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Monday, 28 January 2019

Welcome back to The Ephemeric's 2019 Hot List. This week we will be having a look at the most exciting theatrical productions coming to the stage in the coming year.

best anticipated new theatre theatrical production 2019 hot list
2018 was a year in which the National Theatre dazzled, and the much vaunted new state of the art Bridge Theatre fizzled. In the latter case, we've seen more duds than hits in the company's short life to date, and unless things turn quickly one has to wonder how long it will be until a new artistic director is brought on board. For the National's Rufus Norris, however, the story is quite different. The standard of production over the past 12 months has been excellent, and in 2019 it looks like we may be in for another strong year.

But this is a boom time for theatre in London, and increasingly it is the smaller companies producing the most impressive work. The Almeida has been on a strong run for the last few years under Rupert Goold, while the recently refurbished Hampstead Theatre has been quietly assuming a position of pride as one of London's most underrated stages.

Here's our list of the top 15 theatrical productions to keep an eye on in 2019, starting with number 15:

15. "The Tragedy of King Richard II" by William Shakespeare, at the Almeida

london best theatre 2019 king richard 2 ii shakespeare simon russell bealeThe appeal is clear. Simon Russell Beale is one of his generation's most legendary stage actors, and there is nowhere he feels more at home than in the works of William Shakespeare. His is the uncanny gift of being able to make the otherwise obtuse language flow as naturally as modern English.

He stars as the titular protagonist in a minimalist new production of Richard II, the familiar tale of vanity and political opportunism alongside a very impressive Leo Bill as Bolingbroke.

Sadly this show is almost at the end of its run, so you will need to be quick to get tickets. For those who do manage to get to it, this is sure to be a main event of the theatre year.

14. "Small Island" by Helen Edmundson and Andrea Levy, at the National Theatre

london best theatre 2019 small island nationalHelen Edmundson adapts the Orange prize winning novel from Andrea Levy.

Very relevant given the recent hubbub over the Windrush scandal and associated tensions,  Small Island sets out a tale of three interconnected stories set on opposite ends of the world, exploring the intricate history of the UK and Jamaica.

Production stars CJ Beckford, Jacqueline Boatswain, and Phoebe Frances Brown, while the NT's artistic director Rufus Norris himself directs. Booking opens end of January and the show will run from February until July.

13. "Berberian Sound Studio" by Joel Horwood and Peter Strickland, at the Donmar

london best theatre 2019 berberian sound studio donmarThe always excellent Tom Brooke stars in this new adaptation of Berberian Sound Studio, adapted by Joel Horwood from the original film script of Peter Strickland.

A darkly comic tale of a documentarian sound engineer turned horror film producer. This production co-stars Eugenia Caruso and Enzo Cilenti.

Tom Scutt makes a directorial debut, having worked backstage on a number of the Donmar's better recent productions. Runs throughout February and March, booking is now open.

12. "The Damned" by Ivo van Hove and Luchino Visconti, at the Barbican

london best theatre 2019 the damned van hove barbicanThe award winning Ivo van Hove is one of theatre's biggest names, and his latest is an adaptation of Luchino Visconti's screenplay.

Van Hove directs the esteemed Parisian theatre company Comedie Francaise, back in the UK for the first time in 20 years.

Running for just a short spell in June, The Damned is a debauched story of German industrialists, and how their deepening collaborations with the nascent Nazi Government leads to ruin. This dark alliance is a springboard for the disintegration of of society, with clear and disturbing parallels to current events.

11. "Alys Always" by Lucinda Coxon and Harriet Lane, at the Bridge Theatre

london best theatre 2019 alys always bridgeLucinda Coxon adapts Harriet Lane's gripping thriller, Alys Always in a new play that's set to take prime position in the Bridge Theatre's offerings this year. Joanne Froggatt (Downton Abbey, Life on Mars) stars along with Robert Glenister, an actor who will be very familiar to fans of London theatre.

Following an unlikely and devastating encounter, Frances finds herself suddenly intertwined into the world of fame and privilege. A tale which explores the gulf between the entitled and the rest.

Production runs throughout March, so book now.

10. "Dear Evan Hansen" by Steven Levenson, at the Noel Coward Theatre

london best theatre 2019 dear evan hansen noel coward broadwayThe next big Broadway musical to transfer to London.

Dear Evan Hansen is the story of a socially anxious highschooler who yearns to fit in with his peers, and finds his opportunity by concocting a fake tragedy with which to make himself the centre of attention. As that lie spirals out of control, Evan Hansen faces a difficult reckoning.

The original production amassed an impressive 7 Tony awards, and transfers to London's Noel Coward Theatre this November. Casting has yet to be announced. This is sure to be a big ticket.

9. "White Pearl" by Anchuli Felicia King, at the Royal Court Theatre 

london 2019 white pearl royal courtAn unusual proposition. White Pearl is an Australo-Thai comedy about institutional racism, set to be staged in the Royal Court Theatre's more experimental downstairs theatre.

It is surprising, yet refreshing to see the theatre get behind a largely unknown writer. Another promising sign of the theatre's revival under Vicky Featherstone. This is Anchuli Felicia King's international debut, having earned plaudits in New York and at the National Play Festival.

Casting has yet to be announced but Dana King will direct. This production will run through May and June.

8. "Three Sisters" by Cordelia Lynn and Anton Chekhov, at the Almeida

best theatre 2019 three sisters chekhov almeidaThe first of two productions of Anton Chekhov's Three Sisters that I am previewing on this blog. Anton Chekhov is one of the great playwrights, and Three Sisters is considered by many to be among his best works.

Cordelia Lynn's new adaptation of the original text explores those traditional Chekhovian themes: class divide, stasis, the clash of the modern world with the old. Scenes will contrast between the original period setting and modern London, presumably with some contextual commentary.

Cast includes Patsy Ferran and Pearl Chanda. The production will run from April through June, and is open for booking.

7. "The end of history..." by Jack Thorne, at the Royal Court Theatre

london best theatre 2019 end of history jack thorne harry potter royal courtBack to the Royal Court and a production that is sure to make a few headlines. The End of History is the new script from Jack Thorne, a writer most publicly notable for his adaptation of Harry Potter to the West End.

Thorne turns his talents to a much more intimate setting with what sounds to be a traditional family genre. The children come home from school and a reunion is had. Some politics get discussed, some drama presumably gets unearthed. Thorne is building quite the name for himself as a writer, and it will be intriguing to see what he makes of it.

Production starts in June and runs through August.

6. "All About Eve" by Ivo van Hove and Joseph Mankiewicz, at the Noel Coward Theatre

london 2019 best theatre all about eve van hove noel cowardAnother entry for Ivo van Hove, who this time teams up with the great Gillian Anderson in a new adaptation of All About Eve.

This is being billed as a razor sharp exposé of the dark heart of show business. Anderson takes on the role made famous by Bette Davis on the silver screen, and it will be interesting to see her take on a darker, more scheming role than we are used to seeing from the award winning actress.

Production runs from February through May at the Noel Coward Theatre.

5. "Peter Gynt" by David Hare and Henrik Ibsen, at the National Theatre

london 2019 best theatre peter gynt national ibsenThe National Theatre brings a radical new version of the classic play by Henrik Ibsen to the stage.

In David Hare, the National has a veteran of such adaptations - most recently his much acclaimed adaptation of The Master Builder, which was previewed right here on the Hot List a few years back. This version looks set to transpose the epic tale into a modern setting starring James McArdle.

This will definitely be a blockbuster of 2019 theatre. Runs from June to October, with bookings opening this month.

4. "Rutherford and Son" by Githa Sowerby at the National Theatre

best theatre 2019 london rutherford and son roger allam nationalLes Miserables' original Javert, the legendary Roger Allam returns to the National Theatre in the lead for Rutherford and Son. He stars alongside Justine Mitchell, a familiar face for regular patrons of the National.

Also returning to the National will be director Polly Findlay, most recently seen with productions of Antigone and As You Like It.

The script from Githa Sowerby remains a topical and relevant tale for the modern age, one of class, gender, and generational divides. .

Tickets are on sale for May onwards, and you can book starting next week.

3. "Three Sisters" by Inua Ellams and Anton Chekhov at the National Theatre

london best theatre 2019 three sisters chekhov nationalAnd it's a hattrick for the National Theatre, as well as our second adaptation of Anton Chekhov's Three Sisters to make this list.

This adaptation by the up and coming Inua Ellams looks a little further outside the box than the Almeida's effort, transposing the drama somehow to 1960s Nigeria against a backdrop of the Biafran Civil War. At the very least, this sounds like an original take on the classic play, and with Ellams seen as something of a rising star following the success of The Barber Shop Chronicles, we're curious to see how it turns out.

This one is coming later in the year, with dates set to be announced at a later date.

2. "Shipwreck" by Anne Washburn at the Almeida

shipwreck anne washburn almeida trump london best theatre 2019With Anne Washburn you know you're going to see something very original and interesting. It might not always work, but it will be clever and fresh and worth watching. We saw it with Washburn's baffling yet creative Mr Burns, and last year's excellent The Twilight Zone adaptation. This year, Washburn gives us a new play, Shipwreck.

This new play, starring Khalid Abdalla sees the audience as a fly on the wall for a fictional dinner with the current President of the United States, Donald Trump, set on an old crumbling farmhouse in rural America. A suitably surreal premise that is expected to take the form of a "nightmarish comedy".

Shipwreck will run through February and March.

1. "Sweat" by Lynn Nottage at the Donmar

london best theatre 2019 sweat lynn nottage trump donmarBut our number 1 play to see in 2019 is the Donmar's new production of the Pulitzer prize winning Sweat.

Lynn Nottage's script forms a timely and nuanced account of life among America's "forgotten people", in impoverished rust-belt country. Economic displacement, the loss of blue collar jobs, and a fear of immigration and trade. While the play wisely never mentions Trump by name, this tale nevertheless makes for essential viewing for anyone seeking to understand his appeal, or the desperation which has motivated many to buy into his rhetoric.

Sadly, the show's run is coming to an end in February, but anyone who still has a chance to see it, must do so.

So there you have it folks: 2019 in theatre. Tune in next week for our next instalment of the Hot List, covering the essential new music coming up in 2019!

Monday, 21 January 2019

Hello and welcome back to the Hot List. This week we will turn our attention to the videogame industry, previewing for you our loyal readers the most exciting videogames set for release in 2019.

new videogames games gaming 2019 ephemeric

Interactive media is becoming increasingly mainstream. Last year saw prestigious institutions like the V&A and the Smithsonian stage major exhibitions, while the Royal Albert Hall now somewhat routinely holds concerts of videogame music. Outlets like Netflix are blurring the line between gaming and traditional media by incorporating interactive elements, while simultaneously the wave of augmented reality games on mobile blur the lines between media and reality.

This is an increasingly diverse industry. Casual games you pick up on your phone for five minutes, deep RPGs and sims that can last hundreds of hours. Art house, mainstream, indie and big budget blockbusters. They even make games for people who don't play games. 2019 is the perfect demonstration of this diversity. We've got a strong line up of mobile games,  indie titles and sprawling AAA epics. It's even rumoured that the next generation of consoles could be revealed in 2019.

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. Mario Kart Tour (iOS, Android)

mario kart tour iphone android 2019Nintendo's sudden embrace of mobile gaming has taken many by surprise, but it makes perfect business sense. No matter how successful their Switch or handheld endeavours may be, there will always be more people who own a mobile phone. With that in mind, so far these releases have been relatively unambitious, highly simplified attempts at a Nintendo game (see Mario Run).

It is hoped that this may change with Mario Kart Tour, due to release sometime by March 2019, and rumoured to be a fully featured, multiplayer capable entry in the legendary racing series.

Mario Kart is one of those games that appeals to everyone, including those who might otherwise not play many games. That combination of fun, accessible gameplay, and addictive multiplayer shenanigans makes each entry a timeless classic. The prospect of being able to partake from anywhere, on iOS and Android, is tantalising.

Release Date: March, 2019

14. Imperator: Rome (PC)

imperator rome paradox crusader kings europa universalis 2019 pcParadox have built for themselves a niche in the game dev world, and it's a niche they occupy with sensational success. While the old masters of historical gaming, Civilisation, Anno and even something like Call of Duty, have increasingly trended away from realism and complexity towards casual, cartoonish styles, Paradox have done the opposite. Their brand of historical gaming is strategy of such depth and detail that it has spawned its own genre, grand strategy.

Paradox's feudalism and colonialism simulators, Crusader Kings II and Europa Universalis IV respectively, are the gold standards of the genre. Their newest title Imperator: Rome seeks to bring that same love and care to a classical historic setting, in a game which looks to combine features of both.

Starting in pre-Roman times circa 450 AUC, players will be able to control any province across a vast map of Europe (or even Rome itself) and guide them through history in a simulation which includes character and dynasty management, war, trade, and governmental politics. This looks like a typically deep and detailed Paradox simulation, and I'm very excited to dive in.

Release Date: TBA 2019

13. Age of Empires IV (PC)

age of empires iv pc 2019Who says videogame companies never listen to the fans? The Age of Empires series has always held a fond place in the hearts of old school strategy fans, and in particular the 1999 classic Age of Empires II to this day retains a surprisingly devoted fanbase and active multiplayer and modding communities. So much so, in fact, that Microsoft even deemed to make one of the community's more popular mods an official expansion, some 15 years after the game's release.

It seems Microsoft's newfound embrace of the franchise was not limited to just fan-made expansions and HD re-releases, and have announced Age of Empires IV, the first entry in the series since 2005. Little is known about the sequel, but the teaser trailer appears to imply a vast swathe of history will be covered, showing artwork from the bronze age right through to the colonial era.

Release date is still to be announced.

Release Date: TBA 2019

12. The Elder Scrolls: Blades (iOS, Android, PC)

elder scrolls blades ios android game 2019 pc
Four games in, and we have another mobile title. Bethesda's The Elder Scrolls series is legendary, with Skyrim still ranking among the world's best selling games, some eight years after first release. The latest entry in the series, Blades, seeks to begin a whole new obsession, by bringing The Elder Scrolls to mobile devices.

Translating such a vast, sprawling experience to a handheld format might sound like an impossible task, but there's a deceptively deep game waiting here. In addition to the usual dungeon crawling and questing, Blades features procedurally generated maps and a new, never ending "abyss" mode. Add to this a whole new "town" feature, which tasks players with rebuilding and developing a ruined town, the expansion of which provides new quests and options, and can be shared with other players. There is a great deal of interesting sounding content here, and streamlined into a friendly, mobile interface.

The design ethos here seems very much to be a more flexible Elder Scrolls experience. If you want to sink endless hours into customising and expanding your game, you can do so. If you want to pick it up for five minutes and enjoy a bit of questing, you can do that too.

Release Date: TBA 2019

11. Heaven's Vault (iOS, PS4, PC)

heaven's vault 80 days game inkle meg jayanth ios pc Sticking with a mobile theme, we come to the newest title from Inkle. When it comes to mobile games, Inkle come with real pedigree. Their previous game 80 Days ranks among the finest written works of interactive fiction, and remains my all time favourite travel game.

The success of that title has allowed Inkle to be somewhat more ambitious with the follow up. Heaven's Gate is not simply a gussied up interactive novel, but a fully realised virtual experience. Heaven's Gate sees you explore a dead world, trying to unlock the secrets of a time long since past in a unique blend of sci-fi and archaeology,

Can a small studio make the jump to such a big budget project? Can a team known for its prose and simplicity show a flare for full gameplay? These are fair questions, but from what I've seen so far I am hopeful. If the writing is half as good as 80 Days, this will be a story well worth experiencing.

Release Date: June 2019

10. Sunless Skies (PC, Mac)

sunless skies sunless seas fallen london failbetter alexis kennedy kickstarter best game 2019In case you have not yet picked up on this, I am a sucker for games with excellent writing, and few in the business are better at writing than Failbetter.

Their newest title Sunless Skies follows on from their hit debut Sunless Seas, adapting the macabre, Lovecraftian setting of the predecessor into a neo-Victorian sci-fi exploration game unlike anything you will have seen before.

Explore, trade, and adventure your way across the Reach. Meet interesting characters and delve into the world's history. Sunless Skies has been in early access for a while now, with reviews so far promising. Will finally see its full release by end of January, and I'm pretty excited for that.

Release Date: January 2019

9. Harry Potter: Magic Awakened (PS4, Xbox One, PC)

harry potter rpg magic awakened pc xbox ps4I'm going to make a confession now: I was never really into Harry Potter. I never read the books, and I didn't see the films until very recently. Nevertheless, when early footage leaked of this still yet to be officially revealed game, Harry Potter: Magic Awakened, I was intrigued.

A full, story driven game in which players design their own character and live the life of a young wizard. RPG elements allow for extensive customisation, skill and power training, and branching decisions. Choose your house, your friends, and generally immerse yourself in one of fiction's most beloved universes. It has obvious appeal.

While the leak generated a good deal of buzz, there is still very little known about this game. We don't even really know who is making it, although rumours abound. Despite this, the word on the ground is that development is actually fairly far along, with an intended 2019 release still on track.

Release Date: TBA 2019

8. Fire Emblem: Three Houses (Switch)

fire emblem three houses 2019 switchA few years ago and Nintendo's relatively obscure fantasy franchise was on the ropes. Years of poorly selling iterations, many of which never even made it to western markets, had put the developers on the brink of closure. Then came along the 3DS's fantastic Fire Emblem: Awakening.

For those unfamiliar, Fire Emblem is a series of turn-based strategy in a fantasy setting. What makes this series stand apart are the characters. Players build a team of characters each of whom are fully customisable with the ability to switch up classes and gear, fully fleshed out with the ability to generate dynamic relationships and stories. But the most important element is simple: permadeath. When one of these characters die, they stay dead, making each decision more impactful, and your relationship with that character all the more direct and personal.

Awakening was quickly followed by the well received Fire: Emblem Fates, and an apparently highly lucrative iOS version Fire Emblem: Heroes, but one thing has been notably missing from this newly revitalised franchise, a proper home console edition. In 2019 this will be rectified, with the release of Fire Emblem: Three Houses for Switch.

Release Date: TBA 2019

7. The Artful Escape (Xbox One, PC)

the artful escape francis vendetti annapurna edith finch david bowie best game 2019Award winning film studio Annapurna made their debut in videogaming with the spellbinding What Remains of Edith Finch. This year they will look to follow up this success with their second title The Artful Escape.

The concept is quite unique. Players take the role of aspiring folk musician Francis Vendetti on a journey to reinvent his musical and stage persona. The result has been described by the game's lead developer as "David Bowie traveling off from London on an interstellar trip to create Ziggy Stardust".

In terms of actual gameplay, this takes the form of a musical platformer which sees Vendetti's performances depicted as journeys through mind-bending fantastical and sci-fi landscapes, with occasional rhythm-based music sections to pass. Frankly it's stunning to look at and listen to, with a pleasurably relaxing pace to it.

Release Date: TBA 2019

6. Afterparty (PC, Mac)

afterparty oxenfree pc mac best game 2019With the release of 2016's excellent Oxenfree, Night School Studio became one of the hottest new game devs in the industry. Afterparty marks their first major project since that breakthrough, and further refines the formula that made their debut such a success.

So what was so good about Oxenfree? The art style, the characters, the dynamic, well written dialogue. It was a remarkably slick and engrossing graphical adventure for a team of such limited experience.

This follow up looks to be more of the same: a witty narrative journey following two newly deceased twenty-somethings in a pub crawl across hell itself. Release is expected sometime this summer. Looks like great fun.

Release Date: Summer 2019

5. Witchbrook (PC)

witchbrook stardew valley spellbound starbound chucklefish best game pc 2019
I'm really not all that into wizards, and yet here we are for a second time. This one looks particularly special. From the people behind Starbound and the wildly successful Stardew Valley comes Witchbrook, a wizard academy RPG/life sim in the mould of a Stardew Valley, with combat reminiscent of the Legend of Zelda.

Much in the same vein of a Stardew Valley, the concept of Witchbrook is less of a focused singular narrative, and more of a "here's a fun, interesting world, go live in it, enjoy being in it". While there will be a main storyline, with fleshed out lore and characters, the idea is very much for this to be a more open ended experience.

While further detail is thin on the ground at this time, the title has apparently been in development for a few years now, with release anticipated for sometime in the coming year.

Release Date: TBA 2019

4. Sable (Xbox One, PC, Mac)

sable best pc game 2019 80 days meg jayanthI love a good indie game, but few make a debut as eye-catching as Sable. Produced by two lifelong friends in their basement, Sable promises to be a contemplative adventure focused around exploration, with a Gibli-esque aesthetic and stunning hand-drawn art style.

It's certainly one of the best looking games to pop up in recent years, but such an insular game is always going to succeed on the merit of its storytelling. It is fortunate then that the award winning Meg Jayanth is behind the story. If she can build the world of Sable with the same flair and aplomb as Sunless Seas or 80 Days then it could be a memorable experience.

Releasing initially on Steam, with a later launch on Xbox Live, we should see this one close to the summer.

Release Date: Summer 2019

3. The Outer Worlds (PS4, Xbox One, PC)

the outer worlds fallout new vegas best game pc xbox ps4 2019 obsidianFew things are as exciting as reading "Obsidian" and "new RPG" in the same headline. When the original creators of Fallout put their skills to work, the result is rarely anything short of excellent. Case and point, the team's last foray into the world of Fallout (now wholly owned by Bethesda), Fallout: New Vegas is considered by many to be the best in the series, while their more recent Pillars of Eternity series went on to become one of the most successful examples of crowdfunded game design.

The Outer Worlds is an entirely new IP, very much in the format of the recent 3D Fallout titles. Set in a deliciously colourful future where mega-corporations have begun to explore and colonise distant worlds, players create their own character, pilot a spaceship, and explore those worlds. That same sense of humour and satirical writing is present, along with Obsidian's typical flair for branching storytelling and player-driven plot design.

What makes an Obsidian game special is that focus on player-agency. Players should be able to play whatever kind of character they want, however they want, and their actions and behaviour should have a real, tangible impact on the world around them. From what we've seen, this is going to be wildly good fun, and we expect it to drop in the latter half of 2019.

Release Date: Fall 2019

2. Starfield (PS4, Xbox One, PC)

starfield bethesda fallout best game 2019 pc xbox ps4But in close competition with the original creators of Fallout, the current owners of Fallout! That's right, Bethesda's next big single player title is also a spacefaring RPG, Starfield.

Most of the details of this title remain shrouded in mystery, but rumours suggest 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. Quite how this will adapt to a game which allegedly features multiple worlds and the ability to fly a spaceship is anyone's guess, but the few teasers we have seen point again to titles like Mass Effect for hints.

Despite the radio silence, Starfield has apparently been in development for a number of years at this point, having entered early production just after the release of Skyrim. The suggestion being that this is much farther along than one might otherwise expect. We could see a release in time for Christmas this year.

Release Date: Late 2019

1. Cyberpunk 2077 (PS4, Xbox One, PC)

cyberpunk 2077 rpg game 2019 pcWhile the latest project from CD Projekt Red, a developer best known for the celebrated Witcher trilogy of games, did not make release in 2018, we did at long last get a first full preview.

Cyberpunk 2077 is an RPG set in a tantalising Cyberpunk setting in near future California. The impressive reveal trailer at last year's E3 showed off a seamless, living open world, and a series of quest and character design systems that allow for a remarkable level of player agency. It is said that every mission will have multiple paths to completion, allowing for a high variety of playstyles and roleplaying options.

While a firm release date has proven elusive, rumours abound that 2019 will be the year, fuelled in part by a now deleted tweet from European retailers. This is further supported by comments from the developer's most recent financial results, which suggested that the game was at quite an advanced stage, with release near.

Release Date: TBA 2019

So there you have it folks: 2019 in videogames. Tune in next week for the most exciting new theatrical productions coming this year!

Thursday, 10 January 2019

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 2019 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 2019 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 2019.

best anticipated new tv television shows 2019 hot list ephemeric

Gone are the days where television is considered to be the poorer cousin of cinema. Premium content became the norm of the industry, and the big budgets and star names quickly followed suit. Where once HBO stood unique as the purveyor of prestige viewing, now they are joined by the likes of FX, Netflix and Amazon.

Indeed there is such a demand for high quality original content right now that every company even tangentially connected to media is trying to get in on the game. Documentary networks such as Discovery, History and National Geographic are producing big-budget dramas. Online streamers like Netflix and Amazon are, arguably, best known at this point for their market leading work. YouTube are stepping up their ambitions, and rumours abound that Microsoft are looking to try again after their previous efforts fizzled some six years ago. In 2019 we will see another huge name added to that list, Apple.

There is such a huge array of high quality content available these days that it is honestly becoming a bit overwhelming to keep track of everything. My intention is that The Hot List can help in that regard, giving you at least an overview of some of the most interesting work to come in the year ahead.

So without further ado here are the top 15 essential television shows, both new and returning, that will hit the airwaves in 2019:

15. Devs - FX (New TV Show)

devs alex garland nick offerman ex machina annihilation the beach most anticipated tv 2019We start with a particularly exciting prospect. Devs is the new series from Alex Garland, best known for his novels The Beach, and The Tesseract, his screenplays for 28 Days Later and Sunshine, and more recently as the highly acclaimed writer/director of Ex Machina and Annihilation.

A suitably Garland-esque plot follows a young software developer, played by rising star Sonoya Mizuno, as she investigates the secretive development division of her employer, which she believes to be responsible for the disappearance of her boyfriend.

Set to premiere on FX this summer, Devs also features the excellent Nick Offerman on cast, and is headed by a production team of star-names: Academy Award winning Scott Rudin, Academy Award nominated Eli Bush, and Andrew Macdonald a frequent collaborator of the great Danny Boyle.

Start Date: Summer 2019

14. The Crown - Netflix

the crown netflix season 3 tv show 2019 claire foy olivia colman queen elizabeth helena bonham carterAfter a year-long break, Netflix's The Crown finally returns, but with a very different look from what we've seen previously.

Jumping ten years ahead in time, Season 3 will feature an entirely new cast. Claire Foy and Matt Smith are gone, to be replaced by Olivia Colman and Tobias Menzies. The new cast includes additional big names in Helena Bonham Carter and Ben Daniels. The season is expected to expand on the stories of the young Prince Charles, and introduce the character of Camilla Shand (later Parker-Bowles).

It is understandable that many will be skeptical of a new cast, especially given the sterling performances of their predecessors. Personally I am of the opinion that showrunner Peter Morgan remains one of the very best in the industry, and as long as he is in charge I have little doubt that the end product will be worth the time.

Start Date: Fall 2019

13. The Loudest Voice in the Room - Showtime (New TV Show)

roger ailes loudest voice in room fox news sean hannity trump showtime 2019 most anticipated tvOne of the pivotal stories of our time, and yet one with which few are familiar. Post-truth politics, Fox News, Donald Trump, and the rise of radical right-wing populism - the origins of these fundamental issues of our time can be found in the ripples of Watergate.

The Loudest Voice in the Room follows the rise and fall of Roger Ailes, one-time communications guru of Richard Nixon, who made it his life's work to take control of the popular message through propaganda and ensure that something like Watergate could never happen again. As anyone familiar with current events will tell you, the success of that project is currently being put to the test, making this a very relevant and timely story.

Showtime will bring this story to the airwaves, with Academy Award winning Tom McCarthy (of Spotlight fame) writing. Russel Crowe takes the starring role and is joined by a stacked cast which includes Naomi Watts, Seth MacFarlane, and theatre legend Simon McBurney.

Start Date: TBA 2019

12. What We Do in the Shadows - FX (New TV Show)

what we do in the shadows 2019 most anticipated tv A delightful surprise. FX have announced a TV adaptation of 2014's cult horor-comedy What We Do in the Shadows. The original film remains one of the outstanding original comedies of recent years, and launched the career of now household name Taika Waititi.

The aforementioned Waititi joins fellow star Jermaine Clement (himself a household name from Flight of the Conchords, Legion, and Moana) as co-showrunner, however the two will not star in this adaptation. Acting duties have instead been handed to Kayvan Novak and Matt Berry, two comedians who will be better known to British viewers for their work in Four Lions and Garth Marenghi's Dark Place respectively.

Expected to release sometime in the Spring, the first episode has previously been screened at Comic Con and received positive reviews. Personally I would be wary. American adaptations of non-US comedy rarely translates well. If they do it right though, this could be excellent.

Start Date: Spring 2019

11. Untitled New Star Trek Series - CBS (New TV Show)

new cbs star trek next generation tng picard patrick stewart discovery 2019 most anticipated tvIf our previous pick was a delightful surprise, this one was a warp-core sized explosion. As Star Trek fans will be well aware, CBS recently brought the beloved series back to television in the form of Star Trek Discovery in order to promote their new online streaming network. Suffice it to say, reaction has been mixed, but that hasn't stopped CBS from pitching as many as three brand new Star Trek franchises.

By far the most interesting of these is the as yet untitled new series which will see the return of Sir Patrick Stewart's iconic Trek character Jean-Luc Picard. Stewart, of course, starred in Star Trek: The Next Generation, arguably the most beloved of the franchise's iterations, some 30 years ago. He has not reprised the character since 2002's flop film Star Trek: Nemesis. If this wasn't already exciting enough, the highly acclaimed Pulitzer Prize winning author Michael Chabon has been confirmed to be writing the new series.

Bringing back such a beloved character naturally has long time fans excited, and the focus on what must surely be a much older Picard, now long past his adventuring days, presents intriguing possibilities as to the narrative direction this series will take. This has the potential to be something quite unlike anything we've seen from the franchise before.

Start Date: TBA 2019

10. Watchmen - HBO (New TV Show)

watchmen hbo tv show 2019 best most anticipatedFor some people, this will mean absolutely nothing, for others it will be a subject of immense excitement. Watchmen is a graphic novel, considered to be one of the best pieces of superhero fiction ever written, so much so that Time Magazine even included it in their top 100 novels of all time - not just graphic novels, all novels.

So in this world of superhero over-saturation, an interpretation of arguably the finest source material of them all is surely a welcome development, especially coming from HBO, the best in the business.

But of course, Watchmen has been adapted before in the form of a Zach Snyder film, one which received only lukewarm reception. In that case, it was the pacing of trying to cram so much content into a single film that caused the issue. A mini-series is the perfect format, and one that I can't wait to see.

Start Date: TBA 2019

9. Foundation - Apple (New TV Show)

foundation apple 2019 most anticipated tvHere it is, the first big tentpole series of Apple's push into original content, an adaptation of Isaac Asimov's Foundation.

The seminal, epoch-spanning book series has long been mooted for some form of adaptation, but has generally been considered either unworkable or too large-scale to depict on screen. Apple apparently feel the technology is now there, and are prepared to throw a significant budget into bankrolling this ambitious new series.

The project will be handled by David Ellison's Skydance production company, while Ellison will be joined as executive producer by a line-up of prominent names including David Goyer, Josh Friedman, and Asimov's daughter Robyn. Beyond that, much is still shrouded in mystery, needless to say this is going to be a major event when it gets here.

Start Date: TBA 2019

8. The Orville - Fox

the orville seth macfarlane tv show fox 2019 season 2The Orville had a great debut in 2017, finally giving fans that proper spiritual sequel to Star Trek that they had so badly been craving.

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 2 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: January 2019

7. Project Blue Book - History (New TV Show)

project blue book ufo alien history 2019 most anticipated tv televisionIt is a sign of the state of this industry that even networks like History are getting into the original content game. So far their scripted content has been met with a mostly mixed response, but Project Blue Book could well see that change.

Based on the real-life Government UFO programme of the same name, Project Blue Book will tell a fictionalised version of the US Government's investigation of the UFO phenomenon, replete with a healthy dose of conspiratorial paranoia and mid-century extraterrestrial intrigue. Anyone who has seen Stephen Spielberg's classic Taken miniseries will know what to expect, but otherwise try to imagine The X-Files if it were set in 1950s America.

Game of Thrones' Aidan Gillen stars alongside Laura Mennell, Michael Malarkey, and Neal McDonough. Academy Award winner Robert Zemeckis is attached as producer.

Start Date: January 2019

6. The Twilight Zone - CBS (New TV Show)

cbs jordan peele twilight zone reboot 2019 most anticipated tv Sci-fi anthology series seem to be all the rage right now, mostly thanks to the success of Black Mirror. The last few years have seen many imitators attempt to tap into that market, most prominently Electric Dreams and Dimension 404, but none of these have really managed to hit the spot. CBS will try to succeed where others have failed, by rebooting the original sci-fi anthology series The Twilight Zone.

Resurrecting the great granddaddy of televised sci-fi, a show that is still revered some 60 years later, is sure to generate excitement, but also poses a risk in the wrong hands. Fortunately, CBS have tapped rising star Jordan Peele (Get Out) as showrunner.

Ultimately it's not the name that makes the show, but the quality of the writing. Black Mirror has Charlie Booker, the original Twilight Zone had some of the best sci-fi authors of its day. If they put that kind of emphasis on making sure the right talent gets involved, this could be great.

Start Date: Fall 2019

5. Fargo - FX 

fargo fx season 4 2019 best televisionNoah Hawley is the man of the minute. Having achieved in Fargo by far the best example of a movie-to-TV adaptation being done well, and following that up with his excellent interpretation of Marvel's Legion he now finds himself riding high on the Hollywood it-list when it comes to showrunners.

Hawley is a busy man, recently tapped to helm the much anticipated adaptation of Kurt Vonnegut's Cat's Cradle and also working on his feature film debut. But amid the hype, there have also been whispers of a new season for the series that made him a star.

Few details of Fargo's fourth season are known at this time, but it will star Chris Rock and have a 1950s setting. Seasons one through three were all excellent, we eagerly await the next chapter in this anthology.

Start Date: TBA 2019

4. His Dark Materials - BBC (New TV Show)

bbc his dark materials golden compass northern lights philip pullman 2019 most anticipated tv Aptly timed to coincide with Philip Pullman's knighthood, the BBC will adapt His Dark Materials to the small screen in 2019. This is, of course, the trilogy of novels which includes The Golden Compass (The Northern Lights in the UK), The Subtle Knife, and The Amber Spyglass.

The classic series is considered to be one of the most important children's'/young adult fiction works ever written, its deceptive fantasy trimmings a backdrop for surprisingly complex themes such as authoritarianism and religious dogma. It is for this reason that the work has proven notoriously difficult to adapt. The film adaptation was a critical and commercial flop, and the National Theatre's considerably better stage adaptation ultimately needed to split the story into two plays of three hours each. A miniseries, then, may turn out to be the ideal format for the material, allowing the necessary time to flesh out all the subtext and background.

An all-star cast and creative team includes Academy Award winning director Tom Hooper, and actors James McAvoy, Lin Manuel Miranda, Ruth Wilson, and Dafne Keen. This series has been in production for a while at this point, having been originally previewed on this blog some three years ago. Filming has now wrapped, and the first season looks set for debut some time in the Spring. BBC are apparently bullish enough on the end product that they have already greenlit for a second season. If done right, this could be essential watching.

Start Date: Spring 2019

3. Les Miserables - BBC (New TV Show)

les miserables bbc 2019 new most anticipated tvLes Miserables is a celebrated novel, and one of the world's most beloved musicals, yet it has proven a difficult work to adapt to the screen. One reason for this is the sheer volume of material contained within the original text - the novel clocks in at around 1,000 pages and is typically split into two books.

Evidently, it has proven difficult to successfully convey the same level of meaning in a short two to three hour film, especially when stretched further by indulgent musical numbers. And so the BBC's decidedly non-musical mini-series may turn out to be an ideal way to present the story, with enough time and depth to do justice to the source material.

BBC, for their part, seem to be pulling out all the stops. This is a big-budget TV production, with the talent to match. Andrew Davies, acclaimed writer of the original House of Cards scripts the series, and an all-star cast features the likes of Dominic West, David Oyelowo, Lily Collins, Olivia Colman, and Derek Jacobi. It's a very promising take and what looks to be an excellent production. Watch this one with great interest.

Start Date: January 2019

2. The Eddy - Netflix (New TV Show)

the eddy la la land damian chazelle jazz netflix tv show 2019 best most anticipated Netflix has a great wealth of new series and movies coming out this year. Too much so. We could do an entire piece on their original content on 2019 and still have great difficulty whittling it down to 15. There is one series, however, that has us more excited than the rest, a clear potential standout of 2019.

The Eddy marks the first venture into television from Damian Chazelle, the Academy Award winning writer/director of WhiplashLa La Land, and First Man. If his most recent film project marked a departure from the niche for which he is best known, The Eddy goes in the opposite direction, and is probably the most Damian Chazelle thing I can imagine: a musical drama set in a Parisian jazz club. The series will feature original music from Glen Ballard, Grammy award winning producer of albums such as Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill, and Michael Jackson's Thriller.

Beyond that we know... very little, except that it will apparently release during 2019. As someone who is a big fan of Chazelle's work, that is very exciting news.

Start Date: TBA 2019

1. Stranger Things - Netflix 

stranger things best tv show television 2019 season 3And sorry, but no surprises for our number one pick of 2019. Stranger Things 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 three takes us.

Little is known about the new season, aside from the fact that it will release this July. The last season left us on something of an ominous note, with the antagonistic Shadow being facing temporary defeat, but still very much present and with designs on our world. Elsewhere the smart money would expect to see more of Eleven's sibling, revealed briefly in season two.

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.

Start Date: July 2019

So there you have it folks: 2019 in television. Tune in next week for the essential new videogames of the year!

Thursday, 27 December 2018

debbie debbies end of year awards 2018 best films music
There is a tale that has been passed down through countless generations.  It tells of an end of year awards ceremony of unmatched scale and ferocity, the likes of which would never be seen again. This is that awards ceremony, an all-encompassing review of the world today. It is time once again for The Ephemeric's famous annual tradition. It's The Debbie Awards.

You'd never know it from watching the news, but there has never been a better time to be alive. We're living longer and healthier lives, poverty and hunger is on the decline, and for all the absurdity and chaos of the moment there is still ample reason for optimism. As always, The Debbies serve as a record of all that is good and noteworthy. Artistic endeavours, technological accomplishment, the pulse of business and politics. This event is about celebrating the best that human creativity and ingenuity has had to offer.

So without further ado, let the curtain fall upon 2018 as we begin our definitive review of the past 12 months:

2018 Debbie Awards

Cinema & TV

1. The Debbie for TV Show of the Year 
Winner: American Crime Story: The Assassination of Gianni Versace (FX)
Runner Up: The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (Amazon)

american crime story assassination of gianni versace fx best tv show 2018

While the first season of American Crime Story may have garnered more attention and plaudits for its coverage of the more notorious OJ Simpson trial, this follow up, focusing on the spate of serial killings which culminated in the titular assassination of a fashion icon, exceeded its predecessor in every way. Bolder and more artistically inclined, the Assassination of Gianni Versace made for a stylistically dazzling character piece, underpinned by an unforgettable Darren Criss performance.

In second place by barely a whisker is the brilliant The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. A love letter to a bygone era of Golden Age New York, Maisel is a sublime production of impeccable writing and composition which survives on far more than mere nostalgia. Pitch perfect casting and razor sharp wit make this the most charming series in years, and easily the best thing to come out of Amazon's original content department yet.

2. The Debbie for New TV Show of the Year 
Winner: A Very English Scandal (BBC)
Runner Up: The Haunting of Hill House (Netflix)

very english scandal bbc hugh grant best new tv show 2018

Hugh Grant is having something of a career renaissance in recent years, and in BBC's A Very English Scandal he may have found his most effective vehicle yet. A dramatisation of the true story of former Liberal Party leader Jeremy Thorpe, and his attempts to conceal a homosexual affair by having his former lover assassinated. Grant's exquisite performance makes for a character study in megalomania and paranoia, but its sharp scripting deftly balances the dark societal context against the clearly humorous absurdity of the whole situation. Scandal makes for another delightful addition to the pantheon of satirical political drama in the age of House of Cards and Death of Stalin.

The Haunting of Hill House takes second place, and Netflix's acclaimed horror series could well have taken top spot if not for the weak finale. Hill House provides more than its share of chills, albeit in a more sophisticated manner than simply another lazy jump scare. The production quality is very impressive, visually striking and adventurously filmed (one episode is filmed almost entirely in a single take). Most of all though it's the subtle touches which impress: the hidden ghosts in the background throughout the series, the way props and statues subtly change from shot to shot. A lot of care and attention to detail has gone into this production and it shows.

3. The Debbie for Film of the Year 
Winner: First Man
Runners Up: A Quiet Place, Roma

first man damian chazelle ryan gosling claire foy best film 2018

Had a very difficult time with this category in 2018. Ultimately I decided to award to prize to director Damian Chazelle's follow up to La La Land, First Man. This is, of course, the biopic of first man on the moon Neil Armstrong, with most of the focus on the man himself, his personality and his motivations. It marks an intriguing change in milieu for the director of the aforementioned La La Land and Whiplash away from a musical and classical Hollywood influence. That he has managed to pull off such an accomplished prestige picture at this early stage of his career just goes to show how talented a filmmaker he really is.

And it's a split decision for our runner up position. The first name of honour is John Krasinski's (yes, Jim from The Office) excellent directorial debut A Quiet Place. Any filmmaker will tell you how difficult it is telling a story with no dialogue, and that Krasinski manages to pull it off and craft so compelling a narrative illustrates a very promising talent indeed. One of the horror highlights of the last several years, and a promising start to a new director's career.

Third place goes to Roma, the new film from Alfonso Cuarón, and most critics' frontrunner heading into awards season. The last time we saw Cuarón he was winning the Oscar for the excellent Gravity, and the smart money seems to be on him taking home that prize again this year. This is one of those occasions where I find myself at odds with the critical consensus. Roma is certainly a visually beautiful film, utterly perfect from a technical and filmmaking point of view, but is visual and technical skill the only yardstick by which we judge a film? Ultimately it's a lovely little film, but with the type of intimate, low-key story that probably means more to the filmmaker than anyone in the audience. A wonderful artistic work, but not the best film this year.

4. The Debbie for Variety Show Host of the Year 
Winner: David Letterman, My Next Guest Needs No Introduction 
Runner Up: Stephen Colbert, The Late Show

david letterman my next guest needs no introduction talk show host of the year 2018

If 2018 was good for something it was the return to television of legendary talk show host David Letterman, with the excellent new Netflix variety show My Next Guest Needs No Introduction. The concept is simple, the great David hosts a series of full length interviews with some of the most prominent individuals in the world. Season 1 guests included Barack Obama, Malala, and George Clooney. This extended format provides for some fascinating watching, the kind that you can't get on those ten minute segments they allow for on regular broadcast TV.

It's been another strong year for Stephen Colbert, host of the Late Show. The increasingly charged political obsession in America clearly suits his humour, and increasingly he is becoming an essential voice in the media firmament. Political commentary is, after all, how Colbert made his name on the Daily Show and later his own Colbert Report. The past year has shown us that he still has the touch.

5. The Debbie for Hollywood Rising Star of the Year 
Winner: Olivia Colman
Runner Up: John Krasinksi

olivia colman breakthrough star of the year 2018 the favourite crown

What a year it has been for Olivia Colman, star of the awards-tipped The Favourite, and soon to be star of The Crown as she steps into Claire Foy's hard-to-fill shoes. Colman is also set to take a leading role in BBC's new Les Miserables mini-series. It's been a bumper year for this star in the making, and the upcoming awards season could be a big one for her.

John Krasinksi makes for another strong contender. His directorial debut A Quiet Place met with near unanimous critical acclaim and awards buzz, and he additionally starred in Amazon's very well received Jack Ryan series. Krasinski has struggled somewhat to break free of The Office since that show's end some six years ago, but heading into 2019 he finds himself very much back on Hollywood's A-list.

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

debbies youtube channel of the year isaac arthur 2018

YouTube has come a long way in recent years, moving on from lame Vlogs and people narrating themselves playing videogames. This year, the top prize goes to the channel of Isaac Arthur. I don't know who Isaac is or what he does for a living, but on his YouTube channel he puts out extremely in-depth science videos of a shockingly high quality. For the most part, these videos consider the science behind potential future technologies or hypothetical concepts in the public discourse. Previous topics of conversation have included life extension technologies, societal reforms, space colonisation, general astronomy and physics. What makes these videos great is that he doesn't analyse the ideas from a fantastical science fiction point of view as you would normally see in media, but from the cold hard reality of science fact. The result is something that is both educational and a surprisingly considered look at what the future might hold.

Music, Art & Theatre

7. The Debbie for Theatrical Production of the Year 
Winner: The Lehman Trilogy (National Theatre)
Runner Up: Hadestown (National Theatre)

lehman trilogy national simon russell beale best theatre 2018

The National Theatre has been on form this year, and top of an impressive lineup was the excellent The Lehman Trilogy. The ambitious production navigates the 164 year history of the notorious investment bank, from the arrival of three immigrant brothers in 1800s America, to the 2008 financial crisis which led to the firm's collapse. Most impressive is the performance of the three lead actors, tackling a range of characters and personalities without breaking stride. Hugely entertaining, essential theatre.

The National takes runner up position as well, with the London premiere of the latest musical out of the US, Hadestown. This addictive reinterpretation of the classical mythology of Orpheus and Eurydice features all the catchy tunes and inventive stagecraft that one expects from a modern musical, and no doubt will find an extended life on the West End when this run is complete.

8. The Debbie for Album of the Year 
Winner: A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships - The 1975
Runners Up: Little Dark Age - MGMT

the 1975 brief inquiry into online relationships best album 2018

The 1975 is a band that seems to be getting better and better. The debut album showed raw promise, the second greater consistency and finesse. With the third album, A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships, the band has delivered a work of higher ambition. The music is more diverse, the lyrics more poignant, and there are some great tunes included. It's Not Living (If It's Not With You) is a great track, while singles Give Yourself a Try and TooTimeTooTimeTooTime are also fine numbers. Very solid work from a band that is fast becoming essential listening.

A close runner up (I'm about 50/50). MGMT's latest album, Little Dark Age marks a strong return to form for the mercurial trailblazers. Infectious, memorable pop music, without sacrificing the artistry for which the band is known. Title track Little Dark Age and Hand it Over are clear standout tracks, but the album is consistent and high quality throughout in a way that the band hasn't been since their much acclaimed debut.

9. The Debbie for Debut Album of the Year 
Winner: Heaven's Only Wishful - MorMor
Runner Up: Parcels - Parcels

mormor heaven's only wishful best debut album 2018

2018 turned out to be a fine year for new musicians coming through. Our pick of the bunch goes not to a full debut LP, but the hugely promising EP of MorMor, Heaven's Only Wishful. The Canadian multi-instrumentalist's eclectic style spans a variety of genres and musical techniques, and while it's undoubtedly rough around the edges, great tracks like the titular Heaven's Only Wishful and Waiting on the Warmth make clear just how much talent the boy has. MorMor is hard at work on a full LP due next year, and the first track to be revealed so far, Pass the Hours, suggests it will be a cracker.

A veteran of our 2017 Hot List, Parcels finally delivered their eponymous debut LP in 2018 and it did not disappoint. Smooth, impeccably produced pop with catchy numbers like Tieduprightnow, Lightenup, and Withorwithout. Imagine The Strokes crossed with (Random Access Memories era) Daft Punk and that's a pretty good indication. A fine debut.

10. The Debbie for Song of the Year 
Winner: Fireworks - First Aid Kit
Runners Up: Graffiti - Chvrches, Little Dark Age - MGMT

first aid kit fireworks best song 2018

Picking one out of the multitudes of great songs one hears during a year is no easy task. Which is why I like to hedge my bets and pick three. This year I'm giving the top prize to First Aid Kit's gleaming, bittersweet ode to faded relationships, Fireworks. This was a special album overall, and unlucky to miss out on our top three of that category, but this track in particular has one of those lingering qualities that will stick with you.

Not mentioned so far, but Chvrches had a fine album released during 2018, and Graffiti is the essential tune from that record. What you might call a heart-grabbing track which epitomises the inventiveness and energy that typifies this band at their best.

Lastly a shout out to the title track from MGMT's excellent new album, Little Dark Age. With shades of Robert Smith and The Cure, Little Dark Age harkens back to the sound that made the band such a success with their debut Oracular Spectacular, and is particularly reminiscent of Time To Pretend. An excellent track from a band that finally seems to be finding the right balance of artistry and mainstream appeal.

11. The Debbie for Live Performance of the Year 
Winner: Paul McCartney
Runner Up: Caro Emerald

paul mccartney best live performance 2018

We've been fortunate to have some really fantastic performers in London over the last year, but among all of them it's hard to top an evening with one of the greatest songwriters of all time, Paul McCartney. Sir Paul is getting on at 76 years of age, but that doesn't seem to have affected him all that much with a new album in 2018 on top of a worldwide tour. And what a tour it has been. Most musicians occupy the first half of the evening with support acts, and then give you one or two hours, if you're lucky, on stage. Paul has been touring without a support act, so that he can go out and give a full three hour tour of his long and storied career. Not only does he spin a good tale or two, but his energy could put most of his much younger contemporaries to shame. That the evening finished off with a surprise Beatles reunion (Ringo joining for the encore) was the topper on a very memorable event.

In any other year Caro Emerald would surely have won, but come on how do you top a Beatles reunion? Caro is the perfect example of a musician who thrives on the live performance. Her music is very good anyway, a full gamut of swing music from classical jazz to more exotic, latin-infused styles, with great tracks like That ManStuck, and A Night Like This. But seeing her on stage takes good music and makes it truly great. Part of that is down to her natural, oozing charisma, but much of it is due to her infectious love of the music - before each song she'll set the mood and give you the background on the musicians and instruments being used in a particular song. A hypnotically beautiful evening for music lovers.

12. The Debbie for Art Exhibition of the Year 
Winner: Oceania at The Royal Academy of Arts
Runner Up: Bacon/Giacometti at The Beyeler Foundation

oceania royal academy london best art exhibition 2018

The year long restoration process has turned London's Royal Academy of Arts into a truly top class venue for exhibitions, a fact that could not have been made more apparent than through this year's excellent flagship show, Oceania. The collection of Pacific artwork and cultural items is impressive, but it's the curation and detailed gallery design which is so beyond anything we've seen from the Royal Academy in quite some time. If they can maintain this high standard then we can't wait to see what comes next.

13. The Debbie for Book of the Year 
Winner: Death's End (Three-Body Problem trilogy) by Liu Cixin

death's end three body problem liu cixin best novel book 2018

Technically not a 2018 novel, but the English translation did finally reach us last year, so I'm counting it. This is the third and final novel in Chinese author Liu Cixin's Three-Body Problem trilogy, Death's End. It's difficult to describe the trilogy in any way without spoiling the story, but suffice it to say this is remarkable science fiction, massive in scope and impressive in its creativity. Notably this is a rare example of science fiction that adheres strictly to known science and the limitation of physics, without compromising its fantastical vision. There are moments which will frustrate, with clunky dialogue and characters who act in bizarre, unrealistic ways, but the concepts and imagery is so startling, so memorable, that it will stick with you nonetheless. By the time I got to the third book, I was so hooked that I ended up reading all 600 pages in two days flat, basically nonstop.

Business & Technology

14. The Debbie for Scientific/Technological Breakthrough of the Year 
Winner: SpaceX launches the Falcon Heavy

spacex falcon heavy launch mars elon musk best important technological breakthrough 2018

Every so often you witness an event that puts things in a new perspective, something so impressive and historic that it renews your faith in the ingenuity and brilliance of mankind. Elon Musk's SpaceX is a company with a history of exciting accomplishment already under their belt: first private company to launch and dock a spacecraft with the space station, groundbreaking self-landing rocket technology, and hugely ambitious plans to put humans in space and go to Mars. This year saw their most impressive feat to date, the launch of the Falcon Heavy Rocket. That video is truly remarkable. This is the most powerful rocket currently in operation, and one of the most powerful ever built. Musk chose to show off this capability by launching his Tesla into Mars orbit, resulting in that incredible image of his car in orbit. The show then finished with each of the booster rockets landing autonomously back on Earth. All this for a fraction of the usual cost of launch. The potential impact of such cheap, powerful launch capability can't be overstated. This really has the potential to finally open up space to general commerce and expansion. The next few years should be very exciting.

15. The Debbie for Videogame Console of the Year
Winner: Nintendo Switch

nintendo switch best console for gaming

It was always going to be difficult to follow up its incredible debut, but Nintendo's Switch is still very much the console to buy at the moment. Nintendo added to their impressive first party lineup this year with a new Smash Bros game, Mario Party, and an excellent new Mario Tennis title. Add to this an impressive array of third party titles like Diablo 3 and Stardew Valley. Stardew Valley on the go? Yes please. Even aside from the big releases, the Switch's excellent support for indie titles has gone seriously underrated. The Switch increasingly offers something for everyone.

16. The Debbie for Videogame of the Year 
Winner: Red Dead Redemption 2 (Xbox One, PS4)
Runners Up: Two Point Hospital (PC), Forza Horizon 4 (Xbox One, PS4, PC)

red dead redemption 2 ii xbox playstation ps4 game of the year 2018

I have made my views clear on Rockstar's all-conquering new Red Dead Redemption 2, and while this is a game with far more technical and design flaws than most people seem to want to acknowledge, there's no denying its genius. Rockstar have created an incredible, massive world that is dripping with life and history, packed full of things to do, and tells a surprisingly moving story. There's enough here to entertain for dozens, if not hundreds of hours, and that's before we even get into the newly launched online mode.

When the former coders of legendary development studio Bullfrog banded together to form a new studio, it was a cause of much celebration among gamers of a certain age. Their first title, Two Point Hospital is a loving remake of Theme Hospital and expertly captures the humour and satisfying gameplay of that title, while adding enough of its own twist and modern gameplay elements to keep things fresh and distinct. We look forward to an exciting future with this studio, and rumour has it that we can expect an entire Two Point Town series of titles based around various simulation genres.

Honourable mention goes to Forza Horizon 4. I'm not usually a big fan of these annual franchise series, but in Horizon 4, the developers have created one of the great driving games of all time. A huge array of cars, detailed customisation options, and massive amounts of events and content make this a near endlessly entertaining game. But it's that incredible open world, set in rural UK based on regions as diverse as the Cotswolds and Edinburgh, that makes it truly memorable.

17. The Debbie for Company of the Year
Winner: Hello Fresh

hello fresh company of the year 2018

This award usually goes to the big tech innovator of the year, firms with high-minded goals and aspirations to change the world, but sometimes you need to step back and admire a good company providing a very clever and high quality service. This year I'm choosing to recognise Hello Fresh, and its line of meal-boxes. Hello Fresh will send you a box once a week with recipes and all the necessary ingredients. All you have to do is cook the meal. It is the ideal delivery service for today's 20/30 something professional. Someone who still wants to cook something more interesting than ready meals or mac and cheese, but doesn't have the time for planning and shopping. It also helps that the recipes are almost all quite excellent.

18. The Debbie for Startup of the Year
Winner: Revolut

revolut small startup company of the year 2018

A good idea is everything these days. Most start-up companies are just variations of variations on a theme. Crypto-this, and p2p-that. Revolut is a company with a good concept with actual application. Imagine all your payment sources in one place: debit card, cryptocurrency, and foreign currency exchange, all seamless, all without additional fees or rip off exchange rates. It's an idea with great potential and one which offers a sensible, practical alternative to digital banking.


19. The Debbie for Footballer of the Year 
Winner: Antoine Griezmann - Atletico Madrid

antoine griezmann atletico madrid best footballer player in the world football 2018

Strangely overlooked amid the hype machine of football, but Antoine Griezmann has continued operating at the very highest level, competing for all honours with Atletico Madrid, and subsequently a World Cup winner at the heart of this summer's very impressive France side. Griezmann is a great player not just because of his individual talents, but because of how he enriches his teammates around him wherever he goes. An indispensable player for club and country who could walk into any team.

20. The Debbie for Under-21 Footballer of the Year 
Winner: Kylian Mbappé - PSG

kylian mbappe psg paris monaco best young footballer player in the world 2018

Back to back awards for the hottest thing in football. Kylian Mbappé complete his astonishing £150million transfer to PSG this year, a deal which makes him the second most expensive signing of all time despite his tender age of 20. He then followed that up with an electric World Cup performance which saw his France side end as world champions, and he pick up the award for best young player. There really is no telling what Mbappé can accomplish with his career, and has done so much already.

21. The Debbie for Football Manager of the Year 
Winner: Gareth Southgate - England

best football manager in the world 2018 Gareth Southgate

He may not be the popular or obvious candidate, but for me he is the outstanding candidate for 2018. Gareth Southgate may not have won the World Cup this summer, but then no one in their right might expected him to do so. Despite this, he wildly exceeded any expectation and did so with a poise and quiet confidence that should serve as an example for any football manager. Whatever his particular qualities and talents, Southgate has managed to do something that some of the world's best managers have failed, to unite this fractious footballing nation, reinvigorate an ageing team with young energy, and successfully keep an England team focused and dedicated on the pitch.

22. The Debbie for Football Club of the Year 
Winner: Manchester City

football club of the year 2018 manchester city

While they may still not have the brand recognition of their local rivals or one of the giants from Spain, there is little doubt in my mind that Manchester City are the outstanding football club in world football today. It shouldn't come as a surprise given the many hundreds of millions they have spent on players in recent years, but that doesn't take anything away from the fact that they have one of the world's most impressive playing squads and right now look dominant on just about any football pitch. And they've been equally impressive off the pitch with their business endeavours, setting up affiliations with overseas clubs and building an impressive global network. Say what you want about them, but City are the epitome of a modern football club, forward thinking and results-driven.

Current Events

23. The Debbie for Politician of the Year 
Winner: Beto O'Rourke

beto o'rourke politician of the year 2018

It might seem strange to award this prize to a man whose big claim to fame is losing a Senate election, but that defeat might paradoxically catapult Beto O'Rourke to the Presidency in two years. Between his good looks, charisma, and earnest "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" vibe, the three-term Congressman and former musician and small business owner seems to have caught the public imagination in a way that few politicians ever manage. His ill-fated Senate race not only smashed the fundraising records for a Congressional election, but in losing by just 3% he gained a greater share of the vote than any Democrat in the deep-red state of Texas in a generation. If Beto can put Texas in play, let alone the much more purple states of Arizona and Georgia, that could make him a very formidable opponent in 2020. Watching him debate this past fall, I was struck by how he refused to sink to the level of his opponent Ted Cruz, and his personal, vitriolic attacks. No matter what Cruz threw at him personally, Beto just responded to his opponent with respect and courtesy, and stayed on message. At the time I thought it was political suicide, but in this day and age a lot of people want to see people like that in politics. There's a movement growing, and it might just carry Beto to the White House.

24. The Debbie for Scandal of the Year 
Winner: The Murder of Jamal Khashoggi

jamal khashoggi murder saudi arabia turkey bin salman donald trump scandal 2018 russia

There's a real danger at the moment, with seemingly every day bringing a shocking new scandal somewhere in the world, that we get overloaded by information and allow these things to simply wash over us without impact. One scandal that still shocks me to my core is the murder by the Saudi government of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi, and all the various satellite scandals around it. This is one of those stories that just gets worse and worse the more you look into it. The brazenness and cover up attempt is shocking, and the fact that there seems to be so little path for recourse reminds us how unjust and unaccountable this world still remains in many ways, even in this day and age.

And this is not just some foreign thing in a far away land, an appallingly underreported aspect of this nightmare is the complicity of the current American regime. Donald Trump openly states that he doesn't care about the murder because of how much money the Saudis pay us, and has to date taken no action against the perpetrators. If that wasn't damning enough, it has also become apparent that Trump's own son-in-law and senior White House advisor Jared Kushner attempted to aid and advise the Saudis as to how to carry out the cover up and ride out the media storm. If THAT wasn't bad enough, Khashoggi was an American resident and green card holder. The White House has been directly complicit in covering up the murder of an American resident. I don't know how there isn't more outrage about this.

25. The Debbie for Cause of the Year 
Winner: Corruption in politics

corrupt corruption criminalrepublican trump brexit nazi fascist autocracy authoritarian most important issue 2018

It ties into the previous award, but if there's one thing we've learned over the past year it's that there is still a shocking level of corruption in politics. This is not always something as extreme as covering up murder, as above. In the past year we've seen indictments left and right for wire fraud, securities fraud, and fake charities. We've seen the uncovering of a years' long conspiracy to commit electoral fraud. We've seen blatant and completely open attempts at voter suppression against minorities. In one astonishing case, electoral integrity and vote counting was left in the hands of one of the two candidates with no oversight. That's not even getting into sham investigations, sexual crimes being covered up on Supreme Court nominees, gerrymandering, and so much more. It may not be as sexy a campaign issue as healthcare or the environment, but whoever is in charge next needs to make clamping down on corruption a central pillar of their platform. Corruption in American politics is turning out to be far more rampant that we realised, and it poses a grave threat to the integrity of our democracy. Christ, and don't get me started on what's going on in the UK right now.

26. The Debbie for Person of the Year 
Winner: Christine Blasey Ford

christine blasey ford brett kavanaugh metoo me too person of the year 2018

The Ephemeric's person of the year award goes to a woman of remarkable poise and courage, the highly impressive Christine Blasey Ford. If the #MeToo movement has an icon then it is surely her. A professor of psychology and an accomplished researcher, Ford took on herself the spotlight of the world with the story of her assault. She withstood the pressure of a room of 11 antagonistic men, and months of death threats in order to go public, and she did this despite knowing from the example of Anita Hill that little would likely come of it. I don't care what anyone says, but it takes a very brave person to take that kind of pressure and punishment on themselves, and to handle herself with such grace and composure. In doing so, she helped cast her own spotlight on the unacceptable sexism and injustice that still blights this country.

Social & Lifestyle

27. The Debbie for Restaurant of the Year 
Winner: Maos, London
Runner Up: The Royal Oak, Whatcote

maos nuno mendes london best restaurant 2018 royal oak whatcote chef's dozen

What happens when London’s hottest chef decides to open an intimate supper club? Something quite special. Maos is the latest project from London culinary royalty Nuno Mendes, formerly of Viajante and more recently of The Chiltern Firehouse. Maos is a truly unique experience, more of a dinner party than a restaurant. Drinks and canapés in the kitchen, mingling with guests and staff alike, and the day finishes off with treats and drinks on the roof terrace. An utterly delightful experience with food to match.

Close behind is The Royal Oak, new restaurant from the people behind Chipping Campden's excellent The Chef's Dozen. Specialists in wild game: braised hare garganelli, pheasant, beef wellington, bread with spreadable pork crackling. Less adventurous diners may need to suspend disbelief, but in doing so they will find a delicious and endlessly creative array of dishes. Very fine addition to English dining.

28. The Debbie for Nightclub/Bar of the Year 
Winner: Eclipse

eclipse south kensington ballr ball pit best bar club london 2018

London has no shortage of fine drinking establishments, but how many are blessed with an adult ball-pit? The answer is "not nearly enough". The venue is cosy, the drinks very fine, but you really have not had a night out like this. Bring a group of your closest friends and feel like a kid again. Just remember to remove your rings and any easily misplaced items ahead of time. Anything that gets dropped in that ball-pit stays dropped.

29. The Debbie for Destination of the Year
Winner: The Cotswolds, UK

cotswolds england chipping campden best holiday destination 2018

Ours is a beautiful planet with many jaw-dropping locales to visit. In previous years we have used this prize to celebrate some of the more far-flung and exotic destinations with which we have become enamoured, but equally it's important not to overlook the wonders that lie closer to home. England truly is a beautiful country, its serene countryside easily the match of any place more exotic. Especially the Cotswolds, with its gentle rolling hills, golden afternoon light, and picturesque old towns, practically untouched for hundreds of years. Tuscany? The Alps? I would happily argue that there is no better place to relax and unwind than England's golden pastures.

30. The Debbie for Wine of the Year 
Winner: Lamole di Lamole Vigneto di Campolungo 2013
lamole di lamole vigneto di campolungo 2013 best wine 2018

France earns the plaudits, but give me a hearty Tuscan red any day of the week. If you have to traverse mountain and valley to reach the sleepy and remote commune of Lamole di Lamole, then so be it! This year our pick of the region's wine goes to Lamole's exquisite Campolungo. This award winning bottle is a DOCG gran selezione, which means the classic blend of Sangiovese and Cabernet Sauvignon (this one breaks 95% Sangiovese for a smoother finish). You'll be hard pressed to find a more potable palate.

31. The Debbie for Champagne of the Year 
Winner: Alfred Gratien Cuvée Paradis

best champagne 2018 alfred gratien cuvee paradis

And we will finish out this round-up the same way we finish out the year, with a bottle of very fine champagne. This year our bottle of choice is the pinnacle of Alfred Gratien's luxuriant vintages, the Cuvée Paradis. A premier cru, Chardonnay-led blend that is produced only in very small quantities, this very finessed and well-rounded bottle has everything you want for a celebratory drink. Like drinking liquid stardust.

Well there you have it. How will you remember 2018? Here's to 2019 being even better!

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