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Film / Scrooged

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Frank Cross: I get it. You're here to show me my past, and I'm supposed to get all dully-eyed and mushy. Well, forget it, pal. You got the wrong guy!
Ghost of Christmas Past: That's exactly what Attila the Hun said. But when he saw his mother... Niagara Falls.

A 1988 comedy film directed by Richard Donner and starring Bill Murray, Scrooged is a moderately loose modern retelling of A Christmas Carol, with the twist of taking place In a World... where everyone's already familiar with Dickens' tale.

Murray plays Frank Cross, a cynical, selfish TV executive who is planning a live adaptation of A Christmas Carol for a holiday special. Frank's own childhood memories of Christmas were less than fond, leaving him initially unable to appreciate the spirit of the season. However, things start to change when Frank's dead former boss and mentor smashes his way into his office to inform him that he is doomed unless he changes his ways. True to the source material, Frank is subsequently visited by the three very strange Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future.


Intended to capitalize on Murray's success in Ghostbusters (1984), Scrooged contains many references to the earlier (if largely unrelated) film; one of the taglines was, "Bill Murray is back amongst the ghosts, only this time it's three on one."

It's also pretty damn funny, but we shouldn't need to tell you that, right?

This movie contains examples of:

  • Abusive Parent: Frank's heartless old man, whose Establishing Character Moment was giving Frank five pounds of veal instead of a toy train for Christmas, telling the kid to find work if he really wanted it, despite the boy being a 4-year-old, then proceeded to mock his young age, likening it to other "excuses" people make when they cannot go to work (like a bad back and hurting leg).
  • Actor Allusion:
  • Adaptational Jerkass: While they still mean well and are trying to save him, the ghosts do seem to enjoy tormenting Frank more than the original story's versions did with Scrooge. At the same time, Frank is a much more over the top dick than Ebenezer was, so it can be said that they have to up their game to get through to him. This is especially notable with the Ghost of Christmas Present, as she repeatedly beats the shit out of Frank.
    • This is actually averted by the Ghost of Christmas yet to come, whose personality of being Good Is Not Nice is the same as his literary counterpart.
  • Adaptational Villainy: Scrooge was a bastard, but he never took things nearly as far as Frank does, as the latter screams at those who disagree with him, fires a man for a single conversation requesting Frank does the decent thing, and being happy when he learns that his commercial got an old woman killed. Much like Ebenezer, these villainous traits fade away by the end though.
  • Alien Geometries: The first hallway the Ghost of Christmas Future sends Frank down. Also the room Calvin is kept in.
  • All Is Well That Ends Well: Eliot Loudermilk has the control room held hostage with a shotgun. This is a terrible thing, but it's the end of a comedy movie.
  • Aloof Big Brother: Frank zigzags between being dismissive and uninterested in associating with his younger brother. He regularly shrugged off his brother’s invitations to spend Christmas with him. However, he does care about James and was concerned when he thought James was the one in the coffin in the future segment.
  • Aluminum Christmas Trees: Younger audiences may be confused at the appearance of a cellphone in 1988. Notice how the phone is on a cord that goes to a larger part in Grace's purse. That's a real 1988 cellphone, top of the line.
  • An Ass-Kicking Christmas / Badass Santa: Featured in The Night The Reindeer Died, one of the Films Within A Film during the movie. Apparently Santa is a very Jolly Burt Gummer.
  • Art Shift: The Christmas Future visions.
  • As Himself: Lee Majors, playing Lee Majors in Scrooged, who is playing Lee Majors in the Film Within A Film The Night The Reindeer Died.
  • Bad Future: What the Ghost of Christmas Future shows Frank.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Bryce Cummings (played by John Glover) seems really nice but is really gunning for Frank's job. Frank realized this almost immediately though.
  • Black Comedy Animal Cruelty: Frank suggests stapling the antlers to the mouse's head. Claire is understandably horrified and threatens to call the humane society.
  • Bland-Name Product: IBC, the network Frank runs, is directly poking fun at ABC. The promo for IBC's Scrooge says "Yule Love It"; ABC's promotional tagline for their shows in the 1985-1986 season (while the movie was being produced) was "You'll Love It".
    • Also note that, somehow, IBC is putting on a performance of Scrooge, as opposed to A Christmas Carol.
  • Blatant Lies: A humorously direct and succinct example appears in this exchange:
    Grace: But, Mr. Cross, I booked that appointment two months ago!
    Frank: I CARE!!
  • Bottomless Magazines: Eliot is shown getting more ammo out of his pocket to use in his double-barreled shotgun. However, the number of shots he ends up firiing would have well filled his pockets to bulging. He also fires three shots before reloading for the first time.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: Frank at the end of the movie. On the one hand, he is in a TV studio, he is speaking into an In-Universe camera, and the closest thing to a physical fourth wall is far behind said camera, but on the other hand, he's talking to the Real Life movie audience as opposed to the In-Universe TV audience.
  • Butt-Monkey: Elliot Loudermilk. Fired on Christmas Eve, sells blood for booze money (and the booze gets stolen by the Ghost of Christmas Past), gets robbed as he passes out in an alley, and ends up assaulting Frank with a shotgun in the finale. Also The Woobie.
    • The Standards and Practices lady gets hit by a lamppost, run over by a barrel and crushed by a set.
    • Frank, when dealing with the Ghost of Christmas Present. Oh, the amount of abuse he takes.
  • Cheek Copy: The modern update of Fezziwig's Christmas celebration is a wild office party, which includes a woman photocopying her butt and handing out copies to her coworkers.
  • Chewing the Scenery: Frank Cross, to hilarious effect.
    Frank: (thinks he sees a ghost) AH-HAAAAAAAAAAAAAaaaaaaa!
    • There aren't many movies in which John Glover isn't the one giving the hammiest performance, but Scrooged is one of them.
  • Closing Credits Cast Party
  • Creepy Children Singing: Danny Elfman's score features a children's choir; YMMV on whether or not it's "creepy," but it certainly isn't a nice, cheery, uplifting score.
  • Cute Bruiser: The second ghost.
    Ghost of Christmas Present: Oh! What's's a TOASTER! *SMACK*
  • Cute Mute: Calvin (see Dumb Struck, below), who finds his voice near the end to remind the reformed Cross to say, "God bless us, every one."
  • Darker and Edgier: Frank wants to replace the Christmas Carol ad campaign with one that features drug addiction, terrorist attacks, and the threat of nuclear war.
    • The film itself plays up the Black Comedy possibilities of the story compared to most adaptations. In this version, "Marley" drops Frank off a building, a homeless guy freezes to death, the Ghost of Christmas Future has shrieking demons inside his ribcage, Frank witnesses his love interest become as cynical and miserable as he did, experiences his own cremation instead of merely seeing his grave, and the story caps off with an employee chasing Frank with a shotgun only to be recruited into taking hostages so Frank can deliver a message of holiday cheer. A Charlie Brown Christmas this ain't.
  • Defrosting Ice King: Frank, of course.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: Frank's mother is seen smoking while pregnant with James, something common in the 1950's. By 1988, this was seen as a tremendous health hazard for mother and baby so this is an example where both audiences at the time and today would be shocked to see this behavior.
  • Department of Redundancy Department: When Frank tells Grace, "If you can't work late, I can't work late! If I can't work late, I CAN'T WORK LATE!"
  • Deranged Taxi Driver: the Ghost Of Christmas Past takes the form of a sinister, cackling cabbie who drives like he's in a demolition derby.
  • Did You Just Flip Off Cthulhu?: Upon meeting what he thinks is the real Ghost of Christmas Future in the elevator, Frank Cross goads him into doing his worst by calling him a "pussy", only to realize that it was just the actor in the televised production dressed up as the Ghost of Christmas Future.
  • Double Standard: Abuse, Female on Male: The Ghost of Christmas Present. Yikes.
  • Double Standard: Rape, Female on Male: Played for laughs near the end, when the Standards and Practices woman pounces on a tied up Bryce Cummings and kisses him. It's not rape, but it's definitely assault.
  • The Driver / Drives Like Crazy: The first Ghost.
    Claire Phillips: Taxi! Can you get me to the IBC building in three minutes?
    Ghost of Christmas Past: Which floor?
  • Drowning My Sorrows: Elliot tries to do this after losing his job, but a Roadside Wave wets the paper bag holding his booze and causes it to fall out. He tries again later, only for the Ghost of Christmas Past to drive by and steal his booze.
  • Drunk Rolling: Subverted with Eliott Laudermilk. After getting fired by Frank Cross, Elliott spends the night and most of the next day boozing; however, he doesn't get rolled until he passes out from donating blood for money; a homeless guy helps himself to Eliott's cash (and also his coat).
  • Dumb Struck: Calvin hasn't spoken a word since witnessing his father's murder five years earlier.
  • Dying Smirk: Frank finds Herman's corpse, apparently having frozen to death, still with the same content friendly grin on his face.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: The movie definitely makes the audience work for their holiday schmaltz, but after all the fear, regret, and angst Frank went through in the movie, he gets back together with Claire, Calvin speaks again, Loudermilk gets a better job, everyone seems happier, and even Herman is now a happy ghost.
  • Even Bad Men Love Their Mamas: Cross is driven to tears when he sees his mother in a vision of one of his first Christmases. The Ghost of Christmas Past had earlier mentioned even "Attila the Hun cried" when he saw his own mother.
    Ghost of Christmas Past: Niagara Falls, "Frankie Angel."
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: Frank genuinely does love his brother James. He's the only person aside from Claire that he isn't a flat-out jerk to. Nevertheless he keeps his brother at arm's length.
    • You can also see Frank's face literally light up when he sees Claire in person for the first time in years.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Frank is an incredibly self-centered man, but as the film progresses, has several instances of him showing a heart even prior to his epiphany. Prior to meeting the Ghost of Christmas Past, he dumps water on a waiter, thinking he was on fire. Afterwards, he makes some friends with the homeless people at Claire's Operation Reachout branch, even pretending to be Richard Burton in Hamlet for them. Lastly after seeing the Ghost of Christmas Present, he was devastated to find that one of the homeless men he met froze to death in the sewer he landed in. He even berates the guy for not staying at Operation Reachout:
    Frank Cross: You moron! You JERK! Why didn't you stay at Claire's? Why didn't you stay with Claire!? She would have taken care of you! You would've eaten! You would've been warm! You might be alive! YOU'D BE A PRETTIER COLOR, I'LL TELL YA THAT!!
    • He also misguidedly attempts to save his secretary Grace from the Ghost Christmas Future, not realising it's the version put together for his production, and prior to this, clearly cares when he finds out that Calvin is mute, asking if he'll be okay and more displaying a lack of awareness for the people around him and their problems; He didn't even know, for instance, that his secretary's husband had died. When confronted with Calvin's future thanks to his inaction and keeping his mother at work, he immediately regrets it and starts to throw out solutions desperately.
      • When he sees a future version of Claire, where she's colder and more heartless than Frank ever was, he realizes it's his fault and immediately apologizes following the revelation that it's his advice that did this.
      • The line spoken by Frank immediately after this scene to the Ghost of Christmas Future shows just how badly the vision rattled him.
    Frank Cross: (coldly)That was a lousy... thing... to do.
  • Executive Meddling: In-Universe. Frank's boss bumps into him in the hallway, and orders him to put mice and/or squirrels in his production of A Christmas Carol to appeal to cats, thinking that pet-oriented shows will be the Next Big Thing.
  • Expy
    • Ebenezer Scrooge - Frank Cross
    • Tiny Tim - Calvin Cooley
    • Bob Cratchit - Grace Cooley, being that she's Calvin's mother and Frank's personal assistant.
    • Fred (Scrooge's only nephew) - James (Frank's only brother)
    • Fred's wife - Wendie (James's skeptical wife)
    • Jacob Marley - Lew Hayward
      • Lew also does double duty as Fezziwig: he may have been a workaholic, but he threw bitchin' Christmas parties.
    • Belle (Scrooge's former fiancée) - Claire
  • Family-Unfriendly Death: A lot, though the crowning example has to be Frank's vision of his own funeral by cremation - from inside the coffin.
  • Flipping the Bird: Frank does this to the old woman after stealing a ride from her.
  • Foreshadowing: Elliot tries to warn Frank that viewers would be too frightened of the new, gritty promo he wants played for the live broadcast of Scrooge. He later turns out to have been correct when it's revealed that the promo scared one old woman so badly it caused her to have a heart attack.
  • Gatling Good: Lee Majors wields a minigun in The Night the Reindeer Died.
  • Genre Blindness: Played with. In producing a version of A Christmas Carol, Frank is familiar with some beats of the story - looking somewhat glib when Lew's ghost tells him he's going to be visited by three ghosts; he calls out the Ghost of Christmas Past, advising he knows the deal, and also recognises the Ghost of Christmas Future immediately (even if it's not the real deal). By the point he actively meets the Ghost of Christmas Future however, Frank is so rattled by what's going on that any familiarity with the story would be meaningless, particularly when the powers that be actively go one step further than showing him his own grave.
  • Ghost Reunion Ending: At the end, the ghost of the dead homeless guy appears on screen with the other Christmas ghosts.
  • Going Postal: Played for Laughs with Elliot, who loses his job, gets divorced from his wife, and then tries to kill Frank with a shotgun.
  • The Grinch: Frank.
  • Groin Attack: "The Ballbreaker Suite", indeed.
  • Heel–Face Turn: Frank, of course.
  • Hellevator: Frank meets the Ghost of Christmas Future here. At the bottom is the funeral noted up in Family-Unfriendly Death.
  • Hilariously Abusive Childhood: We see a typical Christmas present Frank got as a child from his father: A five-pound lump of meat. And when Frank says he wanted a train, his father yells at him to get a job. Frank was four.
  • Honest Advisor: Frank fires and humiliates Elliot for attempting to be this, giving honest and concerned negative feedback to his ridiculous ad campaign among Frank's other sniveling yes men. Heartwarmingly, at the end of the movie when he offers to give Elliot his office, Elliot replies that he doesn't like his office yet now Frank loves the fact that Elliot disagrees with him.
  • Humanoid Abomination: The Ghost of Christmas Future gives off this vibe. For one, it has a TV for a head that is constantly flickering. And inside its robes is what seems to be Hell itself.
  • I Need a Freaking Drink: After being visited by the Ghosts of Christmas Past and Present, Frank makes himself a vodka and Tab that has a few drops of Tab.
  • Improv: Half of Frank's lines; the entire closing sequence.
    • A common one for Bill Murray as he's known to ad-lib and improvise a great deal in most of his movies.
  • Invisible Holes: Frank's old boss, Lew Hayward, caused by Frank repeatedly shooting his reanimated (and decayed) corpse. Lew didn't mind though, at least not until Frank shot the drink Lew was pouring himself.
    Lew Hayward: I don't mind you shooting at me, Frank, but take it easy on the Bacardi!
  • Jerkass: No kidding. One notable instance of this follows the above-mentioned cab scene; Frank takes the cab to the Humanitarian Of the Year Awards, and after accepting said award ("I'm always going to cherish this....and all of you"), very pointedly leaves it in the cab afterward. This is because he'd already tested the statuette with his thumbnail and determined it was worthless.
  • Jerk-to-Nice-Guy Plot: Frank is a selfish, sleazy and greedy television executive. He's put through a series of ghostly encounters that teach him the error of his ways and becomes generous, honest and loving.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Frank becomes this once his background becomes clear; he causes a lot of his own problems, but his self-centered nature makes a heck of a lot of sense.
  • Kick the Dog: Pretty much the entire beginning of the movie as we follow Frank Cross through a typical day of wanton cruelty. Plus Christmas promo spots featuring atomic bombs.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: What with Scrooged being based on A Christmas Carol, IBC's live presentation of Scrooge runs roughly parallel to Frank's journey,
  • Meaningful Echo: "Scrape 'em off, Claire. If you want save somebody, save yourself."
  • Meaningful Name: Lampshaded.
    Poster in Frank's Office: "Cross: (n) a thing they nail people to."
  • Meet Cute: Gave rise to Frank's nickname, "Lumpy."
    • Also an unusual case where one of the parties involved gets to watch themselves meet.
    Ghost of Christmas Past: (Chuckling) Cupid's Arrow right between the eyes
  • Mood Whiplash:
    • A very subtle one when Frank sees himself and Claire in 1969, seeing them as a happy couple, Frank is smiling warmly at the memory, then the smile slowly turns into a wistful frown....knowing those good times didn't last.
    • A gag with Christmas Present whacking Frank right in the face with toaster immediately transitions into Frank falling beneath a sewer and somberly discovering that Herman has frozen to death.
  • Moral Guardians: The Standards and Practices lady. She gets into ahem the spirit a little too much upon seeing Bryce Cummings tied up with garland.
  • Mouthscreen: We get a closeup of Brice's mouth.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Frank regrets telling Claire that she needs to think of herself instead of others when he sees her future self shrug off needy children.
  • Neck Lift: Frank Cross's ghostly previous boss Lew Hayward does this to him before pushing him through a building window and letting him fall.
  • Nipple and Dimed: Played With, near the beginning of the movie, the censor gets angry at the costumes of the Show Within a Show dancers, saying that "you can see her nipples." The viewer actually gets a free look at the costume in question, and although the nipples themselves aren't visible, part of the areolas are.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Frank is, at least allegedly, partially based on Citytv/MuchMusic creator Moses Znaimer.
  • No Social Skills: Watching Frank, it becomes apparent that he's not just anti-social, he's almost incapable of normal interactions with other human beings. On the job he coasts by on acting (such as making a generic schmaltzy award acceptance speech) and executive arrogance, but he's got no idea how to interact with real people. Part of his abrasiveness seems to come from a genuine ignorance of other people's emotions, such as his failure to realize Grace's husband was dead despite the fact she spent a year wearing black in mourning, or casually insulting Claire's coworkers and then being baffled and hurt when she's upset. Spending fifteen years with only television for a touchstone with humanity didn't do his social skills any favors.
  • Not My Driver: The Ghost of Christmas Past is a borderline psychotic taxi driver.
  • Our Ghosts Are Different
  • Pointy-Haired Boss: Frank's boss Preston Reinlander is apparently this. Trapping Frank into an inane conversation about why there should be more animals on TV to attract household pets as viewers.
    Frank:(weary) If only I had the power to fire that poor son of a bitch.
  • Poke the Poodle: Most of what Frank does outside of canning Elliot, but especially:
    Stagehand: I can't get the antlers glued on to this little guy. We've tried crazy glue but it don't work.
    Frank: Have you tried staples?
    Stagehand: Staples!?
    • For some reason, Claire starts bitching out the stagehand even though he's just as horrified by the idea.
    • There's also a moment when his boss kicks his own cat.
  • Roadside Wave: Elliot Loudermilk gets an impromptu bath, which simultaneously ruins the liquor he was hoping to drown his sorrows in.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: Elliot Loudermilk's M.O. on Frank just before the visit with the Ghost of Christmas Future. One epiphany later, Frank joins him in derailing the live show going on downstairs.
  • Running Gag: The lady from the FCC accumulates several Amusing Injuries, each time screaming "OH SHIT!" before it hits her
  • Setting Update: The movie takes place in 1988.
  • Shout-Out: Murray shouts out "Feed me, Seymour!"'' in the Closing Credits Cast Party, to encourage the audience to respond to his hilariously over-the-top ad-libbing.
    • The Ghost Of Christmas Present describes Grace's son's inability to speak as a result of seeing his father killed, and that he "Drifted away, like Sleeping Beauty." Carol Kane played one of the good fairies in the Faerie Tale Theatre rendition of Sleeping Beauty, so this is also an Actor Allusion.
    • Kama Sutra is invoked with Claire's 1969 Christmas present to Frank, who promptly leafs through the pages and declares they've done each position he observes.
  • Show Within a Show: A TV production of A Christmas Carol is going on while Murray is meeting the ghosts.
  • Smug Snake: Bryce Cummings, the slimy West-Coast producer called in to "assist" (read: take over from) Frank.
  • Spared by the Adaptation:
    • In a rather roundabout way, the in-universe Expy of Tiny Tim (Grace's son, Calvin) doesn't end up dead during the Ghost of Christmas Future's visions, instead he ends up locked away in a mental institution.
    • There's James who is Frank's brother and the expy of Mary, sister of Scrooge, and who is alive while in the book she's been long dead.
  • Stealth Pun: When Frank is hallucinating prior to the arrival of the first ghost, he freaks out at the sight of his drink. Specifically, because there is an eyeball in his highball.
  • Take That!: One that plays even better nowadays than it did at the time, when Frank finds himself in a dark, disgusting, subterranean dungeon:
    Frank: Where are we now, Trump Tower?
  • There Are No Good Executives: Natch. Frank is a greedy bastard who fired an employee for standing up to him based of the depravity over a proposed Scrooge promo and bases his gifts to colleagues based off of how ratings for programs were. His superiors Heyward and Reinlanders are even worse (and basically helped to groom him into the Corrupt Corporate Executive he is today) and Bryce Cummings is set to be Frank's replacement and is just as much of a bastard that he is. Although Heyward, in death, learned the error of his ways and tried to warn Frank and the others are either seen or implied to have changed for the better by the end of the film.
  • Thong of Shielding: The dancers' costumes have thumb-width seats. The FCC censor was more upset about one of them having a nail-clipping worth of areola visible waaaay up close than these.
  • Toilet Seat Divorce: What we see of Frank and Claire's original split comes off like this. While presumably there were problems before that, we go right from seeing them both quite happy, to her dumping him because the President of the network invited them both to dinner (something that could massively advance his career) and it would have meant canceling a dinner with friends.
    • Except even there, Frank is shown to be really rather selfish and egocentric. Granted, it's a big opportunity for him, but the way he talks down to her over something they've had planned for months, apparently, is rather blatant foreshadowing that he no longer really sees the point of Christmas and is more interested in what television can do for him.
      • It's also debatable whether Claire really intended to end the relationship. She proposes "taking a break", which could be an attempt to let him down gently, or she could have been sincere. The latter option is plausible because she just about drops everything to come see Frank after he calls her, despite it being well over a decade since they spoke. Even when Frank comes to her shelter, demands her to go with him, and insults her fellow volunteers for no real reason, Claire doesn't tell him to take a hike; she implores him to give her just a little time to finish working. Frank leaves in a huff. Maybe the reason they spent so long separated was because Frank just never bothered reaching out to her again after the Frisbee fiasco.
    • A better example is Elliot, who's wife leaves him almost immediately after he's fired.
  • Tranquil Fury: Frank, after hearing future Claire's Meaningful Echo of his own words. Uniquely, the rage is directed fully inward at himself, and all he can manage is a broken, whispered apology for turning her into someone just as cold and heartless as he is.
  • Turn the Other Cheek: Claire.
  • 20 Minutes into the Future: The Ghost of Christmas Future scenes.
  • Unfortunate Name: Grace's last name is Cooley.
  • Unnecessary Time Precision: When Frank leaves a message for Claire.
    Frank Cross: "I know it's been... *checks watch* ...15 years since we've talked but..."
  • Used to Be a Sweet Kid: What we see of the 4-year-old Frank. He just wants a "choo-choo" and wishes his (clearly long-suffering) mom a merry Christmas.
    • Even the Ghost of Christmas Past, who's given Frank nothing but shit up to then, sadly shakes his head in sympathy for how his Father treated him.
  • Verbed Title
  • WTH, Casting Agency?: In-universe, Frank's production of Dickens's classic features Buddy Hackett as Ebenezer Scrooge and Olympic gymnast Mary Lou Retton as Tiny Tim. The latter is justified as Tiny Tim would cast off his crutches and perform a whole routine at the end of the story.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: The Ghost of Christmas Past calls out Frank for choosing his cutesy children's show over the love of his life.
    Ghost: You left Claire for Frisbee The Dog?
  • Whispered Threat: while Frank anticipates The Ghost of Christmas Future, he encounters an actor playing the Ghost of Christmas Future for his channel's production of Scrooge. He assumes that it's him and he breaks down and screams until it devolves into a whisper, "You think I'm afraid of you, after the day I've had?! I know what you're here for! Come and get it, you pussy!"
  • Wide-Eyed Idealist: Again, Claire.
  • Workaholic: Much like the original Scrooge, Frank sees himself as a young man laboring through Christmas while trying to ignore a roaring office party.
  • Yet Another Christmas Carol: Both the movie AND the Show Within a Show.


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