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Thursday, 13 January 2022

Hello and welcome back to the Hot List. This week we will turn our attention to the videogame industry, previewing for you loyal readers the most exciting videogames set for release in 2022.

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If 2021 will be remembered for something in gaming, it is the release of the Playstation 5... even though it actually came out in 2020. Yes, unfortunately the global chip shortage continues to wreak havoc, leading to skyrocketing prices on even second hand hardware. There are signs that governments are beginning to take steps to alleviate the crisis, but we shall have to wait and see. Otherwise it has mainly been a year of slowly regaining normalcy, with pandemic-related delays easing up and most industry events returning in at least some, mostly still remote, form. 

One area that has thrived this year is the indie game scene, as well as published games from new developers, new voices. An abundance of good development, funding and delivery resources, as well as a thriving market for escapism, means that there has rarely been a better time to get into the industry for those so inclined, and 2021 saw a remarkable slew of high quality games from unexpected sources. I am excited to see what new feats of creativity and design 2022 has to offer in this increasingly democratised space.

So here it is, the 15 key videogames to keep an eye on in the coming year (trailers linked in the title where available), starting with number 15:

15. Homeworld 3 (PC)

homeworld 3 best games 2022 pcThe original Homeworld was an extraordinarily hyped title back when it launched in the late 1990s. A massive, bombastic space opera with cutting edge graphics and presentation, not to mention pioneering 3D gameplay unlike anything other developers were putting out at the time. 

While critically acclaimed at the time, the series pretty much vanished after 2003's Homeworld 2, due in part to the IP kerfuffle in the wake of original publisher Sierra's collapse. Homeworld went on to form something of a legendary cult status and has seen a revival in recent years with a prequel spin-off and remastered versions of the original games finding release. The announcement, finally, of Homeworld 3 may have been somewhat inevitable in retrospect, but still a very welcome surprise. 

Little is known so far, but it can be presumed that Homeworld 3 will follow its predecessors in gameplay and style. This has been tentatively pencilled in for a Q4 2022 release.

Release Date: Q4 2022

14. Hogwarts Legacy (PC, Xbox, Playstation)

hogwarts legacy harry potter best game 2022When Hogwarts Legacy first leaked a few years back, it created about as much of a stir as one would expect. A massive open world RPG based on the Harry Potter franchise is the stuff of many gamers' dreams, not to mention the closest thing to a money-printer you can find in the entertainment industry.

Following its official reveal at the end of 2020, we have learned a few more things about this title. Players will control a student at Hogwarts in the 1800s, attend classes, explore the environs, and presumably embark on some grand adventure. The game looks to be extremely customisable, with players able to design their character in quite specific detail, choose their House and wizarding proficiencies.

I predict this will be a big deal when it releases, barring some unprecedented botching. We do not yet have a release date, but it has been said to be due during 2022.

Release Date: TBA 2022

13. Oxenfree II: Lost Signals (PC, Mac, Xbox, Playstation, Switch)

oxenfree 2 II lost signals netflix 2022 best gameThe first game was an acclaimed indie darling, a surprise hit that delighted with its smart design and accomplished writing. The sequel, Oxenfree II: Lost Signals comes with rather more auspicious trappings; the weight of expectation from its forebear and the status of being the first major acquisition in Netflix's new push into interactive media.

But that new expectation is also driving greater ambition. Oxenfree II is bigger than its predecessor, more open ended, more personalised. The aesthetic and tone may be familiar for fans of the developer, but it is clear that with this next release they are trying to mix things up a bit in surprising ways.

While an official release date has not yet been provided, it has been confirmed to be out in 2022, and leaked data suggests February.

Release Date: February 2022

12. Harold Halibut (PC)

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Taking inspiration from the likes of Wes Anderson and Aardman Animations,
Harold Halibut is the culmination of ten years' painstaking work in perfecting a unique and, frankly, stunning hand-made claymation art-style. The result is one of the most striking games in recent memory, which from early appearances seems to have the humour and narrative flair to match. 

Looking past the aesthetic flair, one finds a fairly traditional point-and-click adventure game in the style of Monkey Island, Sam and Max, or for more recent gamers the various output of Telltale Games. Set on a marooned space ship some 250 years in the future, players must help unravel the mysteries of their new home and find a way to return their ship on course before time runs out.

Harold Halibut is currently due for release in 2022. The only reason it isn't higher up this list is my skepticism that it will actually manage to meet this target.

Release Date: TBA 2022

11. Star Trek: Resurgence (PC, Xbox, Playstation)

star trek resurgence telltale best game 2022 pc xbox ps4 ps5And speaking of Telltale Games (I think I mentioned them above. If I have since deleted this reference then please disregard), we have Star Trek: Resurgence.

So this isn't actually a Telltale Game, but the debut project of a team of 20+ former Telltale developers cast adrift by the company's recent turmoil. A third person adventure game crafted very much in the mold of a Telltale game, with dialogue driven point-and-click adventure gameplay familiar to fans of the genre.

It's also a Star Trek game, which is frankly a rarity these days and a surprising treat for fans of the series. If the team can craft a solid narrative in this universe, drawing on the thought-provoking sci-fi and optimistic, character-driven adventuring of classic Trek, then that will make it one of the potential standouts of 2022.

Release Date: TBA 2022

10. Stray (PC, Playstation)

stray best pc ps5 playstation game 2022 cat kittyIn Stray, you play a cat, and you do cat things. What's not to like? More specifically, Stray is a gorgeous platformer set in an open world that is dripping with personality. The gameplay is focused on exploration and puzzle solving with the help of your drone buddy as you try to uncover the mysteries of this world and return home.

This is the latest title from Annapurna, who in recent years have established themselves as one of the most consistent marks of quality in the gaming industry, with excellent releases such as What Remains of Edith Finch and The Artful Escape.

Stray is set to launch towards the end of 2022 on PC and Playstation.

Release Date: Q4 2022

9. Victoria 3 (PC, Mac)

victoria 3 iii paradox grand strategy europa universalis crusader kings best game 2022Grand strategy is a blossoming genre in gaming, and Paradox Interactive are the undisputed kings of that genre. Victoria 3 is the Swedish developer's latest in the Victoria series, a strategy game focused on the 1836 - 1936 period that saw the advent of colonialism and the rapid escalation between global empires that gave rise to the wars of the 20th Century.

The Victoria series is somewhat unique among strategy titles in that is blends traditional strategy gameplay with more political elements. Nation management involves deft handling of demographics and class strata, with minutely detailed pops each with their own needs and wants. As befits the era, international competition depends as much on alliances and influence as brute strength.

Release date is TBA but rumoured to be early 2022, perhaps as soon as the end of February.

Release Date: February 2022

8. Nivalis (PC)

nivalis cloudpunk lifesim best game 2022 pcIon Lands' debut title Cloudpunk placed them as one of the new darlings in indie gaming. But while the cyberpunk taxi simulator was blessed with smooth driving mechanics and surprisingly capable storytelling, what really elevated tie game to prominence was its world, a stunning voxel cyberpunk dystopia oozing with atmosphere. Follow up project Nivalis builds on that strength. A slice of life sim set in that wonderful setting.

Precisely what that means is still shrouded in mystery, but we do know that Nivalis will feature business management, social simulation and home decorating. Like a cyberpunk version of Stardew Valley, with more life-sim features. dexter new. Whatever they come up with, I could not be more excited about returning to this world.

Release date is still very much TBA, but the suggestion is that Nivalis has been in production since before Cloudpunk launched, and could be due for a surprise release before the end of 2022.

Release Date: TBA 2022

7. Fermi Paradox (PC)

fermi paradox indie best game 2022A 4X game the likes of which you have never seen, Fermi Paradox is one of the most exciting indie titles I have seen in some time. While it would be easy, from a glance at the game's star-map, to draw comparisons with the likes of Stellaris and Master of Orion, this is something else entirely. 

An exploration of the paradox between the age of the universe and the lack of life we see elsewhere, this game is very much about the hard science. A choice-driven narrative strategy game in which players guide a number of different species across the galaxy through their evolution, from primordial stew to the space age and beyond. Each choice you make (as well as the decisions and actions of each species) can potentially doom their civilisation, or lead them to colonise the far reaches of space. All the while you are constrained by the harsh realities of physics, providing a surprisingly excellent illustration of the difficulty in exploring and understanding the universe. 

This is one of the smartest strategy concepts I think I've ever seen. Currently in early access, Fermi Paradox is expected to see full release towards the end of 2022. 

Release Date: Q3 2022

6. Triangle Strategy (Switch)

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It may have the worst name for a videogame since "Returnal", but Triangle Strategy is shaping up to be a very exciting prospect. This is the newest project from the Square Enix team behind Octopath Traveler. The 2018 JRPG was highly praised for its modern twist on retro aesthetic and its character-driven storytelling that hearkened back to the glory days of genre classics like Final Fantasy and Chrono Trigger. 

Triangle Strategy, by contrast, takes its inspiration from the like of Fire Emblem and the Final Fantasy Tactics series and the subgenre of tactical strategy that those games exemplify. That genre, combined with Octopath's graphical style and storytelling, is a home run if ever I saw one.

Triangle Strategy will launch in March.

Release Date: March 2022

5. Bomb Rush Cyberfunk (PC)

bomb rush cyberfunk jet set radio hideki naganuma best game pc 2022I'm a 90s kid. That means I inherently love Sega. But Sega are an objectively bad company. How else can you explain why a company that always appears to be on the verge of collapse is allowing an astonishing catalogue of classic intellectual properties and franchises (arguably matched only by Nintendo in depth) to just collect dust in a warehouse somewhere? Chief among these is the great Jet Set Radio series of games. Frustrated by their intransigence, a group of indie devs (and apparent fans of the series) have taken matters into their own hands by crafting their own spiritual successor to the long dormant franchise. The result is Bomb Rush Cyberfunk.

Fans of Jet Set Radio will find much of what they love here. Bright, cell-shaded visuals, the funky musical stylings of the brilliant Hideki Naganuma, and the same mesmerising neo-futuristic urban setting. Featuring a colourful cast of characters, you will skate around a dizzying cityscape full of gangs, graffiti and rebel-spirit. So far it looks great.

Release is confirmed to be sometime during 2022. Can this indie team succeed where larger studios have failed and emulate the success of this classic title? We shall see.

Release Date: TBA 2022

4. Kerbal Space Program 2 (PC, Xbox, Playstation)

kerbal space program 2 jebediah best game 2022The original game remains one of the greatest gaming surprises of recent years. Created by one amateur coder during his lunch break, the concept was fairly simple: build rockets and try to launch them into space under realistic physics and orbital mechanics. The deceptively deep toybox-like design tools proved such good fun that you could sink hours into just getting that one perfect spacecraft into orbit before even realising you had other planets to visit. Now a full team of professional designers are bringing a full-blooded sequel, Kerbal Space Program 2.

The goal of this sequel appears to be to take the successful foundations of the original and just build on it. More parts, colony building, multiple star systems. It's the type of feature list that fans and modders have been dreaming about, but the key will be to get the basics right. The physics system has to feel as solid as the original, the building tools need to be as intuitive. It won't be enough to just slap a coat of Kerbilish paint on a pale imitation.

Originally revealed back at the end of 2019 with an expected 2020 release date, it has to be a concern that we have seen so little since then. The team has evidently been hit bad by the pandemic, but two years' worth of delays appear to finally be on the verge of bearing fruit. The recently returned series of dev diaries doing much to allay fans' fears. KSP2 is now set for a 2022 release.

Release Date: TBA 2022

3. Haunted Chocolatier (PC)

haunted chocolatier stardew valley best game pc 2022The story of how Eric Barone (aka ConcernedApe) made Stardew Valley has become the stuff of legend in the gaming industry. Newly graduated and unemployed, Barone decided to create his own game, based on a niche and mostly forgotten genre. Over four years, he did just about everything himself. He did the coding, the artwork, the music. To say that people were skeptical of his life choices would be an understatement, but Stardew Valley went on to sell tens of millions of copies and become one of the decade's most celebrated releases.

After Stardew, Barone could have gone anywhere and done anything, but he has chosen to stay true to his roots and take on another niche solo project of questionable marketability, and it looks amazing. Haunted Chocolatier is the new project, and unlike Stardew it has no clear genre parallels or influences. This is something entirely original. Players take on the role of a haunted chocolatier, living in a haunted castle and running a chocolate shop staffed by adorable little ghosts. The concept is fascinating and original, but let's remember that Stardew didn't succeed simply on the basis of its gameplay, but on the quality of its world and characters. This will be the magic dust that HC needs if it is to achieve similar success.

Haunted Chocolatier currently has a strict TBA release date and I wouldn't be surprised if it slips until next year, but it just looks too great not to mention.

Release Date: TBA 2022

2. Starfield (PC, Xbox, Playstation)

starfield bethesda fallout best game 2022 pc xbox ps4 ps5For many, this is the biggest game coming in 2022. Starfield promises a grand space opera in the style of a Mass Effect or Star Wars, with open-world exploration built around the same concepts as Bethesda's tried and tested Fallout and The Elder Scrolls series, only set over a series of star systems and multiple worlds. 

Bethesda games often get a lot of flack, sometimes deservedly, but their track record speaks for itself and includes some of the most celebrated titles of the past 20 years. Engrossing world-building and lore, moddable to an unprecedented extent. Open world RPGs are incredibly complex beasts and few developers have ever managed to create such immersive and flexible examples as Bethesda. While there may be valid criticisms over some of their recent decisions and business practices, they truly are one of the grand masters of the genre.

It is also notable that Starfield comes in the wake of 2019's The Outer Worlds, a similarly spacefaring RPG created by rivals and original Fallout creators Obsidian. That title met with moderate initial success, and it will be interesting to see how a competing effort from the current Fallout stewards compares.

After many years of speculation and delay, we do finally have a release date. Starfield is due out in November this year.

Release Date: November 2022

1. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild 2 (Switch)

legend of zelda breath of the wild 2 sequel switch best game ever 2022But as hyped as I am for a new Bethesda RPG, there are few things in any part of the entertainment industry that catch the spotlight as much as a new entry in Nintendo's fabled The Legend of Zelda series.

How do you follow up a game that is often considered to be one of the greatest ever made? That is the question Nintendo will be asking now as they craft The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild 2 (presumably a working title). In fairness, it is a position in which they have found themselves before in following up the Ocarina of Time. The result on that occasion was Majora's Mask, a game considered by many to be even better than its predecessor. So no pressure then.

We know precious little about this game. BotW2 will apparently make use of the same open world as its predecessor, with some added verticality judging by the most recent trailer, and will feature some form of time manipulation. Otherwise all we have to go on is speculation. One of the major boons in Majora's Mask's development was the fact that the engine and assets were already there, which meant that the developers could use their time more for adding finesse and character. If they pull the same trick this time around then we could be in for something special.

Release Date: TBA 2022

So there you have it folks: 2022 in videogames. Tune in next week for the most exciting new novels and literature coming this year!

Friday, 7 January 2022

Happy New Year to all and welcome back to The Ephemeric. I hope you are all well rested and well fatted from your holidays, but now 2022 is upon us it's time to get down to business. A new year can only mean one thing, it's time to break out The Hot List and see what's coming up next.

So here it is, your ultimate guide to the year ahead, The Ephemeric's 2022 Hot List. In this first entry we will be looking at the most exciting things happening in the world of television over the next 12 months, with a particular eye cast over the brand new shows hitting your screens in 2022.

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In 2021 the TV industry demonstrated the full impact of the ongoing pandemic. Several shows have been delayed, some (Stranger Things, The Boys, Marvelous Mrs. Maisel) by as much as two years, and others potentially even longer (Russian Doll). Others (Glow) were even less fortunate, their return eventually canned entirely in the face of recurring delays and their associated costs. It is impressive that despite these setbacks, the television pipeline in general has continued to deliver such volume and quality. We now have more streaming networks than months in the year and each one of them spending the GDP of a small nation in order to craft enough original content to gain a leg up on their competitors. 

2022, again, looks to be a year overstuffed with exciting television, both new and returning series. Many  on this list have been delayed from one or both of 2020/2021, while others are only recently announced. Whether your taste is quirky comedies, historic dramas, thought-provoking sci-fi or horror, 2022 really is going to have something for you. Whether it is really sustainable to continue such a vast array of separate streaming platforms, with billions spent on production, is very much up for debate. But for the time being, we can all enjoy the astonishing array of content that ensues.

So without further ado here are the top 15 essential television shows, both new and returning, that will hit the airwaves and their web-equivalent in 2022:

15. The First Lady - Showtime (New TV Show)

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Described as America's version of The Crown, Showtime's new anthology series The First Lady dramatises some of the most powerful women in America's history. 

Each episode will cover the story of a different First Lady, with Michelle Obama, Betty Ford and Eleanor Roosevelt revealed so far, to be portrayed by an all-star cast that includes Viola Davis, Michelle Pfeiffer and Gillian Anderson. The impressive array of talent is not limited to the cast either with each episode set to be helmed by an A-list director, starting with award winning director Susanne Bier.

Production began in earnest back at the start of 2021 and despite a pandemic-related delay, we are now expecting to see this debut early this year.

Start Date: Spring 2022

14. Inside Man - Netflix/BBC (New TV Show)

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BBC/Netflix joint production Inside Man is the latest from the Emmy award winning gold-weaver Steven Moffat, best known for his work on Doctor Who and Sherlock

This highly mysterious project is said to be a thriller focused on a patient waiting on death row in the US, who crosses path with a vicar from a quiet English town for the most unexpected reasons. Top tier talents David Tennant and Stanley Tucci are set to star.

Filming began in the summer of 2021 and is said to have concluded late last year. We do not know precisely when it will release, but the BBC's own press release appears to confirm that it will be out sometime in 2022. 

Start Date: TBA 2022

13. The Boys - Amazon 

the boys amazon season 3 2022 most anticipated tvOne of Amazon's bigger successes in original TV content, The Boys is an adaptation of a little known comic book series satirising the superhero genre by imagining a world where the super-powered have become corrupted by greed and corporate interests. If the first season drew headlines for its violence and raunchiness, season two took the series to a more complex and highly polished level.

The main cast of Karl UrbanJack QuaidAntony Starr, and Erin Moriarty returns. It's anyone's guess where season three will go from a narrative perspective, although the second season's cliffhanger ending certainly provide a hint of what to expect. It has also been floated that this season will see a depiction of the "herogasm" plotline from the comic series, the name of which should give some clue as to what it entails.

Following numerous delays over the past two years, production is now said to be complete on this third season with an expected release date in June. 

Start Date: June 2022

12. Inventing Anna - Netflix (New TV Show)

inventing anna netflix tv show 2022 best most anticipatedEveryone loves a conman story, and in Netflix's new series Inventing Anna, they have got a good one in store. Inspired by real events, this is the story of Anna Sorokin, a Russian fraudster who, for years, had infiltrated some of the most exclusive social circles of New York posing as a German heiress.

This is the first production to come of the much ballyhooed new exclusive deal between Netflix and Shonda Rhimes, best known as the creative mind behind Grey's AnatomyHow to Get Away with Murder and Scandal. Dawn of an exciting new era? We shall see. Julia Garner stars, with a cast also featuring Anna ChlumskyKatie Lowes and Laverne Cox.

Another show hit by pandemic-related delays, having originally been set for release in 2021. Production is now complete and Netflix have pencilled in this series for release in February.

Start Date: February 2022

11. Station Eleven - HBO Max (New TV Show)

station eleven hbo max 2022 most anticipated tv showsSomewhat topical. Station Eleven is the adaptation of the 2014 Emily St. John Mandel novel of the same name, quite presciently depicting the aftermath of a flu pandemic that has brought the world to its knees. A little too close to home perhaps? Don't worry, this is supposed to be the uplifting and optimistic type of post-apocalypse. If anything it will come as reassuring.

Patrick Somerville is on as show-runner, best known for his work as writer on The BridgeThe Leftovers and Maniac. The cast will feature Mackenzie Davis, who you might recognise from Black MirrorThe Martian and Blade Runner 2049, alongside Himesh Patel, best known for his role in Eastenders and the Richard Curtis movie Yesterday.

After, you guessed it, delays, Station Eleven launched in the US at the end of December and will launch in the UK (on Sky) by end of January.

Start Date: January 2022

10. This is Going to Hurt - BBC (New TV Show)

adam kay this is going to hurt bbc amateur transplants london underground 2022 most anticipated tv showsThe name Adam Kay means a lot of different things to different people. To some, he is a former doctor and graduate of my alma mater Imperial College. To others of a certain age, he is one half of The Amateur Transplants, a musical comedy duo that brought us such classics as London Underground and The Drugs Song (Kay would probably rather we not remember some of his other, most disturbing songs like "Never let a Woman Drive" to the tune of the Sheila's Wheels jingle, and "Rohypnol" to the tune of Blondie's Maria).

But to most, he is the author of the medical memoir This is Going to Hurt, detailing some of the horror stories from Kay's time as a doctor. The best seller is now being adapted to TV by the BBC. If some of his material can be considered in bad taste, there is no denying that Adam Kay is a witty man. His writing is blistering, incisive, and hilarious, and if that translates well to the screen then this will be a very worthwhile series.

This is one of those series that has been kicking around on The Hot List for a few years, having been originally announced in 2019. After many delays and a whole lot of radio silence, this has now been tentatively pencilled in by the BBC for an early 2022 release date.

Start Date: TBA 2022

9. Pistol - FX (New TV Show)

pistol fx sex pistols danny boyle 2022 most anticipated tvThis should be a tasty one. Pistol is the biographical miniseries on 1970s punk rock band The Sex Pistols. Written by Craig Pearce, who is best known for his collaborations with Baz Luhrmann including The Moulin Rouge and The Great Gatsby, directed by the incomparable Danny Boyle.

There are a few recognisable actors in the supporting cast, such as Maisie Williams and Talulah Riley, but for the most part the principal roles are played by lesser known up and comers like Toby Wallace, a Venice Festival award winner in 2019 for Babyteeth, and Louis Patridge who you may recognise from the recent Netflix film Enola Holmes.

Filming took place over the summer of 2021 and a release is expected at some point later this year.

Start Date: TBA 2022

8. The Sandman - Netflix (New TV Show)

the sandman netflix gaiman 2022 most anticipated tvAnother notable coup for Netflix, this is the long-mooted adaptation of Neil Gaiman's graphic novel The Sandman. As with most Gaiman works, the plot is such that it would be difficult to describe it in any meaningful way with the amount of space I have available. Suffice it to say, this is going to be every bit as weird and wonderful as you would expect from the man who wrote CoralineStardustAmerican GodsGood Omens, among others.

The Sandman has endured something of a tortured production history, beginning life as a Goyer film that had been intended to star Joseph Gordon Levitt way back in 2013. That production ultimately stalled and eventually gave way to the new miniseries with which we have ended up. The cast is led by Tom SturridgeGwendoline Christie, and Boyd Holbrook, with an extended cast that features big names like Charles DanceDavid ThewlisStephen Fry, and Patton Oswalt among others.

Filming began at the tail end of 2020 and, following delays, stretched into the summer of 2021. A release date is currently unknown, but having been originally set for 2021 a 2022 release now appears likely.

Start Date: TBA 2022

7. The Midnight Club - Netflix (New TV Show)

midnight club mike flanagan netflix best tv show television 2022Netflix sure love Mike Flanagan, and after consistently delivering horror gold for the network with The Haunting of Hill House and Midnight Mass, why wouldn't they?

Considered by many to be a master of his genre, Flanagan's latest is an adaptation of the novel of the same name. A group of terminally ill young adults resides in a hospice run by an enigmatic doctor. They meet at midnight every night to tell each other scary stories. One night they make a pact that the first one to succumb to their disease is responsible for communicating with the others beyond the grave. After one of them dies, bizarre occurrences begin.

Production was completed in September last year. A firm release date has yet to be confirmed, but is expected to land sometime this summer.

Start Date: Summer 2022

6. The Orville - Hulu

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The Orville had a great first two seasons in 2017 and 2018, finally giving fans that proper spiritual sequel to Star Trek that they had so badly been craving. It's been a rough few years since then, however. A transfer from Fox to Hulu would have been difficult under any circumstances, let alone in the middle of a pandemic that ultimately delayed production further. Production did finally resume in 2021, and it is expected that we will finally see the third season this year.

Imaginative and timely with its moral-driven plotlines, Orville sees Seth MacFarlane move out of his comfort zone and into a less slapstick genre, one which showcases his talents as a writer. In an era when anything even vaguely sci-fi feels the need to be über grim-dark or full of over the top action, it's nice to see a series that's more about provoking thought than a visceral reaction.

If season 3 can maintain the consistency and quality of its storytelling, then we could have the makings of a very strong science fiction franchise here.

Start Date: March 2022

5. The Crown - Netflix

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The most prestigious of prestige dramas, Netflix's The Crown returns. Season 5 sees another jump in time to the 1990s and, presumably, a heavy focus on all things Charles and Diana.

A new decade also means a new cast taking the reins, with Imelda Staunton in the lead role, joined by Jonathan Pryce, Jonny Lee Miller, Dominic West and Lesley Manville. Originally set to be the final season in Peter Morgan's award winning series, Netflix have since ordered a sixth and, at the time of writing, final season. 

Production on season 5 is now complete and set for release in November.

Start Date: November 2022

4. The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel - Amazon

2022 most anticipated tv marvelous maisel amazonIt's finally back, and unlike every other show on this year's list it has had absolutely no delays... nah just kidding The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel has been punted like a football for two years in a row, leaving fans hanging after season 3's cliffhanger ending.

At its best, Maisel is one of the finest series on TV. A love letter to a bygone era of Golden Age New York, this tale of 1950s feminism is hilarious, with strong performances and impeccable production that evoke the mood of the period without feeling too much like a pastiche. 

After many delays, season 4 finally approaches with a release on Amazon Prime set for February of this year.

Start Date: February 2022

3. Stranger Things - Netflix 

stranger things best tv show television 2022 season 4And of course you can't have a Hot List without a new season of Stranger ThingsNetflix's mega hit remains one of the best things on television, and I know I'm not the only one who can't wait to see where season four takes us.

Little is known about the new season. The last season left us on something of an ambiguous note, with certain central characters potentially gone, and the ongoing status of Stranger Things' main villain left uncertain. And what of Eleven's sibling and the ambiguous fate of her "papa"?

While there are clear plot-threads to follow going forward, no one really knows what direction the Duffer Brothers will take this. Whatever the case, the strength of the writing and production thus far gives us no reason for concern, and we expect great things when this releases this summer.

Start Date: Summer 2022

2. Daisy Jones & The Six - Amazon (New TV Show)

2022 most anticipated tv amazon daisy jones six novel reece witherspoonThis is the adaptation of the Debbie Award winning novel Daisy Jones & The Six, a miniseries that has been in production basically ever since Taylor Jenkins Reid's novel first dropped. Snapped up by Reece Witherspoon's production company, the series was first pitched as potentially making its way to HBO, it has since ended up finding a home on Amazon.

This is of course story of the titular Daisy Jones and her fictionalised 1970s rock band, allegedly based loosely on the history of Fleetwood Mac. The novel was written in the format of a documentary film, but it is expected that the series will be a more traditional drama, albeit with an Office/Parks and Rec confessional mockumentary style.

The cast may be mostly unknown, but in its lead they have some bona fide musical credentials in Riley Keough, grandchild of none other than the king Elvis Presley himself. She is joined in the cast by Sam Claflin, who you might recognise from the recent Pirates of the Caribbean films. Release data is still TBA, but this is one of the most exciting series in production. We will watch its production closely.

Start Date: TBA 2022

1. Ted Lasso - AppleTV+

ted lasso season 3 apple appletv+ plus new most anticipated tv 2022One of television's great surprise hits, Ted Lasso has turned its forgettable origins into a masterstroke of feel-good comedy and taken its place as the flagship of Apple's nascent original programming division.

Great credit needs to go to showrunner Bill Lawrence and lead man Jason Sudeikis for helping to craft an unforgettable array of loveable characters, but what shone from season 2 was the increased ambition and ramped up drama that brought unexpected levels of depth without sacrificing everything that made its debut so enjoyable.

Season 3 will begin filming soon, with an expected release late this year. This is currently set to be the final season. Fingers crossed Apple convinces them to keep going, but if not then let's enjoy it while we can and hope they go out with a bang.

Start Date: Late 2022

So there you have it folks: 2022 in television. Tune in next week for the essential new videogames of the year!

Tuesday, 28 December 2021

debbie debbies end of year awards 2021 covid coronavirus best films music
In the blogosphere, the goss is dished by two separate yet equally important groups: The guy who writes the blog, and the people who read it. These are their stories: The Debbie Awards.

In 2021, the world opened up just that little bit more. We may not yet be totally free from the yoke of this petty little germ, but 2021 was nevertheless a year that allowed us to reconnect with family and old friends, to relearn how to socialise and wear hard pants again. It was a year in which arts and culture returned to the world and the entrepreneurial spirit began to rebuild and forge progress once again. To be sure, it was also a year of further loss and setbacks, but I head into 2022 with far greater optimism than I have felt in a while, and I hope you will too.

So without further ado, let the curtain fall at long last upon 2021 as we begin our definitive review of the past 12 months:

2021 Debbie Awards

Cinema & TV

1. The Debbie for TV Show of the Year 
Winner: Ted Lasso (Apple TV+)
Runner Up: Sex Education (Netflix)

best tv show 2021 ted lasso apple jason sudeikis

It was last year's most surprising hit. In 2021, it smashed the awards season records and became the first major success of Apple's nascent TV division. Ted Lasso is simply the best thing on TV right now. Funny, easy to watch, and blessed with some of the finest character writing in recent comedy history. From very rough source material, Bill Lawrence has crafted a very special series, a treasure of a show the likes of which does not come along very often.

One of Netflix's most underrated series. Sex Education is wickedly funny, brilliantly performed, and one of the most uniquely stylish series in recent memory. A surreal yet inherently relatable Anglo-American teen fantasy, the third season finds the series in fine form with deeper character development and plenty of heartfelt humour.

2. The Debbie for New TV Show of the Year 
Winner: It's a Sin (Channel 4)
Runner Up: Wandavision (Disney+)

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If there is one thing that 2021 has not lacked, it is good new TV series. This has once again been among the hardest categories to decide. But ultimately there was one series that stood out, Russell T. Davies' latest miniseries, It's a Sin. Davies is on an astonishing run of form lately, having put out Years and Years and A Very English Scandal in recent years, but his latest might just be the best of the bunch. This brutally honest depiction of the AIDS crisis may be difficult watching at times, but it is exquisitely performed, with a stylish portrayal that is as gripping as it is devastating.

Winner of this hard fought runner up prize will be WandaVision. At a time when Marvel projects are a dime a dozen, it's remarkable just how much this series, based on one of the relatively lesser known characters in the franchise, distinguishes itself from the pack. WandaVision is bold, inspired television, equal parts mystery and nostalgia, and simply impeccable in its production, writing and performances. While there were other very worthy shows that could have taken this prize, WandaVision just about edges it.

3. The Debbie for Film of the Year 
Winner: Belfast
Runner Up: Free Guy

best film 2021 belfast kenneth branagh free guy ryan reynolds

Belfast is an absolutely extraordinary film. Writer/director Kenneth Branagh's love letter to his hometown, set in Belfast during the turbulent 1960s period that gave rise to the Troubles. Great filmmakers manage to find the beauty even in tragic settings, and Branagh has done that here. A remarkably uplifting story featuring peerless performances, especially from its young star, and some of the finest direction and camera work that I have seen in years. Branagh's best film by some margin in a distinguished career.

A very surprising runner up this year. Like many, when I heard the concept of Free Guy, a videogame NPC becomes self-aware, I expected some good, geeky fun. What I was not expecting was a film that is really quite clever, disarmingly heartfelt, and just an all-around very effectively told story. Add to this impressive visuals and some great comedic performances, particularly the endlessly charismatic Ryan Reynolds, and you have a winning film. Other films may aspire to more ambitious subject matter, but there is no denying the expertise with which this film has been crafted in just about every department, nor can it be beat for pure enjoyment.

4. The Debbie for Variety Show Host of the Year 
Winner: Stephen Colbert, Late Show

colbert late show talk show host of the year 2021

Every talk show host has their own strengths and identity, but in terms of pure stage talent there are few more impressive than Stephen Colbert. The return of live audiences this year has clearly allowed Stephen to operate in his comfort zone once more, after a somewhat awkward 2020, and his riffing with the (now award-winning superstar) Jon Batiste has tightened up considerably. These politically charged times, in particular, seem to suit Colbert - to be expected given his history on Comedy Central - and it is with these recurring segments and monologues where his Late Show shines brightest.

5. The Debbie for Hollywood Rising Star of the Year 
Winner: Simu Liu

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One year ago, probably very few people outside of Canada had heard of Simu Liu. Now he's one of the most recognisable movie stars of 2021 following his breakthrough Hollywood role in Marvel's Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. It's been a good year for Liu, who has also seen his long-running sitcom Kim's Convenience achieve new prominence in its final season. The man has charisma, a comedic timing, and leading man presence. It will be interesting to see what he does next, but he has the potential to become a very big deal indeed..

6. The Debbie for YouTube Channel of the Year 
Winner: LEMMiNO

debbies youtube channel of the year lemmino 2021

Swedish YouTube personality David Wångstedt, better known by his handle LEMMiNO, has long been one of my favourite content producers on the site. Focused on short-form educational content, typically on the subject of well known mysteries and historical miscellanea (previous videos have covered everything from MH370, to Cicada 3301, and the origins of "the cool S"), LEMMiNO's videos stand out for their slick presentation and their impressive amount of depth and research. In 2021, the channel achieved a new highpoint with its first piece of long-form content, an hour long documentary on Jack the Ripper. It is an extraordinary piece of content and provides one of the best analyses of the cold case that you can find anywhere.

Music, Art & Theatre

7. The Debbie for Theatrical Production of the Year 
Winner: Leopoldstadt (Wyndham's Theatre)

leopoldstadt wyndham best theatre 2021

With the world reopening in 2021, top of my "welcome back" list was to get back out to the theatre, and fortunately I managed to do so a few times this year. The highlight has been Tom Stoppard's excellent new, and allegedly final, play Leopoldstadt. An emotional and loosely autobiographical tale, Leopoldstadt follows a Jewish family in Austria along the turbulent arc of the first half of the 20th Century, from the declining Austro-Hungarian Empire to the genocides at the hands of far-right extremists during World War II. Impeccably produced and performed. A particular focus on the domestic lives of these people only imbues the story with greater resonance and leaves the audience with a haunting, lasting impression.

8. The Debbie for Album of the Year 
Winner: Pressure Machine - The Killers
Runners Up: Lost in the Cedar Wood - Johnny Flynn, Screen Violence - Chvrches

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It is extremely unusual in this day and age for an artist to release two albums in such short order. Pressure Machine came less than a year after The Killers' previous album, Imploding the Mirage, courtesy of an apparent lockdown-induced creativity surge. But any concerns that this would be a rush job or album of B-sides has proven to be premature. On the contrary, Pressure Machine represents arguably the band's most complex and ambitious release to date, particularly from a musical perspective. From the lush strings of West Hills, to the greatest instrumental solo the band has yet produced at the end of In the Car Outside, to the titular Pressure Machine, an instant classic. While Brandon Flowers' broad brush isn't always the best suited for telling so reflective a tale, the end result is nevertheless an album of impressive depth and surprising longevity, even if the individual tracks rarely prove as viscerally exciting as some of his bigger hits.

Someone who is blessed with a nuanced songwriting ability is folk singer and sometimes actor Johnny Flynn. His latest album, Lost in the Cedar Wood sees a collaboration with nature writer Robert Macfarlane and the result is a memorable slice of bucolic majesty. An upbeat and bluesey folk album written at a time of global isolation, Flynn gazes longingly and nostalgically at the world around him, but manages to find the optimism in these sentiments. The result is nothing short of uplifting, whether it's in the form of Gilgameshian journey Gods and Monsters to the glorious hobo's rockabilly of Ten Degrees of Strange, and the gorgeous The World to Come. This is a great album.

For our second runner up we have Screen Violence, the latest from Chvrches and perhaps their most cogent work to date. This is an album that feels very current, an unflinching look at modern anxieties that I suspect many people will find all too relatable, from feminist anthem Good Girls to the distinctly #MeToo He Said, She Said. It also helps that the music is pretty damn good, embracing the synth-pop stylings that have helped the band stand out over the years, only this time with a darker, more acerbic tinge. Screen Violence is a bold, defiant piece of work that deserves to rank among the finest of 2021.

9. The Debbie for Debut Album of the Year 
Winner: Come Over - Kowloon
Runner Up: Collapsed in Sunbeams - Arlo Parks

kowloon arlo parks collapsed sunbeams come over best debut album 2021

Kowloon is one of those artists that has been kicking around a couple of years, slowly building up hype through word of mouth and Internet EPs. In 2021, he finally released his debut LP, Come Over, and it is as delightful a slice of chilled out indie pop as you will find. An intimate, low-fi work that demonstrates an impressive level of finesse for a newcomer. It's a solid album throughout, but with standout tracks in Paradise, Walk With Me, and Wake Up.

Close behind is Arlo Parks, a name we are likely to be hearing much in the coming years. Her debut LP Collapsed in Sunbeams delivers the kind of intimate and broadly relatable bedroom pop that was always likely to strike a chord with the wider public. Parks has had a sensationally successful year, winding up on many music critics' lists of the most exciting new performers in the country.

10. The Debbie for Song of the Year 
Winner: Coloratura - Coldplay
Runners Up: Ritchie Sacramento - Mogwai, Be and Bring Me Home - Neko Case

coloratura coldplay music spheres mogwai best song 2021

On what was otherwise a fairly underwhelming new album from Coldplay, Coloratura stands out as a memorable track. A spellbinding orchestral odyssey that hearkens back to some of the band's finest moments of years gone by. On an album that promised an ambitious metaphysical journey through the cosmos, Coloratura is one song that actually managed to deliver. In my view the best song of 2021.

Mogwai are a band that have been around for what seems like an eternity, but in 2021 they had one of their finest moments with the hit album As the Love Continues. The pick of the tracks from this album was lead single Ritchie Sacramento, a fuzzy, deeply satisfying piece of rock and roll that drips with nostalgia.

And lastly we have Neko Case's sublime cover of Roky Erickson's Be and Bring Me Home. The best covers manage to take a good piece of music and imbue them with fresh beauty, and Neko has done exactly that here. Wonderful.

11. The Debbie for Art Exhibition of the Year 
Winner: Alice: Curiouser and Curiouser - Victoria & Albert Museum

alice in wonderland curiouser victoria albert v&a best art exhibition 2021

The Victoria & Albert museum is on something of a roll in recent years, finding increasingly creative ways to marry its somewhat niche specialty with the kind of pop culture icons that shift tickets to the masses. In 2021, all the talk was about Alice: Curiouser and Curiouser, a delightful adventure through the history of Lewis Carroll's work. The V&A's exhibition achieves something special here by managing tell the history and genesis of the work itself, also managing to explore the wider historical and social context. The curators have made excellent use of the space, bringing to life the surreal imagery of wonderland in impressive ways, making use of projector and VR technology.

12. The Debbie for Book of the Year 
Winner: Project Hail Mary - Andy Weir

project hail mary andy weir martian artemis best novel book 2021

Andy Weir is still something of a new quantity in mainstream literature, having struck big with his debut The Martian, but failing to hit the same heights will his follow up Artemis. He is best known for a writing style that contrasts a high level of scientifically and technically accurate detail with humour and easily accessible wit. With his third novel, Project Hail Mary, I was expecting to find more of the same. What I was not expecting was the best "buddy" story I have read in years. 

Without wanting to give too much away, in PHM the sun is dying and, through an improbable series of events, high school teacher Ryland Grace finds himself stranded on a one-way mission to save the planet, using his seemingly inexhaustible scientific aptitude to puzzle his way out. If it all sounds a bit familiar to The Martian, don't worry. The similarities soon end and Weir takes the narrative in a very different and delightful direction. An exciting piece of work that I was sad to have finished.

Business & Technology

13. The Debbie for Scientific/Technological Breakthrough of the Year 
Winner: mRNA vaccines
Runner Up: The Mars helicopter

covid coronavirus mrna vaccine mars helicopter best important technological breakthrough 2021

Virology is, understandably, a hot area right now, and the biggest thing in this field currently is mRNA vaccines. The idea here is simple, instead of isolating attenuated viral components to stimulate an immune response, what if we had a vaccine that could simply tell the cells directly to produce the desired protein. This is accomplished by modification of mRNA, the messenger system of the cell. It might seem like a minor distinction, but it's an idea that could massively increase the efficiency and efficacy of our current viral treatments, and has also been suggested to have utility in cancer care. One of the reasons why our Coronavirus vaccination efforts have been so speedy and effective is because of the use of such technology, and there could be much more to come in the future.

Close in second, how can I not recognise the awesomeness of the Mars 2020 mission, particularly the success of Ingenuity, NASA's very own Mars helicopter. Far from just a cool gizmo, this mission will allow the coverage of greater distances and proof of concept for future aerial missions. More than anything, Ingenuity deserves to be celebrated for the marvel of engineering that it is, another example of how brilliantly creative humans can be in solving a problem.

14. The Debbie for Videogame Console of the Year
Winner: PS5

ps5 playstation chip shortage best console for gaming 2021

Playstation 5 has, rightly, been the butt of many jokes over the past year. Despite launching in 2020, few had been able to get their hands on one until well into 2021. It was worth the wait, however. PS5 may be an tad unwieldy, and the lack of expandable storage is still a big oversight, but Sony's software and services have come on leaps and bounds since PS4, and the raw power of the system can't be faulted. Most important, however, is the software and in this regard PS5 is off to a bit of a stormer with definitive editions of the likes of Ghost of Tsushima and Final Fantasy VII Remake, and some great original exclusives like Spider-Man: Miles Morales.

15. The Debbie for Videogame of the Year 
Winner: Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy (PC, Switch, Playstation, Xbox)
Runners Up: The Artful Escape (PC, Xbox), Sable (PC, Xbox)
Honourable Mentions: Ghost of Tsushima, Final Fantasy VII Remake Part I (PS5)

guardians galaxy marvel artful escape vendetti sable pc console game of the year 2021

This is definitely not a Debbie I expected to be giving, especially after the abysmal Avengers game Square gave us a couple of years back. But Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy truly earns this prize. Gone are the tedious grinding and forced MMO-style mechanics of Avengers, in favour of a slick, streamlined single-player focused campaign. But the real standout feature of GotG is the razor sharp writing that imbues the title with the type of humour that one identifies with the franchise. This game has the gags, the colours and the banging 1980s soundtrack that one would expect from GotG, what's not to like?

Sticking with a theme in second place is The Artful Escape, another light-hearted adventure through kaleidoscopic alien worlds with awesome music, albeit this time with a more indie flavour. This is Annapurna's long-gestating glam-rock platformer, in which players craft their own Bowie-esque stage persona and rock out across the galaxy. It's perhaps a tad simplistic as a game, but it is rollicking good fund and a dazzlingly satisfying sensory experience.

And a second runner up position goes to another indie, Shedworks' charming open-world adventure game Sable. Sable is that rare breed of a game that allows the player to go at their own speed and as far as they want. There's a world of opportunity out there, but ultimately the player decides when their journey has come to an end and there is something quite relaxing about that. Sable is also blessed with a gorgeously distinctive pen and ink visual style and lovely original soundtrack.

This year I am also taking the unprecedented step of naming some honourable mentions, specifically for the excellent PS5 games that would ordinarily have been in contention for top prizes in their year of release, were it not for the unfortunate console shortage that has prevented most people from experiencing them until now. Ghost of Tsushima and Final Fantasy VII Remake are both top titles worthy of recognition, and had Sony not bungled their console release they could well have won these prizes last year.

16. The Debbie for Company of the Year
Winner: Kind Jewellery

kind jewellery startup company of the year 2021

With this Debbie I like to award businesses that both deliver a good product and endeavour to enact positive change in their industry. Kind Jewellery creates jewellery of exceptional hand-crafted quality with some gorgeous designs. This quality is enough already to set them apart, but the brand's commitment to sustainability and ethical practices is especially worthy of praise. Fairmined and recycled metals, ocean diamonds, and a commitment to plant one tree for every item sold are just some of the initiatives taken to ensure that Kind Jewellery makes its mark on the industry without leaving a scar on the planet.


17. The Debbie for Footballer of the Year 
Winner: Mo Salah - Liverpool

mo salah liverpool best footballer player in the world football 2021

Let's be real here. Leo Messi is still a fantastic player, but to suggest that he's the footballer that has had the best year in 2021, a year divided into a first half of mediocrity with Barcelona and a second half of barely playing with PSG, is absurd. There are several players who could make a more credible claim for this prize than Messi: N'Golo Kanté, Robert Lewandowski among them. But in this football fan's view, for the current best player on the planet one can't look any further than Liverpool's Mo Salah

Already with 25 goals scored this season, having hit 30+ last season. Salah's Liverpool record of 110 goals in 167 league appearances is astonishing. There has only been one game this entire season where he has not either scored or created a goal. Salah is an absolutely terrifying player with speed, technique and a lethal end product. Messi may still have a great brand to his name, but if you want to win matches, there is no one you'd rather have on your team right now than Salah.

18. The Debbie for Under-21 Footballer of the Year 
Winner: Pedri - Barcelona

pedri barcelona best young footballer player in the world 2021

Barcelona may be a club in shambles at the moment, but there is one bright light on the horizon for their fans. Midfielder Pedri has had a barnstorming 2021, a season that has seen him take his place as a central force in this new Barcelona side at the tender age of just 19. Despite his age, Pedri shows the maturity and poise of a more experienced playmaker. Finesse, vision and the uncanny ability to find space in any situation. Pedri is not just one for the future, he's already an excellent player.

19. The Debbie for Football Manager of the Year 
Winner: Thomas Tuchel - Chelsea

best football manager in the world 2021 thomas tuchel chelsea

It is hard to overstate the influence that Thomas Tuchel has had on Chelsea since his arrival last season. That is not to understate the significance of his predecessor, Frank Lampard, one of the few men who would have had the vision and courage to integrate Chelsea's hitherto much vaunted yet never tested youngsters into the first XI. But Tuchel's arrival has been the glue that brought all of Chelsea's raw talents together and formed them into a top level side. Midtable and leaky at the back when he arrived, Tuchel managed to take this team of exciting prospects and imbue them with a grit and organisation that has allowed them to compete with the very best in the world. A top four finish and stunning Champions League victory says everything about how effective he has been.

20. The Debbie for Football Club of the Year 
Winner: Chelsea FC

football club of the year 2021 chelsea

Yes, I am a Chelsea fan. But despite that, I have never awarded the club this prestigious Debbie. With good reason, Chelsea are typically a shambles of induced chaos, even when they're winning. Yet in 2021, with football giants all over the world stumbling through crisis after crisis, Chelsea have shockingly managed to stand tall as a beacon of a well run club, rearing an impressive side blended from youth products and astute transfer activity. The role that Chelsea (and particularly its fans) played in leading the counter movement against the ill-fated and disgraceful proposed Super League this year is just the cherry on top. For once, Chelsea seems to be the model of a well run modern club.

Current Events

21. The Debbie for Politician of the Year 
Winner: Stacey Abrams

stacey abrams politician of the year 2021

She may not yet be a household name, except among the political aficionados, but among those who know, Stacey Abrams is quickly building a reputation as one of the most shrewd and talented political entities in the country. 

Founder of Fair Fight, an organisation that places her on the forefront of the critical struggle against the voter suppression and political corruption that is so tragically endemic in certain regions of America. Her crowning moment in politics has surely been January 2021 and the off-year elections of two pro-democracy Senators in Georgia, the culmination of a previously unthinkable clean sweep of a typically deep-red state, of which she was largely seen as the mastermind. Yet there is the sense that this is only the beginning for Abrams. In 2022 she will run for Governor of the state. If she wins that, it will surely go down as one of the greatest shocks in American political history, and set her up for a certain future Presidential run.

22. The Debbie for Scandal of the Year 
Winner: Boris Johnson, Various

boris johnson tory conservative sleaze covid party scandal secret revealed

It's rare in British politics to see one individual so singularly engulfed in so much scandal. But then Boris Johnson has always been something of a controversial figure. This latest furore appears to have come about as a perfect storm of incompetent pandemic management and a recurring disregard for his Government's own rules. It takes a very special kind of sliminess to enforce rigid restrictions on the general public, restrictions that while necessary have had a real human cost for many, whilst flouting them with contempt when it comes to your own wellbeing. Combine this with the constant air of sleaze that has dogged the Conservative Party in recent times and there is a very real sense that Boris' days in Number 10 could be coming to an end sooner rather than later, perhaps even at the hands of his own party members. A flaming catastrophe of his own making.

23. The Debbie for Cause of the Year
Winner: Combatting vaccine misinformation

vaccine misinformation  disinformation fake news propaganda trump putin bill gates  fauci biden most important issue 2021

There is no shortage of worthy causes in the world today, but the one I have chosen to highlight this year stands out, not only for its human cost and the loss of life that it causes, but also for its mind-numbing absurdity. 

Most infants can understand that when you are sick, you take medicine, and that medicine is a good thing. So the fact that an entire movement has come up taking a passionately anti-medicine position is... baffling to say the least. Not everything needs to be political and have multiple sides. We don't need to argue over whether they sky is blue or whether fire is hot. Likewise we shouldn't have to argue over basic things like whether medicine and treating sick people are good. Our obsession with forming into factions and competing over everything has already gone way too far. For us to be doing this at the expense of lives is unconscionable. It must stop, and we must cut out those that spread these pro-pandemic lies for the sake of clicks and votes. Enough is enough, let's end this pandemic by defeating it, not by living in denial.

24. The Debbie for Person of the Year 
Winner: José Andrés

jose andres world central kitchen person of the year 2021

This year we have a most deserving winner of the Debbie for Person of the Year. Spanish chef, José Andrés is a culinary icon and successful restauranteur, a TV personality and philanthropist. But on top of this, he is also a hero. Founder of World Central Kitchen, an organisation dedicated to providing meals in the wake of natural disasters. WCK additionally builds culinary schools and provides training to help those affected back out of poverty and promote human and environmental health. Chef José is the best of us, and a worthy winner of this prize.

Social & Lifestyle

25. The Debbie for Restaurant of the Year 
Winner: Tanja Grandits
Runner Up: Mãos

tanja grandits basel best restaurant 2021

Tanja Grandits is one of the hottest chefs in Europe, and it's easy to see why. The German chef's restaurant in Basel delivers food of extraordinary creativity and quality, using quality seasonal ingredients. Grandits' stunning plating makes every dish look like a work of art, but unlike many fine dining establishments, the taste live up to that presentation. Grandits is blessed with an incredible knack for flavours, including combinations that few others would think of. Ponzu butter, scallops with apple salsa, polenta with miso. Eat here and you are guaranteed an unforgettable meal.

I wondered how a restaurant like Mãos would cope with the new post-pandemic normal. After all, this was a restaurant built around an idea of communal experience, a polar opposite to the new standard of social distance. Reinvented now as a more traditional restaurants with individual tables and less free movement (guests are now invited into the kitchen in groups). Fortunately the creative minds in the kitchen have been busy during lockdown and the food is even better than before. Lobster mochi, an oozing honey cake, and one of the finest interpretations of surf and turf I have ever seen. The Mãos experience has always been a big draw, and still is, but above all this is food that can compete with the very best and seems to be getting better with each visit.

26. The Debbie for New Restaurant of the Year 
Winner: Arbostora

arbostore morcote switzerland best new restaurant 2021

It is a sign of a society in healing after the last two years that the entrepreneurial spirit continues to thrive, and new businesses open. Of the new restaurants that I have visited this year, one stands out that is perhaps not the most obvious, somewhat off the beaten track, but nevertheless a special experience worthy of mention. This year's Debbie goes to Arbostora, in Morcote, Switzerland. A romantic lakeside location, delicious local cuisine, and friendly service make this place a winner and a must visit for anyone visiting Ticino. A family place and a special occasion place.

27. The Debbie for Club/Bar of the Year 
Winner: The Cadogan Arms

cadogan arms live jazz brunch chelsea best bar club nightclub 2021

It has been a long time coming, but after some four years and one global pandemic, the classic Chelsea drinking establishment The Cadogan Arms has returned, and it has had a few upgrades. The Cadogan Arms was always a favourite among London pubs, but in the years since they closed for refurbishment the standard of both dining and drinking in this city has risen significantly. Fortunately, The Cadogan Arms has reinvented itself to keep up with the changing times. The beautifully redone interior feels like a modern twist on cosy 1980s nostalgia, while the recessed lighting and centrepiece lit-up bar add some contemporary flourish. Live jazz on Sundays, an excellent roast and updated weekday menu makes for one of the finest pubs around.

28. The Debbie for Destination of the Year
Winner: Zurich, Switzerland

zurich switzerland best holiday destination 2021

With the world more or less open for travel again in 2021, it has been a year of making up for lost travel time. This year's highlight has been Zurich, a city blessed with a unique balance of big city amenities and small town comforts. In Zurich you can shop on the high street in the morning and then go for a walk in the hills in the afternoon. Add to this a number of world class museums, some very fine restaurants and the unforgettable Zurich lakefront and you have a destination that everyone should visit at least once.

29. The Debbie for Wine of the Year 
Winner: Castello dei Rampolla 2008 d'Alceo
castello rampolla 2008 best wine 2021

Sometimes you just can't beat a nice toasty Italian red. A classic super-tuscan, the Castello dei Rampolla is a bold vintage with flavours of dark red fruits and licorice. For a full-bodied wine, d'Alceo has a pleasantly smooth and rounded finish which works well as an accompaniment to any dish with rich flavours, a good beef wellington or pasta with tomato would be ideal.

30. The Debbie for Tipple of the Year 
Winner: Cotswold Distillery: Founder's Choice

best tipple liquor alcohol 2021 cotswold distillery founder edition single malt whisky

And finally our award for best tipple, a non-wine alcoholic beverage in which you would be wise to partake, goes to Cotswold Distillery Founder's Choice single malt whisky. The south west of England is not typically known for its whisky, but this premium edition from the Cotswold Distillery makes a very strong case for regional product. A very pleasant drinking whisky with mocha notes and a finish of warm glowing embers on the tongue. A great drink for those winter evenings, to be taken with dark chocolate or spiced Christmas desserts.

Well there you have it, another year in the books. Let's hope that 2022 will continue our march towards normality and be an even better one. See you there!

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