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Saturday, 20 January 2018

Hello and welcome back to the Hot List. This week we will turn our attention to videogames, previewing for you our loyal readers the most exciting videogames set for release in 2018.

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The big star of gaming in 2017 was the Nintendo Switch. Ever the innovators, the Switch boasts unique technology for sure, but it's the strength of the console's software library that looks set to ensure it endures as more than simply a fad console, as was arguably the case with the Wii. The most recent iteration of the Mario and Zelda series in particular are being roundly held aloft as pinnacles in the industry. If they can deliver more success even close to that level in the coming year, then we can see the Switch going from strength to strength.

The year ahead boasts an intriguing mix of big budget AAA offerings, as well as indie projects. Sony and Microsoft have both released upgraded versions of their current home consoles in the past year, and all eyes will be on E3 to see how they intend to make use of that extra horsepower. Nintendo meanwhile don't look like they're going mainstream anytime soon, and the announcement of the bizarre and wonderful new Project Labo indicates they've still got a few wacky and unique ideas up their sleeve. For the scope of this preview we will consider a range of projects across all platforms, and from the looks of it there should be a little something for everyone.

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. Far Cry 5 (Xbox One, PS4, PC)

far cry 5 pc xbox ps4 2018On the surface, the latest entry in Ubisoft's Far Cry series, Far Cry 5, doesn't look set to reinvent the wheel. Players will once again find themselves inserted into a wild and dangerous open world with a series of capture-the-flag style objectives to make progress. The usual series of intricate gameplay systems: guns, vehicles, crafting, animals, and others, will ensure that players have the agency to pursue those objectives in any way they wish.

But Far Cry 5 has been gaining attention for all the wrong reasons, its setting. Typically, the Far Cry series has seen players travel to the far-flung extremities of the Earth in order to suit its wild-west style settings of lawlessness, but Far Cry 5 will be set in rural United States against the backdrop of an anti-government right-wing extremist group that has seized control. It's hard not to see this as some kind of comment on the very real state of anger seen among some segments of the country, and the political movements that have sought to direct that anger. Naturally this has a lot of people quite upset. One recent petition (which I would hope is actually an attempt at satire) called for the setting to be changed to Canada, and the villains to be changed to Muslims.

So if you are of the opinion that America has degenerated into a wasteland of gun-nuts and angry mobs, this might be a setting that connects with you. The game drops in March.

Release Date: 27 March, 2018

14. Age of Empires IV (PC)

age of empires iv pc 2018Who 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 2018

13. Two Point Hospital (PC)

two point hospital theme hospital reboot bullfrog pc 2018Along much the same lines, we have Two Point Hospital, the first game from new dev studio Two Point Studios. A little history for you young'uns. Back in the 1990s there existed a legendary game studio called Bullfrog co-founded by the mercurially innovative Peter Molyneux. They pioneered a new genre of creative sims under the "Theme" brand, releasing titles including Theme Park, Theme Hospital, and others. In 1995 they were acquired by gaming giant Electronic Arts, and those franchises have barely seen the light of day since. Molyneux would later leave the company to found Lionhead Studios.

The legacy of Theme Park lives on in the likes of Rollercoaster Tycoon and Planet Coaster, but Theme Hospital remains a beloved anomaly, one that has never really been revisited. Enter Two Point Studios, the new shop founded by former Bullfrog employees who appear dead-set on returning us to the glory days of the genre, beginning with this, a spiritual successor to Theme Hospital.

Fans of the original don't look like they'll be disappointed, Two Point Hospital maintains its predecessor's trademark humour and depe sim gameplay, through devs do promise a few surprises as well. Two Point Hospital is expected to release towards the end of the year.

Release Date: Q4 2018

12. Sea of Thieves (Xbox One, PC)

sea of thieves rare pirates 2018 pc xbox
Now for something a bit different, an entirely multiplayer game, Sea of Thieves. This game is notable for two reasons, one it's the newest game from what was once the legendary game development company Rare, two it just looks like a lot of good silly fun.

This is a multiplayer pirate game, you and a few friends design your pirate, get a pirate ship, and take to the seas finding treasure and getting into naval battles and the like. Sailing one of these ships is no simple point and click job though, it takes teamwork, with one man steering, one man on the sails, another operating the cannons, and if you take damage, someone needs to place wooden boards over the holes to prevent your ship taking on water and sinking. You can also do all manner of silly piratey things like drinking grog and, just for the hell of it, playing musical instruments. There's something delightfully over the top about charging into battle with one guy on the wheel, another firing cannons, and another in the crow's nest blasting out Flight of the Valkyries on an accordion just for atmosphere.

This seems like the type of game that I have zero time to get into these days, but 10 years ago would have been a blast to waste some time with a few friends. Sea of Thieves has been in development for some time, but looks set to finally release in March.

Release Date: 20 March, 2018

11. Jurassic World Evolution (Xbox One, PS4, PC)

jurassic world evolution theme park planet coaster pc xbox ps4 2018The theme park simulator genre is having a bit of a moment right now, most successfully manifested in Frontier Development's excellent Planet Coaster. No sooner had that game launched than rumours began to propagate for Frontier's next project, based on leaked references to "Planet Safari" found within the code of the game's website. Planet Safari has now apparently been confirmed, but it's not the type of safari we were all expecting.

It's a known fact that the one thing better than a theme park is a theme park with dinosaurs, so it is logical that Frontier's next game should be Jurassic World Evolution, essentially a theme park sim in design, but based on the Jurassic Park franchise and with dinosaur-based attractions.

The concept of Planet Coaster with dinosaurs would already be enough to get my money, but let's face it it wouldn't be Jurassic Park if everything went to plan. This park's attractions can and will run amok. It promises for an interesting blend of management sim and strategy. Expect a release alongside the film this summer.

Release Date: June 2018

10. The Occupation (PC)

the occupation game pc 2018The Occupation is a fascinating project. A politically driven investigative thriller which sees the player take on the role of whistleblower in a fictionalised 1980s England.

A deadly terrorist attack has left the Government with no choice but to implement harsh new security policies, but is everything as it seems or does some ulterior motive lie behind the act? With four hours until the vote, The Occupation gives the player the opportunity to uncover the mystery in realtime. Sound a bit too close to home?

The game itself looks interesting, like a cross between Bioshock and LA Noire, but it's the timeliness of its political message that will make headlines. Release date has yet to be announced.

Release Date: TBA 2018

9. Star Citizen (PC)

star citizen 2018 kickstarter crowdfunding chris roberts freelancer wing commanderA long recurring member of the Hot List. Star Citizen is the mother of all crowdfunding success stories, having so far raised over $100 million, and that amount is still growing. What makes this all the more remarkable is that people are throwing their money at Cloud Imperium Games despite the fact that only a few conceptual game-modes have been made available so far after years of development. So why all the excitement and hype?

Star Citizen is the brainchild of Chris Roberts, a game design legend from the early days of PC gaming most famous for his space-based combat simulations such as Wing Commander and Freelancer. Star Citizen is Roberts' big comeback to gaming following years in Hollywood with a number of producer credits to his name.

Unapologetically PC exclusive, Star Citizen's mission statement is simple: to be the ultimate space epic, the game that Roberts has always wanted to make. It takes Roberts' trademark quality combat simulation gaming, adds detailed economy and trading elements, and throws it all into one massively multiplayer online persistent universe. A massive online universe populated with thousands of players, in which players can essentially do what they want: they can trade or start a business, they can be a combat pilot, they can become a diplomat, or they can engage in a bit of in-game sports (racing for example).

The sheer variety of gameplay being thrown into this game is matched by the vast efforts that are going into creating a believable, fully fleshed out universe. The official website now is chock-full of literature and back-story for the world they are creating, and even if reading into all that depth is not your kind of thing, that kind of love and detail makes a game world truly engaging, even for the most casual of players. It's this kind of effort that turns a good game into a great game.

Can an independent developer really deliver on such high ambition? So far the signs are good. The modules that have been rolled out so far show promise, and with the single player campaign set to begin this year, with the online persistent universe soon to follow, it's time to get excited.

Release Date: TBA 2018 (yeah right)

8. Cyberpunk 2077 (PC)

cyberpunk 2077 rpg game 2018 pcA title cloaked in mystery made all the more elusive by the continued delays and radio silence of its developer CD Projekt Red, a developer best known for the celebrated Witcher trilogy of games.

Cyberpunk 2077 is an openworld RPG set in a tantalising Cyberpunk setting in near future California. The brief suggests potentially "hundreds" of hours of gameplay, and a richly developed backstory, the basics of which can be found online. But what is most fascinating is the description of the game's setting as a "seamless living world" that apparently includes both singleplayer and asymmetric multiplayer in the same map. It will be fascinating to see how they marry those two elements in a way that doesn't spoil the immersion, but if they get it right it could make for quite the unique experience.

At this point a release date is pure speculation, but after years of silence a flurry of rumours and recent social media activity suggests that 2018 may be the year.

Release Date: TBA 2018

7. Anthem (Xbox One, PS4, PC)

anthem game 2018 xbox one ps4 pc ephemericFor anyone wondering why Bioware didn't put any effort into its development of Mass Effect: Andromeda, look no further. The primary focus of the studio in recent years has been towards its new title Anthem.

So what is Anthem? This is an open, shared-world action RPG in which players assume the role of a Freelancer, tasked with protecting a new colony in a mysterious and unknown environment, while helping to explore the surrounding landscape through the use of a customisable exosuit, the Javelin. The game is designed to accommodate both single and massively multiplayer gameplay, with the primary focus of gameplay seemingly being to develop and upgrade your own equipment and skills.

Honestly it sounds a little derivative, essentially Destiny crossed with Titanfall, neither of which I particular liked. But there's no doubting the pedigree of this Bioware studio, and one would hope that the storytelling flair of the talent involved will go some way towards elevating this project above its competitors.

Release Date: Q4 2018

6. Call of Cthulhu (Xbox One, PS4, PC)

call of cthulhu best game 2018 pc xbox one ps4Call of Cthulhu is a lot of things. It is the most famous of the canonical works of celebrated horror author H.P. Lovecraft, it was later turned into tabletop RPG, and has generally taken on an iconic quality as a source of inspiration in the genre of implacable, cosmic horror.

Now it is also a videogame, which seems to be taking the form of an investigative survival horror which sees players take the role of a private investigator looking into the mysterious death of a family in turn of the century (the last one) Boston.

Precious little detail has been revealed so far. The trailer reveals a heavy narrative focus on sanity and perception, as well as surprisingly strong voice acting. The closest analogue in memory is the under-appreciated 2002 title Eternal Darkness, which was similarly celebrated for its playful use of subjectivity and quality production. Release is expected later in 2018.

Release Date: TBA 2018

5. Kingdom Come: Deliverance (Xbox One, PS4, PC)

kingdom come deliverance kickstarter 2018 ephemeric
It's back again! This has been on the Hot List for a good long while. One of the more notable Kickstarter success stories, Kingdom Come: Deliverance started with a simple observation. Publishers typically refuse to release games with historic settings unless it features magic, dragons and silly things like this, so why not break the mould by making a game in an actually realistic historic setting?

That's the idea behind Kingdom Come: Deliverance. A roleplaying game set in 15th Century Bohemia, with period-accurate clothing, technology, culture, and even going so far as to bring in medieval combat experts and historians to program realistic tactics and fighting styles. But this is not just a period combat simulator, it is a truly sandbox world in which players can pursue their goals as a warrior, a trader, or take a more diplomatic approach.

Depending on how these different gameplay elements come together this could be a very unique experience. There aren't enough games that display an interest in real history and show the kind of attention to truly bring alive such a setting. All the signs so far are that Warhorse Studios are very committed to this vision, and judging by the millions of dollars raised there are a lot of gamers who are as well. After many delays, the developers have at last given us a final release date in February.

Release Date: 13 February, 2018

4. The Artful Escape (Xbox One, PC)

the artful escape francis vendetti annapurna edith finch david bowie best game 2018Award winning film studio Annapurna made their debut in videogaming last year 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 2018

3. Sunless Skies (PC, Mac)

sunless skies sunless seas fallen london failbetter alexis kennedy kickstarter best game 2018Something exciting for fans of complex story-driven games and world building. Sunless Skies is the latest title from Failbetter Games, the studio of acclaimed game designer/writer Alexis Kennedy. This is the latest in the Fallen London/Sunless Seas series of games which takes the industrial revolution and British colonialism into a new fantastical neo-Lovecraftian setting, this time outer space.

The game itself is part RPG, part trading sandbox, but the big appeal of these games has always been the quality writing, the tasty narrative vignettes and bizarre imagery of Kennedy. All these elements create an open world in which the player has the freedom to craft their own story, with narrative branches in the style of a choose-your-own-adventure. The scope for player-agency is impressive and rewarding, ensuring that each game will leave its unique mark on the world. Failbetter's games always make for whimsical, unique experiences, though not for those with an aversion to reading.

Sunless Skies is now in early access on Steam, and expected to release in it's final state sometime in May.

Release Date: May 2018

2. The Legend of Zelda 3DS (Nintendo 3DS)

legend of zelda 3ds 2018 best gameNintendo are on a roll right now, so what better opportunity to revisit their still highly successful handheld gaming platform, the 3DS. Rumour has it that they will soon announce a brand new title in their famed Legend of Zelda series for the device.

The rumour is that this is some kind of remake of the original handheld Zelda classic, Links Awakening. Exciting stuff for what remains one of the most memorable and indelible of Zelda titles.

Will this be a slight remix? a full re-imagining? Top-down, full 3D? The 3DS is, after all, a console that can handle both styles, as seen with the recent ports of the fully 3D home console titles. Of course we could also just be way off the mark, and this may end up being simply an original title. Either way, we expect a reveal by this summer's E3, and a release in the latter half of the year.

Release Date: TBA 2018

1. Read Ded Redemption 2 (Xbox One, PS4)

red dead redemption 2 revolver grand theft auto rockstar best game 2018 ephemericAs promising as the other titles on this list are, none of them can take the top spot away from Red Red Redemption 2, a sequel to 2010's Red Dead Redemption.

RDR remains one of the finest games ever made. It had the quality of storytelling and production that one would expect from Rockstar, developer Grand Theft Auto series, but married that with an open world that to this day can't be matched for character and detail. The setting has been confirmed to be a prequel to its predecessor, albeit with a different central character and unrelated plot.

At the time, this was a world unprecedented in the variety and depth of its procedural content. Through its random events, ambient challenges and mini-games embedded throughout, this was a game world you could potentially play endlessly, even once the main story and side quests had been completed. For the sequel, I'd expect more of the same, and the leaked map suggests a world that is even bigger and more varied than its predecessor's.

Due by Spring/early summer, I can't wait to get lost in this one.

Release Date: Q1/Q2 2018

So there you have it folks: 2018 in videogames. Tune in next week for the most exciting new music set for release this year!

Sunday, 14 January 2018

Hello and welcome back to The Ephemeric. I hope you are all well rested and well fatted from your holidays, but now 2018 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 next.

So here it is, your ultimate guide to the year ahead, The Ephemeric's 2018 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 the your screens in 2018.

best anticipated new tv television shows 2018 hot list ephemeric

2017 saw a continuation in the trends of recent years. An increasing prominence in the web-based content-providers has sent traditional media scrambling, most dramatically in Rupert Murdoch's abrupt disposal of the entirety of Fox's entertainment assets to Disney.

Perhaps most intriguing has been the continued push towards completely original content, even among the traditional networks. The likes of TNT, Syfy and even National Geographic have clearly decided that the way to compete in the new media landscape is to refocus from their roots (old movies, old sci-fi, and documentaries respectively) into original fiction. National Geographic got off to a strong start with mini-series Genius, while TNT are generating real buzz for their upcoming The Alienist.

Whatever the mode of the day, it is clear that there has never been a better time to be watching television. The quality and breadth of new programming on offer at the moment is staggering, and gone are the days where television was the poorer, maligned cousin of the cinema. Increasingly this is the medium for people who want deep, rich storytelling, and that is a reality that the star-power and money of Hollywood has now embraced fully.

So without further ado here are the top 15 essential television shows, both new and returning, that will hit the airwaves in 2018:

15. The Office - NBC

the office us revival reboot return most anticipated tv 2018We will begin with the recent development that has caught us completely off guard. The Office is making a comeback. This is, of course, the American version of The Office, a series which against all expectations managed to escape the shadow of its British source material, and established itself as one of America's best loved TV series.

In its first iteration, the The Office lasted an impressive nine seasons and scooped numerous Emmys. Even towards the end of its run as the quality began slipping, the show managed to retain its wide following. Now NBC clearly feels there is the appetite for a revival, just four years later.

So what do we know so far? Not much, aside from the fact that this will be a mix of old and new castmembers, the identity of which have so far been kept under wraps.

Start Date: TBA 2018

14. Westworld - HBO

westworld hbo tv show 2018 anthony hopkins thandie newton james marsden ed harrisAfter a year-long break, HBO's latest hit series Westworld will return for a second season.

Season two picks up on the cliff-hanger of the first with the robotic denizens of the titular Westworld now on the verge of revolution. The stage is set to play out the climactic events of the Michael Crichton cult classic, but showrunner Jonathan Nolan is promising plenty in the way of new twists that will keep even fans of the original on their toes.

Success on the awards circuit and, crucially, with the fans means that HBO has the makings of a phenomenon on their hands. Westworld scratches a specific itch in mysterious, addictive sci-fi that hasn't been seen in the mainstream arguably since Lost aired all those years ago. Many shows have tried to hit that sweet spot, but Westworld is the first that has succeeded. Can they now live up to the lofty expectations?

Start Date: TBA 2018

13. The Romanoffs - Amazon (New TV Show)

the romanoffs amazon 2018 most anticipated tvThis is probably the most exciting of Amazon's ambitious lineup of original programming for 2018.

The Romanoffs is the new miniseries from Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner. Each episode follows a different central character around the globe who believe themselves to be the modern day descendants of the Russian royal family. The series will feature a bumper cast, including the likes of Aaron Eckhart, Christina Hendricks, Isabelle Huppert, Jack Huston, Diane Lane, and Corey Stoll.

The hype is strong. Talented showrunner, stacked cast, and an ambitious studio willing to devote huge amounts of capital. This looks excellent, expect it to go live in the Spring.

Start Date: Spring 2018

12. Confederate - HBO (New TV Show)

confederate hbo 2018 most anticipated tvControversial stuff from HBO's newest project, Confederate. As the name suggests, this depicts an alternate history where the American Civil War ended in a stalemate, and the Confederate States went on to form a successful independent nation with slavery a modern, legal institution.

Presumably, you might think, the controversy comes from the American left wing being up in arms over the depiction of a modern day slavery-embracing America? Well actually no, the outrage is coming from the conservative south... because apparently we live in a world where criticising slavery is considered controversial.

But nevermind all that, forget the controversy and the politics, this is just an exciting high concept brought to life by one of the great names in television. It's expected to drop in the second half of the year, just in time for the elections.

Start Date: Fall 2018

11. Glow - Netflix

glow season 2 netflix 2018 most anticipated tvOne of 2017's big surprise packages, Glow exceeded the expectations of its meagre premise and managed to charm audiences and critics alike with its sharp writing and colourful cast.

Netflix have reviewed the series for a second season of 10 episodes which looks set to continue the crew's efforts to establish a credible women's wrestling league. The old cast returns, headed up by Alison Brie and Marc Maron, while a few new faces will be joining including Shakira Berrera.

We expect season 2 to be released sometime this summer. Until then, if you haven't yet watched the first season, there's still time to get caught up!

Start Date: Summer 2018

10. Arrested Development - Netflix

arrested development season 5 netflix 2018 most anticipated tvConfirmed by producer/narrator Ron Howard to be in the pipeline for 2018 is the near mythical return of Arrested Development.

A cult classic following its initial three seasons on Fox, the series' revival by Netflix, some seven years after cancellation, was met with a surprisingly tepid response. The writers tried too hard to make clever use of this new digital-binge format (1 character per episode) and the result was a show that simply lacked the charm and ensemble brilliance of the first run. Rumour has it that the lesson has been learned, and season 5 will be more in line with what longterm fans have been hoping for.

The usual cast returns, Jason Bateman, Michael Cera, Will Arnett, Jeffrey Tambor, and the rest. I'm hopeful that this will see a return to form. (Ron Howard narration: "It didn't...")

Start Date: TBA 2018

9. Britannia - Sky Atlantic/Amazon (New TV Show)

britannia sky atlantic amazon jezz butterworth game of thrones roman england 2018 most anticipated tvHere's a fascinating project, and the first British production on this year's list. Britannia is a Sky Atlantic production, to be aired on Amazon in the United States. This historical period drama will cover the Roman conquest of the British Isles in 43AD, offering a rare depiction of ancient Britain.

The large ensemble cast features most notably Ian McDiarmid and Zoe Wanamaker, but the most exciting element from a production standpoint has to be the writing of celebrated playwright Jez Butterworth, fresh from his award winning success on the London stage with The Ferryman.

There is a worrying trend among historical television that everything needs to be like Game of Thrones, fantastical and flamboyant rather than historical and nuanced. Sad to say the trailer does have the look of such a direction, but with the considered writing talents of Butterworth directing the content, I will give it the benefit of the doubt for now. First episode is out on January 18th.

Release Date: 18 January, 2018

8. Watchmen - HBO (New TV Show)

watchmen hbo tv show 2018 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.

Release Date: TBA 2018

7. The Orville - Fox

the orville seth macfarlane tv show fox 2018 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.

Release Date: Summer 2018

6. My Next Guest Needs No Introduction - Netflix (New TV Show)

netflix my next guest needs no introduction david letterman obama tina fey malala 2018 most anticipated tvRetirement just isn't for some people, and apparently the legendary former host of the Late Show, David Letterman is one of those people.

His newest project, courtesy of Netflix's renewed push into non-fiction programming, is My Next Guest Needs No Introduction. Essentially, it's an hour long interview with a series of highly prominent subjects. The first episode features none other than former President Barack Obama in his first televised interview since leaving the White House, just in case you don't already feel immense sadness at his successor. Other guests include George Clooney, Tina Fey, and Malala.

The first episode releases in January, and unusually for a Netflix show it will be an episodic release, one every month or so. A series of in depth interviews with some of the world's most influential figures, conducted by one of the all time great interviewers. This is a must watch.

Release Date: 12 January, 2018

5. The Ballad of Buster Scruggs - Netflix (New TV Show)

ballad of buster scruggs netflix coen brothers western new tv show 2018 best televisionThis one is promising. The Ballad of Buster Scruggs is a western anthology series produced jointly by Netflix and Annapurna, a name well known to film fans that has since been branching out to other forms of media including television and videogames.

The main headline here is the involvement of the many-award winning Coen Brothers. It's the first foray into television by the brothers who will also write and direct the series. The cast includes the likes of James Franco, Liam Neeson, and Tim Blake Nelson, and will tell six interconnected stories set among the Nebraska panhandle.

The exact release date is still up in the air, but it is expected to hit sometime in late 2018. This is going to be a big one.

Release Date: TBA 2018

4. The Alienist - TNT (New TV Show)

the alienist tnt 2018 most anticipated tv TNT, purveyor of the classic movie rerun for decades, is getting into the original content game, and they want The Alienist to be their first big hit.

It's promising on paper: a period-set detective thriller based on a well received novel by Caleb Carr, created by Cary Fukunaga, the man behind the first (ie the only good one) season of True Detective, and featuring a talented cast that includes Daniel Brühl, Luke Evans, and Dakota Fanning.

TNT are relatively untested when it comes to original content, but they've assembled talent and experience. I've had my eye on this one for a while, but the wait will soon be over, with the first episode releasing late in January.

Release Date: 22 January, 2018

3. The Good Place - NBC

the good place nbc netflix 2018 new most anticipated tv parks and recreation the officeSad to say I only got into this one late in 2017, but what a delightful show it is. From Michael Schur, the man behind the American version of The Office and Parks and Recreation, The Good Place scratches that same itch of supremely charming comfort TV.

The premise itself is remarkably clever, following Kristen Bell's character Eleanor Shellstrop as a woman who wakes up apparently in the afterlife, but above all it is the remarkable performance of Ted Danson that steals the show here.

The first season features a significant twist in its ending, so I will avoid going into any further detail and would encourage all of you not to read too much about the show before watching. Suffice it to say, The Good Place is wonderful and well worth your time.

Release Date: Currently running

2. Altered Carbon - Netflix (New TV Show)

altered carbon netflix tv show 2018 best most anticipatedAltered Carbon is Netflix's tentpole blockbuster TV series for 2018. Based on the award winning cyberpunk novel by Richard K Morgan, this tech-noir mystery about solving a murder in a world where death has been rendered meaningless.

This is set three centuries in a future where the wealthy are able to transfer their minds from one body to another, theoretically postponing death indefinitely. The first trailer depicts this futuristic world in dazzling detail that is reminiscent of Blade Runner and the work of Philip K Dick. Above all, this clearly showcases what must be a significant, Hollywood-sized budget.

Season one will go live at the start of February. It's clear that Netflix has huge expectations for this one, and time will tell whether the risk pays off.

Release Date: 2 February, 2018

1. Stranger Things - Netflix

stranger things best tv show television 2018 season 3And sorry, but no surprises for our number one pick of 2018. 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 is confirmed in production, and expected to land in 2018. 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.

Release Date: Late 2018

So there you have it folks: 2018 in television. Tune in next week for the essential new videogames of the year!

Saturday, 30 December 2017

debbie debbies end of year awards 2017 best films music
The year was 2017. He was a twenty-something like any other, dreaming of his heroes and in love with a girl. But on a thunderous night along a ragged coast, a mysterious red car came to him, its power lighting his eyes blood-red.  It was at that moment that he knew what he had to do, an all-encompassing review of the world today, the blog post to end all blog posts. It is time once again for The Ephemeric's famous annual tradition. It's The Debbie Awards.

2016, as you may recall, was notable for being the year in which the universe began slowly imploding in on itself. 2017 by comparison has put things in perspective. As the world around us descends into ever greater levels of comic absurdity, life goes on, and even thrives. 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 2017 as we begin our definitive review of the past 12 months:

2017 Debbie Awards

Cinema & TV

1. The Debbie for TV Show of the Year 
Winner: Master of None (Netflix)
Runners Up: Stranger Things 2 (Netflix)

master of none netflix best tv show 2017

2017 has been an excellent year for TV. The quality we've seen once again from the likes of HBO, Netflix and Amazon truly marks a golden age for the medium, and perhaps for the first time represents even a greater relevance than cinema. Ultimately there was one show which stood out across all categories. The second season of Master of None really was something special; smart, endearing, and endlessly bold in its artistic vision. You can read what I had to say at the time via the above link, but suffice it to say this is a true star-making turn from Aziz Ansari and his collaborators, and must-see TV for everyone.

Last year's winner doesn't walk away empty handed either. Stranger Things returned this past Halloween with its second season, branded as a sequel in the mould of one of its many cinematic influences, and it was just as entertaining as the first. If Stranger Things took everyone a little bit by surprise last year, there is no such danger this time. Yet with high expectations and the confidence to match, Netflix's prestige 1980s homage hit every note just as sweetly as before, with sharp writing, addictive thrills, and flawless production. More than that, Stranger Things 2 takes great strides in opening up the mythos of Hakwins, Indiana, paving the way for what looks set to be an enduring series.

2. The Debbie for New TV Show of the Year 
Winner: The Orville (Fox)
Runners Up: Glow (Netflix)

the orville best new tv show 2017

I'm as shocked as anyone about this one. Ordinarily I find myself broadly agreeing with the critical consensus, and Fox's The Orville, a passion project of comedian Seth Macfarlane, has been critically panned almost universally. Yet despite the critical response, The Orville has been widely acclaimed by viewers (particularly Star Trek fans who feel jilted by the new series) and is among the highest rated TV shows of the fall. I'm sorry, but in this case I am with the latter camp. The critics are just plain wrong. Forbes' Erik Kain put it best. The Orville was billed as akin to a TV version of cult classic Galaxy Quest, essentially a spoof of the old Star Trek series. Subsequently critics have obsessed about forcing the show into neat boxes as either too silly for a drama, or too serious for a comedy. But this is nonsense. The Orville does not aspire to be a "comedy Star Trek" at all, it is in actual fact a near pitch perfect homage. People forget just how light the older Star Trek shows often were, and The Orville nails the tone of its forbears. But more importantly the stories are just as rich and relevant as ever. The Orville, as with Star Trek, is an example of moral science fiction. Each episode imparts its own social commentary, and most are very memorable. Some are so astute and incisive, and presented with modern flourish, that they even come away feeling like something more akin to an episode of Black Mirror. If you were a fan of The Next Generation or Voyager, this is a no-brainer. Even if you weren't, this is just high quality, sincere sci-fi. A strong debut.

For this year's runner up we are giving another award to Netflix, with the surprise hit Glow. For the unacquainted, this is a fictionalised telling of the true story of what was an attempt at creating a women's version of WWE wrestling. Now I have zero interest in wrestling, and the concept of the show did not appeal to me at all. You may feel similar, but push past that, because this is a brilliant series and you do yourself a disservice by dismissing it because of its subject matter. Glow shines due to its great writing, a killer cast (most notably breakout performances from Marc Maron and Alison Brie). But as is becoming the standard with other Netflix series, it's the flawless and stylish production that impresses most.

3. The Debbie for Film of the Year 
Winner: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Runner Up: Dunkirk

three billboards outside ebbing missouri martin mcdonagh frances mcdormand best film 2017 baby driver

A closely fought contest between our top two films of 2017, eventually won by the new Martin McDonagh release Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. Those familiar with McDonaghs earlier work - In Bruges, Seven Psychopaths, his Oscar winning short film Six Shooter, or any of his theatre work - will know what this writer/director is all about. His is a dark but brilliant wit, featuring heavily stylised characters, and occasional fits of vivid violence. Three Billboards still manages to impress and surprise, offering a more sober and focused effort at drama than we've come to expect, dialling down the absurdist humour and violent slapstick in favour of a more sincere and humanising message. Three Billboards won't be for everyone, but it's McDonagh's most mature work to date and features awards calibre performances from it's stars Frances McDormand and Sam Rockwell.

Following in second place is Christopher Nolan's new film Dunkirk. A dramatic depiction of the British withdrawal from Dunkirk, Belgium in the early stages of World War II, told through a series of unrelated vignettes which offer a touchingly personal perspective of history. Few directors can make an action scene as powerful as Nolan, and he is on fine form here along with his cinematographer Hoyte van Hoytema, aided by the finest score of the year courtesy of Hans Zimmer. But what truly makes Dunkirk an affecting film is its lack of dramatic sentimentality; there is no forced adventure backstory, or fabricated hero of the piece, instead it presents a very raw and fact-based look at the war, one which holds no punches as to its brutality or its cruelty.

4. The Debbie for Variety Show Host of the Year 
Winner: John Oliver, Last Week Tonight
Runner Up: Stephen Colbert, The Late Show

john oliver last week tonight hbo talk show host of the year

John Oliver remains the king of all talk show hosts for his poignant, yet still hilarious commentary. If anything, he has attained even greater relevance in the era of Trump, refusing to pull punches when it comes to calling out corruption in Washington, and taking the media to task for its timid response. Oliver would be the first to remind you not to take any one man's word as rote, but increasingly this show is etching its place as an essential voice among confusing times.

Equally benefitting from the chaotic national climate is Oliver's fellow Daily Show alumnus Stephen Colbert, now of The Late Show. If initially Colbert struggled to step into the shoes of the great David Letterman and find his audience, the increasingly charged political obsession in America has seen him renewed as a man without shackles. 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: Timothee Chalamet
Runner Up: Jordan Peele

timothee chalamet breakthrough star of the year

The big star turn of 2017 has been that of twenty-one year old Timothee Chalamet. Chalamet has previously appeared in the major television institutions of Law & Order and Homeland, and worked with top directors such as Christopher Nolan. But 2017 has sent his career to a new level, starring in two of the year's most critically acclaimed films, Lady Bird and Call Me By Your Name, the latter of which is considered to be one of the frontrunners on this year's awards circuit. And it just gets better from here, 2018 will see him star alongside Steve Carrell in Amazon's newest prestige drama Beautiful Boy, as well as the new Woody Allen movie A Rainy Day in New York. One to watch in the coming years.

For our runner up, let's mix it up a little by going for a director. 12 months ago Jordan Peele was best known as one half of the fairly pedestrian comedy duo Key & Peele, now he's the hottest name in Hollywood following his critically acclaimed directorial debut, Get Out. A critical darling, and with awards nominations aplenty, it's not even outside the realm of possibility to expect an Oscar nod in some form. Mostly though, everyone just wants to know where he's going next. Will he be a one hit wonder, or is this the start of a very promising filmmaking career?

6. The Debbie for YouTube Channel of the Year 
Winner: Primitive Technology
Runner Up: Isaac Arthur

debbies youtube channel of the year primitive technology isaac arthur 2017

YouTube has come a long way in recent years, moving on from lame Vlogs and people narrating themselves playing videogames. The website now offers much in the way of genuinely worthwhile content. And so, in a first for the Debbies, we will be recognising the best that YouTube has to offer. This year, the top prize goes to Primitive Technology, a channel following a single man's efforts to build increasingly complex technology and structures starting with nothing more than what he finds in the forest. A fire, tools, a house? He builds it all from mud and tree branches, and it's damned impressive. This is a great example of how YouTube content doesn't have to be obnoxiously narcissistic. No one knows who this chap is, he never speaks, just lets the content speak for itself, and there's something extremely relaxing about watching a guy silently connect with nature.

A close runner up, and in other circumstances a worthy winner, is 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: Ink (Almeida)
Runner Up: Albion (Almeida)

ink almeida best theatre 2017

It has been a wonderful year for the Almeida Theatre in London. Arguably the three biggest shows of the year have been on their stage, and this year they can lay claim to both our winner and runner up place in the prestigious theatre Debbie. The top prize goes to James Graham's new play Ink. You can read what I had to say about it at the time from the link, but in short: James Graham is one of the most consistently thrilling political playwrights in the game, Bertie Carvel's Rupert Murdoch performance is a masterpiece in capturing the essence of a person, and Ink is just a brilliant good time, as well as an extremely timely bit of theatre.

The runner up prize is claimed by another Almeida production, Albion. Mike Bartlett's Brexit parable is an equally timely story, with another masterclass performance to go with it, from Vitoria Hamilton. Perhaps not as much of a crowd-pleaser as Ink, but Albion pulls no punches with its commentary, and is must see theatre.

8. The Debbie for Album of the Year 
Winner: I See You - The xx
Runner Up: Pure Comedy - Father John Misty

the xx i see you best album 2017

Surprisingly for a year which included new albums from two of my favourite bands, The Killers and Arcade Fire, neither has placed on this list. Instead The Ephemeric  has found itself won over by the consistency and quality of The xx's third studio album, I See You. A fine album as a whole, with a few particularly excellent songs. Lead singles On Hold and I Dare You were song of the year contenders, while A Violent Noise is a mesmerising and unique track. I See You as a whole is an album that successfully manages to evolve the sound of the band in bold, creative ways without losing what made them great.

A close runner up is Father John Misty's clever new album Pure Comedy. Tillman's caustic philosophising has never sounded so good. Lyrics are on-point and touch on themes of politics, social media, ageing and human nature. The result is the most mature work yet produced by the band, and simultaneously the most beautiful. Definitely check out lead single Pure Comedy, but for me the real highlight is 10 minute odyssey So I'm Growing Old on Magic Mountain, a strong contender for song of the year.

9. The Debbie for Debut Album of the Year 
Winner: Process - Sampha
Runner Up: Electric Lines - Joe Goddard

sampha process best debut album 2017

Sampha's debut album has been a long time coming, originally making an impression as far back as 2013. The artist's blend of smooth r&b with electronic and folk influences has proved an award winning combination, and debut album Process has been critically acclaimed by just about everyone. Those unacquainted will want to check out tracks like Without and No One Knows Me.

Also worthy of note is Electric Lines, the debut solo album of Joe Goddard, best known for his work with the band Hot Chip. But you don't have to be a fan of the British electronica group to appreciate the variety on offer here. There's title track Electric Lines with its brand of contemporary folk, one can move on to the more electronica-influenced Nothing Moves, and then kick back with a delicious slice of disco retro in Home. It's an album well worth giving a chance.

10. The Debbie for Song of the Year 
Winner: Long Time - Blondie
Runners Up: Some Kind of Love - The Killers, Down By the Water - Amy Macdonald

blondie long time best song 2017

2017 was certainly not a year lacking in great music. The pick of the bunch this year is the crown jewel of Blondie's excellent comeback album, Long Time. This track is just gold, a piece of euphoric pop that compares favourably even with the best of Blondie's classic hits. The evergreen Debbie Harry imbues her vocals with such energy that you'll scarcely believe she's really 72 years old.

Our runner up is the pick of the new album from The Killers. The Brian Eno produced Some Kind of Love gives us a side of The Killers that we seldom see, tender and ethereal. A far cry from the roof-raising anthems that one identifies with their bigger hits. Great song, expertly composed.

Lastly a shout out to specifically the acoustic version of Amy Macdonald's Down By the Water. Amy Macdonald remains an underrated song-writer, and in particular when she sticks to her folk-acoustic roots. Fortunately with her most recent album, she had the foresight to record every song twice, once in full studio, and once acoustic. This is the album's pinnacle, but you would do yourself a favour to check out the other acoustic tracks as well.

11. The Debbie for Live Performance of the Year 
Winner: Tears for Fears

tears for fears best live performance 2017

London is fortunate to play host to some of the best performers of our time, and music fans have no shortage of concerts to attend in a given year. For a year which has seen impressive tours from the likes of The Killers and The Kooks, The Ephemeric opts to give recognition to the unexpected return of one of the best bands of the 1980s, Tears for Fears. The duo have lost none of their edge or singing ability in the years since, and it was a joy to hear hits such as Everybody Wants to Rule the WorldPale Shelter and Mad World in full live glory. Well worth catching for old hands and newbies alike, some songs just don't get old.

12. The Debbie for Art Exhibition of the Year 
Winner: Paul Klee at The Beyeler Foundation

paul klee beyeler foundation basel best art exhibition 2017

Far be it from me to suggest that London does not have the world's finest art galleries (particularly the Royal Academy of Arts!), but really very little compares with a day out at Basel's most sublime meeting point, the Beyeler Foundation. I was hugely impressed by last year's exhibition of Der Blaue Reiter, and in 2017 they have done it again with a superb collection of Paul Klee. The paintings are remarkable enough in their own right, and some of his more notable works are on show throughout the gallery. Really though it's the state of the art facilities, with natural lighting and the relaxing bucolic setting, that allow you to enjoy the work as it was meant to be, and make the experience something extra special

Business & Technology

13. The Debbie for Scientific/Technological Breakthrough of the Year 
Winner: Artificial Meat

artificial meat impossible burger beyond meat memphis meats best important technological breakthrough 2017

It's been talked about for years, but hype in the field of artificial meat is reaching a fever pitch now. The first products are being released in American grocery stores and restaurants, and that has brought near daily coverage in media. There are many reasons why this is a good idea. It's healthier to eat, it's better for the environment, can be grown in large quantities, and of course it does not require killing an animal. Do not underestimate this, a sufficiently convincing artificial meat product could be a world changing development.

The two companies currently on market, Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat, specialise in meat-like products that are in fact made from reconstituted plant protein in such a way that there is supposedly little difference from regular meat. Theoretically there is no reason why this shouldn't be possible given sophisticated enough technology, after all meat and plant proteins are ultimately made from the same building blocks. These two players are betting that we have finally reached the point where current technology can make such a feat possible. But potentially more exciting is the method being used by Memphis Meats, among other companies. This is clean meat, that is to say, actual meat cells being grown in a lab. The theory here is that meat is meat, whether it is grown in a lab or on an animal, assuming it can be grown in equivalent conditions. Hypothetically then, there should be no taste or texture difference at all from regular meat.

I'm keen to try both, though I remain skeptical that plant protein can ever really taste like the real thing. I expect the Memphis Meats approach will be the preferred option, assuming they can bring down the cost of production sufficiently.

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

nintendo switch best console for gaming

It's been a bumper year for gaming, and in particular for Nintendo, whose Switch console has been a hit since launching this past spring. The technology itself is quite remarkable. The Switch features detachable controllers and a built in screen, meaning that it can be used either as a TV-connected home console or as a completely mobile handheld device. More impressive is how the console transitions so seamlessly between the two; simply pick up or place the Switch in its dock and it will instantly switch between TV and in-built display, without requiring a reboot of the console, or a restart of the game.

For such a small console (about the size of an ordinary handheld) the Switch packs a surprising amount of heft. It is impressive indeed to be playing a massive AAA game in full HD on your TV, and then seamlessly transition to playing the same game on a handheld, with very little noticeable difference in performance. Add to this Nintendo's best effort yet at online infrastructure, including a better-late-than-never embracing of DLC and multiplayer services, as well as Nintendo's formidable Virtual console, and there's an awful lot to like about this little device.

15. The Debbie for Videogame of the Year 
Winner: The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (Switch)
Runners Up: Mario Odyssey (Switch), What Remains of Edith Finch (PC)

zelda breath of wild switch game of the year 2017

So the Switch is a fascinating piece of technology, sure. But what has really helped the system fly off the shelves is software, with possibly a more impressive first year line up of games than any console in memory. Two Switch titles can already make genuine claim to being among the best games ever made, and naturally their quality will be recognised here at the Debbies. The first up is The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. You can read my more detailed thoughts at the above link, but the conclusion is simple. Breath of the Wild is a triumph, even by the lofty standards set by the Zelda series. This marks Nintendo's first attempt at a genuine open-world game, and they have pulled it off in a way that few developers ever have, with a world that is so well-realised, so tantalising to explore, and so interactive through it's brilliant and intuitive range of gameplay systems that just wandering about aimlessly is a memorable experience.

Then along came Mario Odyssey, very nearly stealing Breath of the Wild's thunder. Odyssey returns to the more open-ended level design from Mario 64 and Sunshine, but otherwise it's essentially the classic Mario platforming formula. So what's so special? It comes down to brilliant gameplay design. The levels and puzzles are so clever and well honed that you'll marvel at how Nintendo still have so many fresh ideas after so many years. As with the new Zelda, Nintendo have clearly put a lot of thought into the game's complementary gameplay systems that interact in unexpected ways to make Odyssey a true joy and surprising until the end. I defy anyone to play this without a smile on their face.

Breaking away from Nintendo for our second runner up is What Remains of Edith Finch. This is the debut release of Anapurna's new interactive division, and it's clear that they haven't lost any of their storytelling flair in the switch from cinema to gaming. Edith Finch tells the story of a young lady who returns to her abandoned familial home to revisit the stories of several generations of ancestors and relatives, all of whom have met with unfortunate ends. But far from some morbid eulogy, Edith Finch is a rich and touching tale, brimming with personality. Each story features its own unique gameplay and visual presentation in ways that will constantly surprise and impress, while exploring this unique house, with its haphazard construction and hidden secrets presents a marvel in world-building.

16. The Debbie for Company of the Year
Winner: Amazon

amazon company of the year 2017

From an online book merchant to one of the world's burgeoning tech superpowers, Amazon is a company that is quickly becoming all pervasive in ways many people don't even realise. In addition to being the world's largest internet retailer, Amazon has branched out into consumer electronics with the Kindle, grocery shopping with Amazon Fresh, and is now also the world's largest provider of cloud infrastructure services. On top of this, Amazon is making a real play for the future of your living room with its Echo products, and currently looks set to be one of the major players in the internet of things alongside Apple and Google. That's impressive enough even before you remember that they now produce award winning television series, and Oscar winning films, with a streaming service that many people are starting to say compares favourably even with Netflix.

From retail, to our kitchens and living rooms, the entertainment industry, and those all important web services; Amazon has a genuine claim to being the most influential company in the world. 2017 was a bumper year that saw their stock fly in value, making Jeff Bezos the wealthiest man in the world. Also, they're making drones.

17. The Debbie for Startup of the Year
Winner: Bloom & Wild

bloom wild startup company of the year 2017

This is a delightful little company as anyone who has used their services will attest. Bloom & Wild deliver flowers, but cognisant of today's hectic lifestyle and the fact that most of us spend our days in the office, they deliver their products in a manner that does not require anyone to be home to receive. Flowers arrive as buds, carefully and individually wrapped in mesh paper (and depending on the set, maybe even with glassware included). This is all packaged into a letterbox sized cardboard box and popped through your door on a specified date. No fuss, beautiful flowers to your door. Their latest injection of capital will allow them to spread this great business model in to Europe. With annual subscription and gifting options available, one can see this becoming a regular mainstay in our living rooms.


18. The Debbie for Footballer of the Year 
Winner: Cristiano Ronaldo - Real Madrid

cristiano ronaldo real madrid best footballer player in the world football 2017

2017 has been a fantastic year for Real Madrid and Cristiano Ronaldo, a Ballon D'or capping off a year in which Madrid won a stunning quadruple of silverware, including a record 12th Champions League title. There's no separating this success from Ronaldo, who on present form and despite his advancing years, is the most complete football player in the world. A genius comparable with Messi, but with a physique and burst of pace that reflects superior athleticism. The time is surely drawing near when the world game will no longer be dominated by these two, but for now Ronaldo wins another Debbie and rightly so.

19. The Debbie for Under-21 Footballer of the Year 
Winner: Kylian Mbappe - PSG

kylian mbappe psg paris monaco best young footballer player in the world 2017

An astonishing year for the teenage Kylian Mbappé, who despite his tender years has become the second most expensive player of all time following a bumper £150 million move from Monaco to their Ligue 1 rivals PSG, and the most expensive teenager. It is difficult to pretend that his accomplishments to date have merited such status, but that's not to say that he isn't a very promising young footballer. A player with the finesse and poise of Thierry Henry, but the power of the Brazilian Ronaldo during his younger years, Mbappé should be a world star for years to come. Hopefully receiving so much hype at such a young age will not adversely impact his career trajectory.

20. The Debbie for Football Manager of the Year 
Winner: Antonio Conte - Chelsea

best football manager in the world 2017 antonio conte

While there are many outstanding candidates for the top football manager in 2017, there are few where you can definitively state that the manger himself has elevated the level of a team. Zidane? Great manager, but would that stacked Madrid team really be doing any worse without him? Ditto Ernesto Valverde. In the case of Antonio Conte though, one has to marvel at how he has taken a 10th place club to Premier League champions in a single season. This despite minimal transfer activity compared to his more spendthrift rivals, and a squad with more holes than Swiss cheese. More than that though, it's just great to see someone in football with this passion; jumping, screaming, crowd-diving after a goal, and most importantly a gentleman towards his opposite number in all circumstances. Football needs more people like Conte.

21. The Debbie for Football Club of the Year 
Winner: Chapecoense

football club of the year 2017 chapecoense

"Now wait," I hear you say, "that tragic Chapecoense event was last year." Correct, I'm not here to recognise them for tragedy, but for the remarkable response that has played out in the year since that awful day. Remember that at the time of the crash, Chapecoense were relative newcomers to the top flight of Brazilian football, and their future at the highest level far from assured. Yet since this tragedy, they have gone on to record their highest ever finish in Brazilian football, won the Campeonato Catarinese regional league, and made credible efforts in both the Copa Sudamericana and Copa Libertadores (their first ever appearance in the competition). It's been a fine year by any team's standards, let alone for a team that tragically lost most of its playing squad just a year ago. An inspiring effort and a heartwarming story.

Current Events

22. The Debbie for Politician of the Year 
Winner: Emmanuel Macron

emmanuel macron politician of the year 2017

In a year with little in the way of positive role models among the political class, our top prize for politicking goes to Emmanuel Macron. Amid a so-called wave of right wing extremism in western democracies, Macron struck a major victory for moderates and centrists by showing that it is possible to gain popular support without pandering or selling yourself out to our darker instincts.

More incredible is the manner of Macron's victory. To successfully run as an independent candidate in modern day politics is unheard of at the national level, much less to gain as historically large a majority as Macron did. To put that into context, this isn't like Labour or the Tories becoming Prime Minister, this isn't even like the Liberal Democrats or UKIP becoming Prime Minister, this is more like Lord Buckethead becoming Prime Minister and picking up a record number of seats in the process. It's astonishing when you think about it and teaches a secondary, but no less important lesson that maybe we don't have to accept a "lesser of two evils" party system, maybe 21st Century democracy can accommodate a truly independent movement that isn't beholden to the politics of identity, but instead to whomever happens to be the best man for the job. Maybe we don't need the Tories or Labour, but can vote for someone in whom we actually believe.

Macron has proceeded to implement his vision, returning France to a state of efficient economic liberalism, and earns majority support among his people. I dare say it's an example for other democracies to follow.

23. The Debbie for Scandal of the Year 
Winner: Donald Trump

donald trump scandal 2017 russia

I'm thinking about removing this category, because it's far too obvious who's going to win for as long as Donald Trump is President (so another year at least then). Let's just get to it then: basically ever since he was inaugurated Trump has been under investigation for one thing or another. The Russia investigation appears to be reaching fever pitch, with four indictments and two guilty pleas even at this early stage from among his senior campaign/administration staff, and suggestion that he or members of his immediate family could be in the firing line sooner rather than later. The US intelligence services consider information provided by MI6 agents indicating that Russia's Government has some means of coercion over Trump to be credible. This Russia scandal is the most significant political scandal since Watergate, and probably even more so. A hostile foreign power swinging an election and installing a puppet leader in the United States is the stuff of movies and bad thrillers, and now it appears to be fact.

But guess what, that's not all! What about the dozens of accusations of sexual assault corroborated by contemporaneous evidence? What about his flagrant violation of emoluments clause regarding conflicts of interest with his businesses, currently working their way through the courts? What about his astonishing response to the murder of an American citizen by radical white supremacist terrorists by claiming that "both sides" were to blame? The truth is that each of these, as well as scandals in Puerto Rico, his war against law enforcement agencies, violations of the free press, as well as apparent fraud committed by his administration, and probably many others, would ordinarily be enough to remove a politician from office. Many of these are crimes. We've never seen anything like this before in western democracy. He's not even been President for a year, buckle up.

24. The Debbie for Cause of the Year 
Winner: Independence of the press

republican trump brexit nazi fascist autocracy authoritarian freedom independence press media most important issue 2017

In this era of corrupt politicians, fake news, and massive propaganda campaigns, it's more important than ever before that we ensure an independent and uncensored press. The only way to combat propaganda 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. The sad truth is that the credibility of the press is at a low, and much of that is their 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.

25. The Debbie for Person of the Year 
Winner: Jeff Bezos

jeff bezos robert mueller person of the year 2017

The Ephemeric's person of the year award goes to the man recently crowned the world's richest, Jeff Bezos of Amazon. The wealth itself is not the mark of accomplishment, but rather what it signifies, the surge in fortunes of Amazon. Bezos himself is the man who had the vision to take the company from its humble book-slinging beginnings into the global super-power that it is now, during which time he personally has transformed from librarian to Iron Man's more badass uncle. His time at Amazon has brought significant innovation not only to online retail, but to consumer electronics, cloud technology, AI and home automation. Also drones.

But his influence extends beyond one company. Incubator Bezos Expeditions has its fingers in many of the world's most innovative companies, from Google to Airbnb, Makerbot and Uber. He owns the Washington Post, the journalistic driving force behind Watergate, the Pentagon papers, and the current Russia-Lago scandal. He's even followed Elon Musk into the private space industry with Blue Origins, a company that actually managed to beat SpaceX to become the first company to launch and safely land a reusable rocket. In the developing world of the tech super powers, Bezos and Amazon are very much at the forefront, which makes him our pick for most influential of 2017.

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26. The Debbie for Restaurant of the Year 
Winner: Marianne

marianne lumb london best restaurant 2017

When it comes to dining out in London these days, we are truly spoilt for choice. Our pick of the bunch for 2017 is newcomer Marianne, project of head chef Marianne Lumb. I gather that Ms Lumb was on some kind of reality TV series as a contestant, though I would never watch such a thing. If being headed by a TV chef gives you any misgivings, not to fret, Marianne is wonderful.

The food itself is great; a multi-course tasting menu, but one that doesn't prove overbearing as it does in many top-range restaurants. Dishes are technically accomplished and invigorated with fresh flavour combinations. While many tasting menus just go through the motions, this is a setlist that has been crafted with the joy of a chef who loves food. But the key element of this evening is the experience. The atelier is very small, seating only fourteen people across four tables in a single seating, while Chef Marianne comes out to greet guests towards the end of the evening. For those seeking an intimate evening of delightful dining, this is the place for you, but move quickly before she relocates to a larger location.

27. The Debbie for Nightclub/Bar of the Year 
Winner: Bourne & Hollingsworth

bourne hollingsworth best bar club london 2017

London has no shortage of fine drinking establishments, but one this year stands head and shoulders above the rest. Bourne & Hollingsworth is one of those delightful venues that suits all occasions. By morning it's a bright and leafy brunch locale, by night a classy lounge with a fireplace, sofas, and some of the best cocktails in the city, and by later night the downstairs club area opens up, complete with dance floor and novelty sharing drinks. So whatever mood you might be in, this is your one stop shop for a great night out.

28. The Debbie for Mixologist of the Year 
Winner: Alessandro Palazzi

alessandro palazzi dukes bar best mixologist

My annual shout out to The Duke's Bar owner Alessandro. Famous across London for making Ian Fleming's drinks, and in particular his flair for unique martinis turn heads. Whether he's making his signature Fleming 89 or whipping up some original creation on the spot, there's no finer cocktail around. This year's special creations include the white truffle martini, and now for the first time, actual snacks with which to line your stomach.

29. The Debbie for Destination of the Year
Winner: Everywhere, Canada

canada everywhere vancouver toronto viarail best holiday destination 2017

Canada is not necessarily the first place people think of for a magical vacation, but their lives are the poorer for it. In Toronto, Canada boasts a world class city with culture, shopping and good food. But the real attraction is the country itself, the second largest in the world by area, and so heavily urbanised that the vast majority remains stunningly unspoilt. Many other countries have natural beauty, but few if any have quite so much of it, from dramatic mountainous regions to staggering open flatland, dense, untouched forests the size of Western Europe, and hundreds of thousands (seriously) of beautiful lakes.

And then there's the people; friendly, reasoned, and well educated. One of the best compliments I can pay to Canada is that it is like America, but without the Americans. This year we decided to take the train right from the west coast of Vancouver to Toronto in the east, and were treated to a tour of the entire country-scape in between, and it is an experience that won't soon be forgotten.

30. The Debbie for Wine of the Year 
Winner: Bibbiano Gran Selezione Vigna del Capannino 2011
bibbiano capannino gran selezione 2011 best wine 2017

The up and coming Chianti vineyard of Bibbiano takes the prize this year, specifically with its wonderful gran selezione of 2011, the Vigna del Capannino. Visitors to this modest estate will be greeted by the signs of expansion everywhere; a new restaurant is in the works, and even accommodation to stay. If the lunch we had on our tour was any indication, that restaurant will be well worthwhile. But of course, the main attraction is the wine, and the Capannino is one to savour. Smooth with strong berry tones and warming palate, a good example of the Sangiovese grape, and a terrific accompaniment to any meat dish.

31. The Debbie for Champagne of the Year 
Winner: Franck Bonville Cuvée Le Belle Voyes

best champagne 2017 franck bonville cuvee belles voyes

And finally we have our top prize for champagne, and it's a comeback for Franck Bonville, the mid-sized factory fast becoming the champagne of choice for connoisseurs. It's hard to go wrong with a basic blanc de blancs, or even their stately Millésime, but our pick of the bunch has to be the special collection Belles Voyes grand cru blanc de blancs. Like drinking liquid stardust, to be savoured on special occasions.

Well there you have it. 2017 will go down as an interesting year for sure, but here's to the next one being even better!

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