise, I imagined Sasha would dust off his old Borat character.  I had yet to decide on Bronson’s character’s country of origin, so it would look foolish now if I tried to pass of a French Canadian with a cousin from Kazakhstan, right?  Wrong.  Sitcoms have a way of making the implausible plausible.  If Fonzie can jump a shark, and George Costanza can date Marisa Tomei, let’s not dispute Luc’s family tree, okay?)

While shopping at the mall, Blake is ripped off by a con-man (Scott Baio), leading to the gang to help give the crook a taste of his own medicine.

(Shopping is pretty generic.  He has to be at the mall for a specific purchase because he’s too old to just be hanging out yet too young to be doing the early morning mall walks.  He’s taking his mom out on a Mother’s Day brunch to the food court destination of her choosing.

Chachi (Who knows what his real name is, he’s a CON MAN!) convinces Blake to donate to a fraudulent charity for illiterate kindergartners.  Blake, Luc, and Slim later pose as Hell’s Angels, and proceed to kick the crap out of him.  Haven’t thought of how to get from A to B yet, but I’m sure it stems from an over-exaggeration on Blake’s behalf.  Did you need those three dollars back that badly?)

Helen reluctantly goes on a date with Slim, but their evening has an unexpected twist that brings them closer together.

(Yet another date episode, I know, but sitcoms thrive on this sort of thing.  Even in a show with a PG rating, all viewers are curious about the sex lives of the characters on screen.  Even if it involves people well into their sixties bumping uglies.  Unfortunately, the night doesn’t proceed that far, and they learn they really have nothing in common.

Not quite what you were expecting, but I think the guide got the plot description mixed up with an episode of Two Broke Girls.  It still makes for thrilling television if small talk about the appetizer menu does anything for you.)

The gang helps Blake overcome his fear of spiders to help him get through his horror film audition.

(The movie in question is a remake of the William Shatner classic Kingdom of the Spiders.  Since he’s gunning for the lead role, this will be a made-for-tv movie (he knows where he stands in the business).  The good news is that he gets the part.  The bad news is it only ever airs on public access.  Once.  At three in the morning.  And he forgets to tape it.)

Nicole takes the boys to the hottest nightclub in town, but a difficult bouncer (Stone Cold Steve Austin) stands in their way.

(Nicole will have no problem getting in because I’ll cast a leggy blonde for this episode.  Anyone I put in that role would be attractive enough without question, but I’d just like to give a heads up to let the applications of those fitting that description pile up.

I want them to succeed, and end the evening having had a good time, but not initially.  We’ll have a montage of failed ways of getting in sped up and accompanied by that Benny Hill music.  Then, they whip up some better plans.

This would be a good excuse to have someone appear in drag as an attempt at seducing the guard.  I’ll leave that to Blake since he’s the lead.  This act would clearly best any performance listed on his IMDB page.  Slim can claim pseudo-celebrity status as a former b-movie/Blaxploitation actor/stuntman.  A promise of Fred Williamson‘s autograph gets him on through.  That leaves Luc.

Do they all have to get in to the club?  He’ll make due getting drunk and harassing the waitstaff at the nearby IHOP.)

Good news, everyone!  We’ll be accepting non-solicited scripts for the show.  We can’t let any potentially genius plot slip through our fingers.  The credit will fully be yours, plus we’ll even let you appear in the episode.  If you’re camera shy, feel free to replace yourself with the stage hand who most resembles you.  Heck, if you’re a babe, we may even let you play Nicole/Nickel.  It might be in an episode where she only pokes her head in for a few seconds to borrow some Tupperware, but thanks for coming out nonetheless.

If any of the above actor’s agents happen to be reading this, don’t be afraid to reach out to me.  I’m also open to exploring recasting possibilities for those with other clients.  Unless that client is Tony Danza, then keep walking.

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