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Thursday, 16 January 2020

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 2020.

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As the gaming industry continues to grow, I am increasingly impressed by the diversity of what's out there. Now more than ever you can find games for any person and any set of tastes, whether it's deep, story-driven titles or casual mobile games. We have genres like walking simulators and "dad games", while 2019 also saw one of the finest RPGs in a generation. With this year's selection I feel there's a good breadth of the different types of experiences and genres that gaming has to offer. It is a good time to be a gamer.

2020 looks set to mark the beginning of a new era as we transition towards the new generation of hardware. Microsoft are set to release the bizarrely named Xbox Series X, PS5 is set to be revealed, and Nintendo are rumoured to be launching some kind of a Switch successor in the summer. You even have the likes of Google and Apple getting in on the action with Google Stadia and Apple Arcade, challenging our notions of what a videogames console should be.

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. Age of Empires IV (PC)

age of empires iv pc 2020Who 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 gamers, 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 medieval setting roughly in-line with the second and most enduringly popular game in the series.

One of my biggest memories of Age of Empires was that my school used it as a teaching aid, so whatever happens I hope this new title does not skimp on the educational value. Release date is still to be announced.

Release Date: TBA 2020

14. Sable (PC, Mac, Xbox One)

sable best pc game 2020 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 introspective 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 2020

13. Everwild (PC, Xbox One)

everwild rare most anticipated game 2020 px xbox Rare are on something of a comeback at the moment. Sea of Thieves was well received, and they are riding that hype with Everwild, a game whose ambition harkens back to the glory days of the storied developer.

This is an exclusive PC/Xbox title, not a shock for a company owned by Microsoft. Little is known beyond what one can see in the trailer: a colorful world rendered in a striking cell-shaded art-style, a magical world full of mythical animals and, presumably, whimsy. It looks fantastic, now we just await details.

A firm release date has not been confirmed, but is expected to be released late in the year.

Release Date: TBA 2020

12. The Artful Escape (PC, Xbox One)

the artful escape francis vendetti annapurna edith finch david bowie best game 2020Award winning film studio Annapurna made their debut in videogaming with the spellbinding What Remains of Edith Finch and have since followed it up with a series of remarkable and creative titles, including last year's excellent Sayonara Wild Hearts. This year they will finally follow up this success with their long-awaited title The Artful Escape. This one has been in the works for a while, but 2020 appears to be the year that it finally sees release.

 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 pleasingly relaxing pace to it.

Release Date: TBA 2020

11. Empire of Sin (PC, Mac, Xbox One, PS4, Switch)

empire of sin paradox crusader universalis best games 2020 An interesting prospect from the masters of grand strategy, Paradox Interactive. Empire of Sin gives you the chance to build your mafia empire from the ground up in prohibition era Chicago. Players will be responsible for recruiting underlings, managing their businesses, and dealing with rivals through an X-Com style combat system.

As with most Paradox titles, Empire of Sin will play like a mix between a strategy game and an RPG, and there is no developer with more experience in this niche genre.

Empire of Sin will launch across every home console, PC and Mac, with a release date set for some time in the second quarter of the year.

Release Date: Spring 2020

10. Starmancer (PC, Mac)

starmancer chucklefish stardew valley starbound kickstarter best game 2020The latest title from Chucklefish, publisher of Stardew Valley and Starbound. Starmancer is another love letter to the 16-bit era of games.

First appearing on Kickstarter some two years ago, Starmancer is a colony building game in the style of Rimworld or Dwarf Fortress, with an isometric pixelart visual style that is reminiscent of fellow Kickstarter success Star Command, as well as Chucklefish's other titles. Players manage a colony, complete missions and expand through a procedurally generated living world.

Starmancer has been in closed alpha for most of 2019, with an initial public release expected towards the end of 2020.

Release Date: Late 2020

9. Flight Simulator (PC, Xbox One)

flight simulator 2020 best most anticipated games pc xboxI can practically see the dumbfounded expressions on some of your faces. James has Flight Simulator on his most anticipated games list? What's next, Myst? Minesweeper? Flight Simulator is, of course, the venerable Microsoft games series dating back to the 1990s. The gold standard of the genre and a passion of flight aficionados the world over. But the series has been defunct for some 15 years now, so what has prompted Microsoft to bring the franchise out of retirement?

This newest edition employs some quite remarkable technology. Powered by Bing maps, Flight Simulator will feature an accurate simulation of the entire world to fly over, complete with textures, topography and 3D features powered by Microsoft Azure. But really it is the attention to detail that is most remarkable, zooming in close to see this staggeringly scaled world populated by simulated traffic on the streets, animals in the wild, and stunningly detailed weather systems. Even if you are not into flight sims, this is a game to just switch on and gawp at.

Release Date: Spring 2020

8. Starfield (PC, Xbox One, PS4)

starfield bethesda fallout best game 2020 pc xbox ps4Anything you can do, we can do better. Having seen rivals and original Fallout creators Obsidian try their hand at a spacefaring RPG in 2019's The Outer Worlds (to moderate success), the current stewards of the Fallout franchise Bethesda are themselves getting into the mix with the as yet still very mysterious, 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.

I am very excited about this game. The only reason it is this far down the list is because of my skepticism that it will in fact launch this year as expected.

Release Date: TBA 2020

7. Gamedec (PC)

gamedec rpg cyberpunk disco elysium best game 2020Slow-burning story-based RPGs are in vogue after last year's Disco Elysium, as is the cyberpunk genre (see number one on this very list). Combining both those things is Gamedec, an adaptation of the Polish series of sci-fi crime novels.

The concept is deliciously on trend, a hard-boiled neo-noir detective story who investigates crimes in virtual worlds. Think Ready Player One mixed with Bladerunner. As with last year's Disco Elysium, this is an RPG that decidedly does not focus on violence and action, but instead on its story and characters. Gamedec will live and die by the quality of its writing, but the premise so far is intriguing.

Gamedec will launch in 2020.

Release Date: TBA 2020

6. Half-Life: Alyx (PC)

pc half life three 3 alyx episode vr steam valve best game 2020Has hell officially frozen over? Is Half Life 3 finally upon us? Unfortunately not.

When Valve announced the first new title in the Half Life series, some 12 years after the most recent entry in the series, it understandably caused a lot of hysteria. However, Half Life: Alyx is not the sequel that we had all been hoping for. Rather this is a "sidequel" if you will, intended more to show off Valve's new virtual reality technology than to really expand the franchise.

Now that's not to say that this isn't going to be a worthwhile game. It is Half Life after all, and while a Valve game is a rarity these days, they still consistently manage to deliver a high quality product when they deign to do so. The game still looks great and has me very excited, even if that excitement is a 7 out of 10 as opposed to the 11 out of 10 that Half Life 3 would have been.

Release Date: March 2020

5. Crusader Kings 3 (PC)

crusader kings 3 europa universalis best game pc 2020 paradox We have already covered how Paradox Interactive are the masters of the grand strategy craft, and the Crusader Kings series has always been the best of the bunch. Nearly a decade (and some dozen or so expansions) since its release, the second title in the series remains one of the finest games of the genre, so naturally I am very excited about the upcoming sequel.

Crusader Kings is a grand strategy title that sees you play as a land-owning noble anywhere from the county to empire level in medieval Europe (and later Africa, Middle East and Asia). What sets it apart from other medieval strategy games is the unique blend of strategy and RPG elements that has come to define the grand strategy genre. You don't just play some faceless god-king as in the Civilisation series, but an actual character in the game world. You are responsible not just for managing your fiefdom or empire, but your whole dynasty and all the relationships that entails. The breaking down of a strategy game to the level of individual people is quite unique for the genre and provides a remarkable sense of flavour and character to the series. The newest title in the series is doubling down on those RPG elements, with more character and story-based events, skill-trees, and much more.

Crusader Kings 3 releases in 2020.

Release Date: TBA 2020

4. Kerbal Space Program 2 (PC, Mac, Xbox One, PS4)

kerbal space program 2 jebediah best game 2020 The original game remains one of the best 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 slated for release by March, it has now been pushed back into the next financial year, indicating a release later in 2020.

Release Date: Summer 2020

3. Watch Dogs: Legion (PC, Xbox One, Xbox Series X, PS4, Stadia)

watch dogs legion brexit trump london best game pc xbox ps4 2020 stadiaWatch Dogs: Legion is the latest title in Ubisoft's Watch Dogs series, and looks to be the most exciting addition to the series yet.

For those who have not played a Watch Dogs game before, picture an open world third person action game in the style of Grand Theft Auto, but with a technological, hacking focus ala Deus Ex. Watch Dogs Legion brings the series to a new London setting and adds a hugely intriguing new mechanic: play as anyone.

WDL imagines a post-Brexit dystopian London that has fallen into authoritarianism and hardship. Players will be members of the resistance, with the aim of recruiting other members of the public to the cause.That's right. In this open world recreation of London, you can play as any NPC you see. The scale being promised is remarkable ambitious, and the concept is timely. If they can pull it off in a way that doesn't feel like a gimmick, this will be a GOTY contender.

Release Date: March 2020

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

legend of zelda breath of the wild 2 sequel switch best game ever 2020How 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 nothing about this game, other than the fact that it is apparently directly related to its predecessor, itself a somewhat rarity in the Zelda series. 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: Late 2020

1. Cyberpunk 2077 (PC, Xbox One, PS4, Stadia)

cyberpunk 2077 rpg game 2020 pc Cyberpunk 2077 is an RPG set in a tantalising Cyberpunk setting in near future California. The impressive 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.

2019 revealed a further surprise with the presence of Cyberpunk icon Keanu Reeves as one of the game's main characters. Developers CD Projekt Red have exceptional pedigree when it comes to RPGs, and now with the budget and ambition to match we could be in for quite the spectacle.

After years in development, Cyberpunk is finally almost here, and will launch in April.

Release Date: April 2020

So there you have it folks: 2020 in videogames. Tune in next week for the most exciting new theatrical productions coming this year!

Sunday, 12 January 2020

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 2020 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 2020 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 2020.

best anticipated new tv television shows 2019 hot list ephemeric

The new golden age of television is in full swing and shows no signs of abating. The era of mainstream premium networks and subscription models has yielded an industry with the funding and creative resources to produce content on a scale rarely seen before. Increasingly the world's great auteurs are choosing to tell their stories in the form of a ten hour series rather than a two to three hour movie, and the talent has followed.

2019 represented a new high point of this era. We saw the entry into the market of two major new players in Apple and Disney, and the coming year looks like it could be even bigger. Indeed 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 2020:

15. The Eddy - Netflix (New TV Show)

the eddy la la land damian chazelle jazz netflix tv show 2020 best most anticipatedSeemingly a perennial feature of the Hot List. Netflix's The Eddy marks the first venture into television from Damian Chazelle, the Academy Award winning writer/director of WhiplashLa La Land, and First Man. This is a series that plays very much to Chazelle's talents. 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.

We have been hearing about this one for a while now, but this winter we finally received some concrete information in the form of a cast list and the first production photos. The Eddy will star Moonlight's André Holland, along with Joanna Kulig (fans of foreign films will recognise her from Cold War) and Melissa George.

For the last two years, this has been one of the Hot List's most anticipated series, and the only reason it finds itself so low in the ranking this year is that, after two years of delays, I'm taking with a pinch of salt any suggestion that it will finally see release in 2020. I am an optimist though, and now that we have an actual cast, synopsis, and set photos I am confident that the Eddy will arrive sooner rather than later.

Start Date: TBA 2020

14. The Morning Show - Apple+

the morning show apple tv apple+ plus season 2 carrell anniston witherspoon 2020 most anticipated tvApple+ had a storming debut last year and maybe the most impressive of their initial lineup has been The Morning Show.

Easily the most considered and thoughtful of the media's attempts so far to adapt the #MeToo movement into a scripted drama. The Morning Show is not afraid to challenge the limits of the movement and address multiple perspectives.

Steve Carrell is the disgraced former host of the titular morning news show, while former co-host Jennifer Anniston is left to pick up the pieces alongside Carrell's replacement Reese Witherspoon. The supporting cast impresses as much as its stars, with Mark Duplass, Jack Davenport, Nestor Carbonell and particularly Billy Crudup all very strong.

Season 2 will release this year and promises more of the same office drama and ruthless politicking. Catch up on the first season if you have not done so, and then spend 2020 looking forward to its return.

Start Date: November 2020

13. The Haunting of Bly Manor - Netflix 

2020 most anticipated tv netflix haunting of hill house bly manor
Whether or not you consider this a "new show" depends very much on your definitions. The Haunting of Bly Manor is, essentially, the second season of Netflix's excellent ghost story The Haunting of Hill House. The stories will (probably) be unconnected but the cast and crew and, most importantly, the spirit, remain the same.

This, of course, is the product of showrunner Mike Flanagan, a man who is becoming one of horror's hot properties with the likes of Ouija, Oculus and most recently Dr. Sleep under his belt. This season, as the name suggests, will be based on the Henry James novel The Turn of the Screw, set in Bly Manor.

Ghost stories are ten-a-penny. What made the first season so excellent was its high production and attention to detail. Subtle touches like statues moving between camera cuts, and barely perceptible ghostly figures in the background of shots lent a special air of creepiness that exceeds most of the genre. But Hill House impressed for more than just its scares; it was a genuinely impressive bit of filmmaking and writing, with one episode in particular filmed in almost a single continuous shot.

Start Date: September 2020

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

adam kay this is going to hurt bbc amateur transplants london underground 2020 most anticipated tv shows
The 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.

Start Date: TBA 2020

11. Run - HBO (New TV Show)

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Next up we have Run, the new HBO series from Vicky Jones, longtime theatre and screen collaborator of rising star Phoebe Waller-Bridge, the latter of whom also co-produces and co-stars.

Waller-Bridge is joined in the cast by Domhnall Gleeson and Merritt Weever as Ruby, a woman living a humdrum existence, gets a text inviting her to fulfill a youthful pact promising true love and self-reinvention by stepping out of her life to take a journey with her oldest flame.

HBO is on a great run at the moment, as is Waller-Bridge. Pundits are betting on this new marriage between the two becoming one of television's next big things.

Start Date: TBA 2020

10. Space Force - Netflix (New TV Show)

space force netflix steve carrell john malkovich ben schwartz 2020 best most anticipatedIt's a series with a title that writes itself. As soon as Donald Trump announced the much derided Space Force, you knew someone was going to make a film or series by that name. That person turned out to be Greg Daniels, one of the key creatives behind the US version of The Office, as well as Parks and Recreation (and going back further, The Simpsons).

The new Netflix series is essentially a workplace comedy in the style of The Office focused on the group of people tasked with forming Trump's titular Space Force. Daniels is collaborating with Steve Carrell (who also stars) in the writers' room. Carrell is joined in the cast by John Malkovich, Ben Schwartz, and Diana Silvers (of last year's excellent Booksmart).

Space Force will debut on Netflix this summer.

Start Date: Summer 2020

9. Foundation - Apple+ (New TV Show)

foundation apple 2020 most anticipated tvApple's adaptation of Isaac Asimov's Foundation had been billed as the main tentpole of the company's new push into original content. Perhaps predictably for such a massive and expensive project, delays followed, and the release is now (hopefully) expected for some time in late 2020.

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: Late 2020

8. Amazing Stories - Apple+ (New TV Show)

2020 most anticipated tv steven speilberg amazing stories apple plusAnother from Apple+, this time a reboot of Steven Spielberg's old 1985 series Amazing Stories.

The original was an anthology series in the style of a Black Mirror or Twilight Zone, only less focused on sci-fi and more on general storytelling and world-building of all genres. The remit of this new series is to "transport the audience to worlds of wonder through the lens of today’s most imaginative filmmakers, directors and writers".

Short form storytelling has a rich history on television, and yet at the moment you only really see it in the sci-fi and horror genres (Amazon's excellent Modern Love being a recent exception). If Apple can pull this off, and with their budget and a name like Spielberg you would bet on them doing so, then this could be a very worthy addition.

Start Date: TBA 2020

7. Curb Your Enthusiasm - HBO

curb your enthusiasm seinfeld larry david season 10 2020 most anticipated tv televisionHe's back. For thirty years now, the funniest shows on television have been from Larry David, whether through Seinfeld in the 90s, or Curb Your Enthusiasm since then.

Nowadays Curb seems to be on "whenever Larry feels like making one" mode. Well in 2020 Larry feels like making one, and Curb returns for an impressive 10th season this January.

Season 10 will see a return of all the usual cast and crew, and no doubt a plethora of guest stars and celebrities either playing themselves or humorous parodies. I mean come on, it's Curb, do we really need to know anything else? It will be great.

Start Date: January 2020

6. American Crime Story: Impeachment - FX 

american crime story oj simpson versace impeachment clinton lewinsky trump 2020 most anticipated tvIn terms of awards, American Crime Story has certainly been the most successful of Ryan Murphy's various vehicles. The first two seasons, covering the OJ Simpson trial and the murder of Gianni Versace respectively, were critical and commercial successes. Next, ACS is turning its camera on the impeachment (not the current one!) and subsequent Senate trial of President Bill Clinton.

Longtime Murphy collaborator Sarah Paulson returns to the cast, along with Beanie Feldstein and Annaleigh Ashford. Clive Owen will play President Clinton.

On the surface, the subject matter marks something of a departure for the series. But ACS has always been about shining a light on the political and cultural context of the crimes depicted, and with that in mind an impeachment could well prove to be the perfect subject.

Start Date: September 2020

5. Fargo - FX 

fargo fx season 4 2020 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 with 2019 having marked his feature film debut. Hawley is now also being tapped to direct the next film in the Star Trek franchise. But amid the hype, Hawley has found time to return to the series that made him a star.

Few details of Fargo's fourth season are known at this time, but it will feature a cast icluding Chris Rock, Ben Whishaw, and Jason Schwartzman and have a 1950s setting in Kansas City, Missouri. Seasons one through three were all excellent, we eagerly await the next chapter in this anthology.

Start Date: April 2020

4. Stranger Things - Netflix 

stranger things best tv show television 2020 season 4And of course you can't have a Hot List without a new season of Stranger Things. Netflix'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.

Start Date: TBA 2020

3. Hollywood - Netflix (New TV Show)

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Ryan Murphy is a busy guy these days. The creator of Glee, American Horror Story, American Crime Story, and The Politician seems to have a knack of spinning TV gold at the moment, so it is only fitting that his next series Hollywood would celebrate the golden age of tinseltown.

A love letter to the 1940s film industry, with a cast featuring Darren Criss, Patti LuPone, Jim Parsons and Jeremy Pope. The series will apparently aim for the same upbeat tone of Glee.

Hollywood is set to debut on Netflix this May.

Start Date: May 2020

2. Russian Doll - Netflix

russian doll natasha lyonne netflix tv show 2020 best most anticipated Netflix's remarkable Natasha Lyonne vehicle Russian Doll will return for the second of what is expected to be three seasons.

For all the impressive content Netflix put out in 2019, this high concept project was surely the most surprising success story. To take a concept that sounds like a forgotten episode of the Outer Limits and turn it into an entire series that is not only coherent but wildly engaging is no small feat of writing, and Lyonne's compelling performance has rightly earned the actress a ticket across the awards circuit this year.

But television is full of these lightning in a bottle moments that start strong but fizzle out or find they have nowhere to go, particularly with this type of genre. It will be interesting to see what direction they take the series, but if it's as good as the first, it will be well worth watching.

Start Date: TBA 2020

1. Star Trek: Picard - CBS (New TV Show)

new cbs star trek next generation tng picard patrick stewart discovery 2020 most anticipated tvIt's certainly an interesting time to be a Star Trek fan. After years in the wilderness, CBS suddenly seem set on milking the franchise for all it's worth with two current series ongoing, and the expected release of at least four more in the next two years.

By far and away the headline item of this lineup is Star Trek: Picard, a new series which sees the return of Patrick Stewart's iconic Captain Picard, formerly of Star Trek: The Next Generation fame. The series will see Stewart team up with familiar faces of Trek series' past (that I won't spoil here), and a whole new assortment of characters featuring actors Alison Pill, Isa Briones, and Michelle Hurd.

Bringing back such a beloved character after nearly thirty years is a bold move that naturally has longtime fans excited, but it is the concept that intrigues the most. This is a much older Picard, now long past his adventuring days. The setting 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. Star Trek: Picard debuts at the end of January.

Start Date: January 2020

So there you have it folks: 2020 in television. Tune in next week for the essential new videogames of the year!

Saturday, 28 December 2019

debbie debbies end of year awards 2019 end of decade 2010s best films music
Tale as old as time, song as old as rhyme. It's The Debbie Awards, special end of decade super deluxe edition. Let's go.

As another year goes by it is worth taking a moment to consider the state of things. Despite the prevailing theory that we are going through an era of decline, darkness and regression, the facts make it pretty clear that there has never been a better time to be alive. We're living longer and healthier lives, poverty and hunger is on the decline globally, 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 2019 as we begin our definitive review of the past 12 months, and the decade as a whole:

2019 Debbie Awards

Cinema & TV

1. The Debbie for TV Show of the Year 
Winner: Fleabag (BBC)
Runner Up: The Crown (Netflix)

best tv show 2019 fleabag bbc phoebe waller bridge andrew scott

In all my years of putting together the Debbie Awards, I don't think I've ever had a harder time picking a winner than for the two TV awards this year. 2020 has provided an absurd abundance of high quality TV shows, and before I announce the winners I want to give a quick shout out to the litany of fantastic shows, many of them brand new, which could easily have won these awards in another year. Shows like: The Politician, His Dark Materials, Sex Education, the Marvellous Mrs. Maisel, Stranger Things, The Expanse, For All Mankind, and The Morning Show.

Now, I can't believe it either, a year with a new season of Stranger Things and it doesn't win the Debbie for best TV series. That is not to say that Stranger Things 3 was not excellent, just that in this year of brilliant TV there were other series that were even better. In this most competitive of years, that coveted top spot ultimately goes to the second season of Fleabag, a series which has rightly earned near unanimous plaudits and awards. Phoebe Waller-Bridge is proving to be one of the more gifted young screenwriters around, and the work she has done for the BBC series is of the absolute highest level, surpassing even her work with Killing Eve. But while she may claim the headlines, a great credit needs to go to the supporting cast who really make this show what it is, in particular the spectacularly talented Andrew Scott.

In a hard fought second place is The Crown. There were a great many question marks going into this new season of arguably Netflix's greatest drama series. After all, this third season has seen the beloved and award winning cast of the first two seasons almost completely replaced - a bold move for a TV series, if nothing else. Fortunately, for any doubt that may have existed, The Crown's new season shows no drop in quality, and may even be the best season yet. The new cast does an impressive job in claiming the characters so ably played by their predecessors, while Peter Morgan's scripts are as pitch perfect as ever. The third season can also boast what may well be the single best episode of the entire series.

2. The Debbie for New TV Show of the Year 
Winner: Russian Doll (Netflix)
Runners Up: Years and Years (BBC), Watchmen (HBO)

best new tv show 2019 russian doll netflix natasha lyonne

The same caveat as above: this was an astonishing year for TV and while I can only highlight a small number of series, I feel obligated to insert a mass plaudit to all the other very deserving shows that did not quite make the cut, but nevertheless deserve no small amount of praise.

But of course, there can be only one winner, and this year it is Netflix's excellent Russian Doll. To take a concept that sounds like a forgotten episode of the Outer Limits and turn it into an entire series that is not only coherent but wildly engaging is no small feat of writing, but really it is the tour de force lead performance of Natasha Lyonne that makes Russian Doll so watchable.

For runner up, I could not select just one. This year the honour will be shared. First up is BBC's memorable Years and Years, a modern commentary that is in equal parts terrifying and exhilarating in a way that TV rarely manages to be. A slightly atonal ending does not spoil what is otherwise essential viewing.

Finally we have HBO's adaptation of Watchmen, arguably the hottest show on TV right now. The celebrated graphic novel has always proven notoriously tricky to work with, and even Zack Snyder's ambitious cinematic attempt at adapting the original novel met with a somewhat mixed reaction. HBO's decision to instead craft a sequel, one that could largely be enjoyed even by those unfamiliar with the original as an independent work, has proven to be a shrewd move. The distance from its source material has allowed this series to craft its own identity, one that is no less complex or layered.

3. The Debbie for Film of the Year 
Winner: The Irishman
Runners Up: Joker

best film 2019 the irishman scorsese netflix de niro pacino pesci

The signature of a Martin Scorsese film, to me, has always been the extent to which this seasoned veteran of the cinema still makes films as a hungry and ambitious twenty-something would do. Even at 77 years of age, Scorsese eschews tradition in favour of the stylish and bold. The result is a film that feels every bit as fresh and alive as anything coming from the new generation. The Irishman might just be the most "Scorsese" film ever made; an epic gangster film of the sort that simply does not get made anymore, complete with a large ensemble cast featuring frequent Scorsese collaborators and, most notably, three of the all-time great actors in Al Pacino, Robert De Niro, and particularly Joe Pesci. But while The Irishman revisits many themes of Scorsese films past, it also goes places that few of the genre ever have, the autumn years of a gangster, and a more introspective reflection on a lifetime gone by. A film truly deserving of praise it receives.

And for runner up we have Todd Phillips' Joker. Phillips is, in the nicest way possible, a filmmaker of limited pedigree, best known for raucous male-fantasy comedies such as The Hangover and Road Trip. The character of the Joker is, of course, a Batman villain. Yet the combination of the two has produced something quite remarkable. The source material may be DC comics, but the result could almost be mistaken for a lost Scorsese film. Joker is a raw, often terrifying, and surprisingly complex character study. It is a study not just of a comicbook character, but of a society as a whole. Joker brilliantly twists the Joker character into a reflection of the modern world, the anger and disillusionment borne of societal injustice and wealth inequality that has given us mass shootings, terrorist attacks, and xenophobia. In London recently a teenager was charged with throwing a small child off a building, his motive? "I wanted to be on TV". That's what this film is about, the warped and horrific extremes to which a person can be driven by desperation on the margins of society. It may not make for easy watching, but it is something that everyone should see.

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

Stephen colbert late show daily show talk show host of the year 2019

If anyone has benefitted from the rise of Donald Trump, it has surely been Stephen Colbert, host of The Late Show. Colbert's brand of political satire honed on Comedy Central had an initially rough time translating to the baseball and apple pie role of major network talk show host. The increasingly political tenor of a post-Trump America has permitted Colbert to draw on his strengths, and establish himself as one of the most important voices on American TV.

Indeed, as Colbert grows into his new position, even his non-political work has become stronger - his recent travel series in New Zealand has been a particular highlight of this year's show, both informative and hugely entertaining. Incredibly, this is Colbert's first Debbie Award win, and it is deserved. Increasingly the face of American late night TV.

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

awkwafina breakthrough star of the year 2019 crazy rich asians farewell jumanji

One name you are sure to be hearing more of in the coming years is Awkwafina, stage name of American actress and rapper Nora Lum. 2019 has been transformative for Lum, rebranding herself from fairly forgettable rapper to an acclaimed and bankable movie star.

The past year has seen Awkwafina star in major commercial hits from Ocean's 8 to Crazy Rich Asians and the new Jumanji. But it is her star turn in the critically acclaimed The Farewell, which has earned Awkwafina a Golden Globe nomination (and has her tipped for a potential Oscar nod), that is set to send her into the upper echelons of stardom.

2020 will see her co-star alongside Oscar winner Meryl Streep in the new comedy from Ryan Murphy, and Oscar winner Allison Janney in the new film from The Help director Tate Taylor, and one gets the impression that might only be the start.

6. The Debbie for YouTube Channel of the Year 
Winner: Yahtzee's Dev Diaries

debbies youtube channel of the year yahtzee dev diary zero punctuation 2019

Yahtzee Croshaw has become something of an internet institution for his Zero Punctuation series of videogame reviews. Lightning quick, cynical, and usually hilarious, the series deservedly has a significant following. 2019 has seen Yahtzee take on something a little bit more intriguing with Yahtzee's Dev Diaries.

This series sees Yahtzee, a somewhat minor indie game developer before he was a world famous game critic, take on a challenge to design an indie game every month for a year. Even for those who are not coders or so technically inclined themselves, there is something fascinating about watching the creative process play out, and the thought that goes into all the myriad aspects of design that a game requires. Not to mention a thrill in seeing whether Yahtzee can manage to keep up with the challenge. Great watching.

Music, Art & Theatre

7. The Debbie for Theatrical Production of the Year 
Winner: Sweat (Donmar)
Runner up: Rutherford and Son (National Theatre)

sweat donmar trump best theatre 2019

2019 was not exactly a landmark year for theatre, but there was one notable exception. The Donmar's production of Sweat 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 this type of rhetoric. One of the best plays I have seen in a long while.

Our runner up this year is the National Theatre's new production of Edwardian classic Rutherford and Son. This story of class, gender, and generational divide is as timely as ever, and made notable by a memorable performance from the great Roger Allam.

8. The Debbie for Album of the Year 
Winner: Kiwanuka - Michael Kiwanuka
Runners Up: Miss Universe - Nilüfer Yanya, Father of the Bride - Vampire Weekend

michael kiwanuka third album best album 2019

In the space of a few years Michael Kiwanuka has gone from a relatively obscure musician dabbling in an array of genres somewhat unsuccessfully, to one of the hottest names in British music. The debut album was folksy and charming, and the follow-up layered and brooding. His third album Kiwanuka continues the evolution of the singer-songwriter with an album of much wider ambition, and a quality of production to match. Key tracks include You Ain't the Problem and Piano Joint in an album full of memorable tunes. As with his previous work, Kiwanuka here sounds timeless without feeling dated. Crucially, the songwriting is as brilliant as ever, and with producer-to-the-stars Danger Mouse at the helm, it sounds as a tight and fully realised vision, with barely a detail amiss.

We have a tie for runner up. First is newcomer Nilüfer Yanya. This is a name that has been bouncing around blogs like mine for a couple of years now, and her eventual debut LP Miss Universe did not disappoint. Tracks like Angels and In Your Head are, in the parlance of the day, "certified bangers". A very promising start from an artist with some considerable songwriting talent, not to mention a great voice.

Our second runner up is the latest from Vampire Weekend, Father of the Bride. Indie darlings though they may be, Vampire Weekend are nevertheless one of those bands who manage to fly under the radar for all the quality work they produce. This newest LP displays a mature evolution of their preppy roots, expanding their subject matter whilst remaining sonically familiar. Harmony Hall and This Life typify an album of refreshingly breezy, but extremely adroit pop gold.

9. The Debbie for Debut Album of the Year 
Winner: Miss Universe - Nilüfer Yanya
Runner Up: Good at Falling - The Japanese House

nilufer yanya miss universe best debut album 2019

Not surprisingly for a debut album which managed to break into the top three of all albums for the year, Nilüfer Yanya's first LP Miss Universe will claim the crown for best debut album of 2019. For this artist to show such mastery of her craft on the first attempt lays down a marker that she is not just another ephemeral pop starlet, but a truly original voice. This is by no means a perfect or groundbreaking album, but it is a bold and fascinating statement from an exciting new talent.

Another veteran of multiple Hot Lists, and a perennial "up and comer" of the Internet's music blogs, Japanese House also finally released their debut LP in 2019, Good at Falling. My one concern with this band is that they have a particular sound, this dreamy, layered synth pop, and rarely seem willing to stray from that one formula. Fortunately it is a sound that they deliver with great aplomb. Check out Maybe You're the Reason and You Seemed So Happy for a taste. They've arguably had better songs in their EPs (see Clean), but I've seen enough to suggest that they are going to produce some fine music in the coming years.

10. The Debbie for Song of the Year 
Winner: You Ain't the Problem - Michael Kiwanuka
Runners Up: Arabesque - Coldplay, April - Caravan Palace 

michael kiwanuka you ain't the problem best song 2019

This is always a tricky one to call, but this year's winner has to be Michael Kiwanuka's excellent lead single off the new album, You Ain't the Problem. Bold, energetic, and a wonderfully bizarre mishmash of influences and eras coming together into an unforgettable album opener.

Next is none other than Coldplay, with one of their most divisive singles to date. New album Everyday Life didn't make it into the top three albums of the year in my view, but Coldplay nevertheless deserve great praise for their willingness to experiment outside of their usual milieu. While these adventures may not all have landed effectively, one track where it does is Arabesque, a mesmerising journey of a song with influences in jazz and world music.

Finally we have what has to be the standout track from what was a fairly divisive new album from electro-swing maestros Caravan Palace. New album Chronologic has been criticised by some longtime fans for straying too far into more mainstream pop, but tracks like April show that they can still be as eclectic and brilliant as ever.

11. The Debbie for Live Performance of the Year 
Winner: Gizmo Varillas

gizmo varillas best live performance 2019

Often a memorable live music experience comes from the experienced showmanship of a well-traveled star, but this year I wanted to go for something a bit different. Of the various bands and performers that I have seen over the course of 2019, the one that has made the most surprising impression on me was a small support act by the name of Gizmo Varillas.

Blessed with bright textures, and warm melodies, Varillas has a great ability to meld both light and dark into his tracks in a way that I find quite effective, and his tenderness comes across doubly on stage. See Cysgod dy Gariad and Freedom for a Change for great examples of what he can do. Seeing him this year has definitely established Varillas on my list of acts to watch, and with a new album on the horizon, there is much to look forward to in 2020.

12. The Debbie for Art Exhibition of the Year 
Winner: Picasso: Blue and Rose Periods at The Beyeler Foundation

picasso blue and rose period beyeler foundation basel best art exhibition 2019

A return to the top spot for Basel's Beyeler Foundation, who excelled once again with a memorable exploration of Pablo Picasso's Blue and Rose Periods. These crucial works of a young Picasso are not always the pieces we immediately associate with his name, but in focusing on them, this exhibition provides us with a valuable insight into these formative years. The Beyeler's ambitious collection assembles the most complete array of these works ever seen in Europe, and makes essential viewing for any art lover.

13. The Debbie for Book of the Year 
Winner: The Secret Commonwealth - Philip Pullman

philip pullman secret commonwealth book of dust dark materials lyra golden compass best novel book 2019

Philip Pullman is back in vogue all of a sudden. Not only has the BBC put together a cracking adaptation of his original Lyra trilogy, His Dark Materials, but we have also been treated to the second instalment of his newest, The Book of Dust: The Secret Commonwealth. Pullman's earlier work is considered a seminal piece of young adult literature for a generation, and I am pleased to say that he appears to have lost none of his edge in the intervening years. This is another novel of big ideas and concepts.

His latest is the first true sequel to the original trilogy, and follows a now grown up Lyra and Pan as they unravel a new mystery regarding the Magisterium. The writing pulls no punches in criticising the establishments of power and corruption in the world, and delivers another excellent adventure that deserves to be read by any fan of his work or of deceptively thoughtful and complex fiction.

Business & Technology

14. The Debbie for Scientific/Technological Breakthrough of the Year 
Winner: Event Horizon captures first ever picture of a black hole

event horizon black hole telescope best important technological breakthrough 2019

Sometimes a year gone by gives us some great new technological concept or breakthrough, something that will change the world and lives of its denizens. Sometimes it just gives us something completely new, something that no one has ever really seen before to remind us at just how clever we really can be.

This year the Event Horizon telescope managed to produce the first ever image of a black hole, something that not too long ago was still only a theoretical concept. This is not going to change our lives tomorrow, but it does remind us just how quickly technology advances, and provides a tantalising promise of discoveries yet to come. It is equally remarkable that this (admittedly blurry) image so closely mirrors the expectations of what such an object would look like, reminding us additionally that human beings also possess incredible theoretical minds.

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

PC computer windows mac best console for gaming 2019

Ok, technically not a console, but in 2019 a good old fashioned PC computer showed itself to be the best place to play games, and here's why. The choice of PC vs console for me has always come down to the flexibility and power of a PC vs the more polished delivery and features of a console. Increasingly this disparity is becoming a non-issue.

Publishers like Microsoft, Bethesda and EA are bringing console-style seamlessness and business models to PC. Indie games and the mod scene are becoming increasingly mainstream and integrated into official gaming products, meaning that the ability to take advantage of PC's increased potential is no longer as reliant on significant effort and/or technical knowledge. Consoles, by contrast, have had a relatively modest year when it comes to innovation, with new systems on the horizon that have little to offer aside from fresher hardware.

16. The Debbie for Videogame of the Year 
Winner: Disco Elysium (PC)
Runners Up: Fire Emblem: Three Houses (Switch), Sunless Skies (PC)

disco elysium pc game of the year 2019

Two months ago I felt pretty sure I knew what was going to win 2019's game of the year, then Disco Elysium came along. This game is a true original and one of the more memorable gaming experiences I have had in years. Its creative innovations create a remarkably robust set of RPG mechanics, brought together by some of the most exceptional writing I've ever seen in a game. While the game has some flaws and is way too short an experience, every minute of that experience is unforgettable.

Console gaming's greatest moment in 2019 has to go to Fire Emblem: Three Houses, the latest essential exclusive for the Nintendo Switch. With this title, Nintendo has come close to perfecting the turn-based strategy genre, but what really stands out is its world-building and the surprisingly compelling cast of characters.

Honourable mention goes to Sunless Skies, the latest in Failbetter Games' series of macabre, vaguely lovecraftian exploration roguelikes. Sunless Skies refines and improves upon the formula that has proven so successful in the past, allowing players to explore, trade, and adventure your way across a truly unique setting.

17. The Debbie for Company of the Year
Winner: Salesforce

salesforce company of the year 2019

Salesforce has become ubiquitous in modern business. The product is strong, an elegant and versatile solution to networking and sales management that has quickly risen to be one of the essential apps. But it is the progressive and people-focused culture of the company that impresses most.

Recently voted the world's best place to work by Fortune, and with a CEO in the news for being outspokenly philanthropic almost to the point of fault. Increasingly there is a trend in global business to do good for the community as much as the shareholder, and Salesforce are fully embracing that shift. All of this makes for great publicity, and builds a brand that most companies would do anything to replicate. It's been a strong two years for this company.

18. The Debbie for Startup of the Year
Winner: Banjo Robinson

banjo robinson small startup company of the year 2019

The children and education sector is ripe for technological innovation. It has been pleasing to see so many startups looking towards this field over the past year, and this year my proverbial pick of the litter is Banjo Robinson. The concept here is for a subscription learning service, utilising fictional mascot and magical cat Banjo Robinson. The company sends personalised letters detailing Banjo's travels around the world, complete with activities and materials for children to explore, and encouraging children to send back responses.

A charming concept that promises a rewarding, entirely bespoke experience for customers, with the potential to teach valuable, reading, writing, and general knowledge skills to young children. I stated above that there is a trend in global business to do good for the community as much as the shareholder, and Banjo Robinson's aim of engaging with children for educational purposes rather than pure monetisation is a prime example of that mindset.


19. The Debbie for Footballer of the Year 
Winner: Virgil van Dijk - Liverpool

virgil van dijk liverpool best footballer player in the world football 2019

There is a tendency in football to overvalue attacking players whilst not giving defenders their due. This is the only reason I can conceive of why John Terry never won the Ballon D'Or. Virgin van Dijk may not dribble like Messi or score goals like Cristiano Ronaldo, but he reads the game better than anyone alive, and his formidable physique and instinct makes him one of the most unbeatable defensive players on the planet, not to mention a deceptively capable technical footballer. It is true that goals win games, but preventing goals also wins games, and in 2019 I don't think there is any single player who makes so significant a contribution to winning games on a consistent basis as this man.

20. The Debbie for Under-21 Footballer of the Year 
Winner: Erling Håland - Red Bull Salzburg

erling håland red bull salzburg best young footballer player in the world 2019

Yes I am aware that Kylian Mbappé has not yet turned 22, but this award, and indeed all football player awards, are not supposed to simply be "who is the best player", but rather which (in this case U21) player has had the best year. This year, that award goes to Erling Håland, the hottest footballing talent to come out of Norway for a generation.

This has been a breakout year for Håland, whose goalscoring record this season (28 in 22 games, including 8(!) Champions League goals) is incredible for a 19 year old. But it is not just the number of goals, as the manner of his play - that combination of power and explosive pace. His ability to turn and run on a sixpence is as good as any player I've seen. A move to a larger club is inevitable, and if he can produce this form on a bigger stage, as his form in the Champions League suggests he can, then he will be a major world star.

21. The Debbie for Football Manager of the Year 
Winner: Jürgen Klopp - Liverpool

best football manager in the world 2019 jurgen klopp

It would be easy for me to add to the chorus of praise that has been directed towards Jürgen Klopp, but the man really does deserve it. His work with Dortmund was impressive, but the way in which he has turned Liverpool from perennial underachievers into arguably the best football team on the planet will become the stuff of legends. Certainly, it is a victory for proponents of giving a manager time and years in which to pursue his vision (this transformation did not happen overnight), but even given all the time in the world few managers would have been able to execute this project so successfully, and many had tried.

22. The Debbie for Football Club of the Year 
Winner: Liverpool FC

football club of the year 2019 liverpool

Every club has its day, and right now Liverpool FC is having a glorious day. Champions of Europe (having been runner up the year before), runners up of England (and likely champions this year); there is a good claim to say that Liverpool are the best football team in the world today, and its an accolade that is earned not just by their on-the-pitch performances, as much as the extensive work that has been done to turn what was, until recently, a pretty old fashioned kind of outfit into one of the best run clubs in the business. Profitable, an academy producing world class talent, and a brand that makes them one of the planet's sporting icons. I am not a Liverpool fan, but it is a good time to be one.

Current Events

23. The Debbie for Politician of the Year 
Winner: Nancy Pelosi

nancy pelosi politician of the year 2019

It has been a year of elections in Europe, Presidential primaries in the US, and an increasing celebrity-politician culture the world over. Yet this year, this award for the standout politician is going to someone far less glamorous, and far more opinion-splitting. Nancy Pelosi made history more than ten years ago as the first woman ever to become the Speaker of the House of Representatives.

That first spell as speaker proved to be as divisive as it was legislatively productive. 2019 might just have been her outstanding year in politics, a series of battles that began with the unlikely reclaiming of a House majority, in spite of extensive anti-democratic gerrymandering, and ended with the historic impeachment of President Trump. In between those two milestones, she has had to battle to reclaim her Speakership amidst a rebellion from the ideologues of her own party, and resist overwhelming calls from those same factions for impeachment following the partial release of the Mueller report.

That impeachment has proven to be a largely popular move (an accomplishment in itself) is largely down to the restraint and discipline that Pelosi has shown in choosing the right battle. And despite claims to the contrary from her opponents, the House under her stewardship has been historically productive, producing an impressive array of legislation on healthcare, international trade, and anti-corruption, most of which has died in the Senate. No mean feat considering the divisions and increasing rancour in the House.

Like her or hate her, Pelosi has proven herself to be one of the most competent and capable politicians in the country, outmanoeuvring President Trump (not to mention the increasingly vaudevillian opposition in the minority) at every turn, carefully shepherding her legislative body through difficult and divisive moments, all while remaining easily the most productive branch of Government in 2019. She may not win popularity contests, but history will show Pelosi to be a towering figure in Congressional politics, whose dignity in office is matched by an outstanding legislative record.

24. The Debbie for Scandal of the Year 
Winner: Trump-Ukraine Scandal

ukraine russia impeachment zelensky donald trump scandal 2019 pelosi schiff nadler giuliani

There can only be one winner here. The impeachment of a sitting President is a rare and historic moment. Prior to Donald Trump, only two Presidents had been impeached (Nixon resigned before articles could be voted on), and while his militants may rave about conspiracies and point the finger at everyone else, there can be no doubt that this extreme measure has been thoroughly deserved.

For those less politically inclined, the story here is that Donald Trump threatened to withhold vital military aid from Ukraine unless Ukraine's President announced a fake criminal investigation against Joe Biden, considered at the time to be Trump's most likely opponent in next year's election. It is absolutely beyond contention that using the office of the Presidency for so nakedly self-serving a political purpose represents a serious abuse of power, if not outright bribery/extortion. This is before one even considers the implications of denying military aid to an ally in active conflict with Russia, one of America's primary geopolitical foes, with whom Trump already has a disturbing history.

And it's one of those scandals that just gets dirtier every time you look at it. Why in the world was the President's personal fixer Rudy Giuliani (not a Government employee) conducting apparent state business in Ukraine? Why was EU Ambassador and Trump loyalist Gordon Sondland involved, rather than the actual Ambassador to Ukraine (against whom Giuliani later waged a personal campaign of disinformation)? Why has the real transcript still not been released? Why has the administration gone to such lengths to hide the detail of this supposedly "perfect" call? It doesn't take a genius to smell when something is fishy, but it takes a complete fool to ignore when it's slapping you in the face.

Many have likened this scandal to Watergate, but in truth this clearly goes way, way beyond some petty political espionage. This threatens the security of America and Europe, irreparably damages the diplomatic reputation of the US, and all for a personal political ruse that is, to put mildly, insultingly transparent. Noah Feldman, Harvard law professor and Presidential historian, put it best when he said simply, "If this is not impeachable conduct, then nothing ever is."

25. The Debbie for Cause of the Year
Winner: Independence of the Press

corruption independence of free press media fake news republican trump brexit nazi fascist autocracy authoritarian most important issue 2019

It might seem lazy, but I am going to go with my 2017 cause once again. We live in increasingly troubling times with all the stories of corruption, fake news, and authoritarianism creeping back into mainstream western politics. But all of this concerns a central theme: the independence of the press. We have taken for granted the importance of this topic. The only way to combat these insidious forces is to ensure that the general public is well informed and has access to verified, peer reviewed facts. The corrupt powers know this, which is why they exert so much energy on trying to censor information, discredit reputable and independent sources, and when that doesn't work, drown it out with an overload of fake information.

Unfortunately we have seen even more of this in 2019, be it Boris Johnson threatening political repercussions against the BBC and Channel 4 for unfavourable coverage, or Trump's continued vendetta against any and all media source that isn't outright propaganda. The sad truth is that the credibility of the press is at a low, and much of that is their own fault. But we need real journalism now more than ever. We need robust fact checkers, and widespread access to that data. Reality is not a matter of opinion and facts do matter. We are witnessing a concerted effort to turn western democracy into a Russia-style propaganda state. We all need to start paying attention now if we want to prevent this slide into Orwellian dystopia.

26. The Debbie for Person of the Year 
Winner: Greta Thunberg

greta thunberg environment person of the year 2019

It may seem an obvious choice, and one that will prove controversial with a certain segment of the population, but Greta Thunberg deserves this. To become a global icon at so tender an age, to inspire millions to a movement, is a remarkable feat borne of passion and commitment.

As for the message itself, I know we all groan a bit when environmental protestors block the train on our morning commute, but the truth is that it is a cause worth supporting, albeit through a more productive outlet. Thunberg's impassioned pleas to world leaders is the ideal example of that productive outlet. Let's be honest, you're only going to make so much progress on environmentalism by convincing people one at a time to switch the lights off, for example. Real change will only come at the national level, by persuading those with real power to affect real change, and that is what Greta Thunberg is doing better than anyone else right now. It is right to apply this pressure to world leaders, and I wish her nothing but success in doing so.

Social & Lifestyle

27. The Debbie for Restaurant of the Year 
Winner: The Harwood Arms
Runner Up: Chai Ki

harwood arms london best restaurant 2019

An old favourite, and a restaurant that year after year continues to impress. The Harwood Arms became famous as the first Michelin starred pub in London, but in truth its solitary mark undersells the quality of its food. The concept is British cuisine, done very, very well. So you might get Cornish crab on toast, or fallow venison. Meats, fish, winter vegetables, and with a wide selection of British sparkling wines. It is mystifying that this myth of the inferiority of British cuisine still persists, and the Harwood Arms provides ample proof that the cliché is not deserved.

Our runner up prize goes to a newcomer. Chai Ki, the excellent new restaurant under Canary Wharf's Crossrail station from the same people who brought you Roti Chai. Chai Ki is essentially two restaurants in one, the more casual street-food bar in the front of shop, and the fancier dining room in the back. Both are excellent. Some of the dishes in the main restaurant present mouth watering Indian cuisine in a way you will never have seen, with a high-end finesse borne of European food culture. Chai Ki stands out by doing something fresh and different with a well established cuisine, and doing it very well indeed.

28. The Debbie for Club/Bar of the Year 
Winner: The Pulitzer Bar

Pulitzer hotel bar Amsterdam best bar club nightclub 2019

A return for The Ephemeric's old club/bar of the year prize, which took a break in 2018. This year this highly coveted award goes to The Pulitzer Bar of Amsterdam, a stylish and cosy cocktail venue from the hotel of the same name. Adorned with books, classic leather armchairs, and frequently rotating cocktail list themed after great literary figures, there is certainly no more whimsical a setting to enjoy a good snifter in 2019. But this is no mere novelty bar, far from it. It is the high quality of the setting, and the creativity of the drinks that makes Pulitzer a standout establishment, and somewhere that everyone should visit in Amsterdam.

29. The Debbie for Destination of the Year
Winner: Amsterdam, The Netherlands

amsterdam netherlands holland best holiday destination 2019

You know a town is nice when you visit three times in one year (with another coming up in January). Amsterdam is blessed with beautiful, romantic canals that would make a Parisien swoon, world class museums, and generous, laid back locals. For those who like to indulge, Amsterdam offers a good variety of local products from chocolate, to cheese and pancakes (I hear there are other things too). An impressive array of shopping, culture and late night life makes Amsterdam a great place to visit for a solo-traveller, a couple, or just a group of friends.

30. The Debbie for Wine of the Year 
Winner: Gusbourne Blanc de Blancs
gusbourne blanc de blancs best wine 2019

We are ringing the changes with these last two awards. You will note that the wine and champagne prizes have been consolidated into a single Debbie, in order to make way for our new event closer: the "Tipple" of the year Debbie, intended to celebrate the finest in non-vinous drinkables. From here on out, sparkling and non-sparkling wines will be considered together. For 2019, we are stirring the pot even further and awarding this prize to an English wine, Gusbourne's excellent Blanc de Blancs. The British restauranteur's go-to sparkling wine of the moment, Gusbourne is currently the pick of a very good array of wine coming from the Kent countryside.

31. The Debbie for Tipple of the Year 
Winner: Brockmans Gin 

best tipple liquor alcohol 2019 brockmans gin

And finally to inaugurate our first ever Tipple of the year Debbie, I bestow this accolade on the very finest of Britain's great gins, Brockmans. Produced in Liverpool, this small producer is quickly becoming a mainstay of the country's more selective gin-serving establishments. The unique blueberry botanicals make this a standout selection, one that can work well with most types of tonic, and ideally with a little fruit. A perfect choice for those who like to have a festive gin and tonic over the holidays.

2010s: Best of the Decade Awards

The Top 10 Films of the Decade:

  1. The Social Network
  2. La La Land
  3. Whiplash
  4. 127 Hours
  5. Gravity
  6. Blackkklansman
  7. Chef
  8. The Irishman
  9. Inside Out
  10. The Artist
The Top 10 TV shows of the Decade:
  1. Master of None
  2. The Crown
  3. Stranger Things
  4. The Marvellous Mrs. Maisel
  5. Parks and Recreation
  6. American Crime Story
  7. Fargo
  8. Black Mirror
  9. Breaking Bad
  10. Fleabag
The Top 10 Videogames of the Decade:
  1. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
  2. Red Dead Redemption
  3. Stardew Valley
  4. Portal 2
  5. Disco Elysium
  6. What Remains of Edith Finch
  7. Kerbal Space Program
  8. Mass Effect 2
  9. Mario Odyssey
  10. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
The Top 10 Albums of the Decade:
  1. Helplessness Blues - Fleet Foxes
  2. Hurry Up, We're Dreaming - M83
  3. Wildflower - Avalanches
  4. Love & Hate - Michael Kiwanuka
  5. The Desired Effect - Brandon Flowers
  6. Reflektor - Arcade Fire
  7. Gossamer - Passion Pit
  8. The Next Day - David Bowie
  9. My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy - Kanye West
  10. Plastic Beach - Gorillaz
Breakthrough of the Decade: AI Assistants - Much more to come from AI, but their increasing influence upon our daily lives and routine suggests the early stages of one of the more significant technological transformations since the creation of the Internet.

Company of the Decade: Netflix - If you measure the success of a company by the global impact of its product, then Netflix has to be the winner. The streaming giant has forever changed the way in which we consume media, to the point where its business model has become the mode for just about everything else. TV, music, even gaming are all switching to streaming, subscription based models.

Footballer of the Decade: Lionel Messi - Surely the greatest of all time.

Person of the Decade: Bill & Melinda Gates - It says everything that one of the world's wealthiest people, creator of something that truly did change the world, is likely to be remembered as much for his philanthropy and commitment to combatting illness and poverty all over the world. Has taken flak over the years for his business practices, but the latter age Bill Gates has shown himself to be a selfless who has contributed much to this planet.

Well there you have it. How will you remember the 2010s? Here's to the next decade being even better!

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