The 2019 E! People’s Choice Awards

So last year the People’s Choice Awards underwent their former syndicated glory to become the sole artistic purview of the E! Network. I think this seems reasonable, but it also puts me in an interesting frame of mind, analytically. To wit: I have no idea who actually takes any of this stuff seriously (other than me).

I mean, I’m writing about it, so obviously I care about this stuff. And obviously it’s still going, and wasn’t cancelled unceremoniously, so enough people care about it that it’s still worth the expense, but that’s not really what I mean. I’m going to talk now, probably at some length, about television, the worst 1, most popular, medium for entertainment.

The E! People’s Choice Awards are meant to be a sort of grab-bag of the things that people like enough to vote in a basic-cable company’s online poll and declare their favorite 2. As such, it sort of begs the question of who the “people” involved are, and, given the loose nature of “choice” (read here as “favorite”), what it is they are choosing. When television was a more-controlled environment, and basic cable faced fewer alternatives (network and premium cable), it was probably easier to maintain the illusion that this was the choice that was made by the people. 

As it is, however, I’m unsure how many actual people would be involved in this. While the awards show itself is presenting itself as the sort of thing where we, the populous, gets to choose what it is that receives the statue, it’s actually a subset of the people that watch the network that has all the Kardashian shows and whatnot on it, which may or may not be any kind of direct representative sample of any of the actual people, because we have no idea who is watching E!, and, more to the point, who is watching it in such a way that they see the commercials for the People’s Choice Awards and, further still, are thus impelled to come out and vote for them.

Now, most awards are selected by smaller, less theoretically-democratic groups of people – AMPAS, or the Hollywood Foreign Press, or the Recording Academy, or the editorial staff of Billboard Magazine. You see what I mean. So this is probably a larger body than those, and it’s definitely more open 3, but the thing that calls attention to wondering just who it is that chooses to exercise those voting privileges is the fact of its openness. 

The People’s Choice Awards, then, were always absurd 4 – they were never actually a democratic representation of anything other than people who knew what they were, and cared enough to vote on them which, given the viewership numbers and their general place in the pop-culture firmament, was already a tiny number, but used to include, say, people that were exposed to the commercials and such during shows people actually manage to watch on television 5, or who were into the idea of dumb awards shows in the first place and just managed to know about them that way (that’s how I got here, I haven’t regularly watched a television show on E! Since they cancelled The Soup). 

So when presented with the nominees, one is presented with what the people that are putting on the awards think are going to make for interesting television among the set of people that represent their most ardent viewers and/or carers about, plus whatever other audience the people nominated for the awards can bring in (under the assumption that if, say, Cole Sprouse tweets about his nomination and potential win, he can gin up some support from his social media followers. Or whoever, I’m not actually picking on Cole Sprouse here.

So, walk with me down the aisles of what a cable network thinks that their fans will agree on, mixed with a smattering of folks who are attainable to the E! Network and their audiences, which is a different set of audiences than they had a few years ago.

And these are the rightful winners, even though I think a record number of them for one of these writeups go to people that were not, technically speaking, nominated by the People’s Choice Award…um….people.

The Pop Podcast of 2019

I don’t really have an opinion about it as a show, but I do think that it’s funny, for me, biographically, that I thought of Jonathan Van Ness as a podcaster first, because his Earwolf show was heavily promoted right before Queer Eye got into my field of vision. Anyway, WTF has come a long way since its salad days, but it’s still the best one in the field here. 


The Game Changer of 2019

Megan Rapinoe not only won another damn World Cup for her team, but also made a bunch of other people who wouldn’t have otherwise cared about soccer, which is a hard thing to do for an American audience. Good job, Megan Rapinoe.


The Style Star of 2019

You know what, given that Celine Dion hasn’t done a tonne of stuff publicly except show up places and wear clothes (and have a Vegas residency, which is why she was showing up places and wearing clothes. Well, she probably would have been wearing clothes anyway. You know what I mean.), and that this has proven to be nothing but absolutely delightful, I think it’s got to be her.


The Comedy Act of 2019

Last year I mentioned the oddness of the E! Network’s devotion to Amy Schumer 6, which persists to this year, which is fun. I’m still just going to give it to Kevin Hart, though.


The Animal Star of 2019

Well, this is just the most delightful category of all, but I’m a big fan not only of Nala’s general existence, but of her overcoming her hardscrabble shelter-cat roots in order to be so. Also how many of these can I give to Nala the cat? Like, all of them, right? I think she deserves all of them.


The Social Celebrity of 2019

Like, Nala should definitely be here. None of these people are shelter cats. Not even one of them looks smashing in a shark hat. I’m annoyed beyond measure that I now have to consider any of these people when we should all just agree that social media is for cats and nothing else. And certainly not Cats

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Nala again. I’m overriding the nominating body this time.

The Beauty Influencer of 2019

I mean, Nala is a super pretty cat, guys. She always knows how to make her eyes pop (be a cat), her hair always looks great (she’s a cat), and she always knows how to accessorize. Does Desi Perkins have that same gift for accessories? NO.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Nala, in a surprise running-away-with-it-all victory. 

The Social Star of 2019

…….after all that do you think there’s going to be some kind of Dolan Twins/Liza Koshy combined come-from-behind situation? No. Social media is for cats, and Nala is the cat in contention. So it’s Nala again.


The Concert Tour of 2019

Shoutout to the E! People’s Choice Awards for being the one organization that remembers that Man of the Woods happened. Jesus. Anyway, the only one of these I spent more than half a second considering was Lady Gaga’s, so I guess there you have it.


The Music Video of 2019

Lil Nas X is, once again, nominated for the song (which is bad) and not the video (which is great), which is stupid and unfair. So, since I’ve already gone full rogue here, I guess he wins this category and all these people don’t.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Lil Nas X, “Old Town Road” 

The Latin Artist of 2019

I guess I’m going to like Daddy Yankee the most in this category until he stops appearing in this category, since his is the only music in this category that I actually find memorable.


The Country Artist of 2019

Uhhhhhhhhh…….Carrie Underwood? I guess?


The Album of 2019

The thing that is most important about this particular exercise is the fact that my decision of rightfulness is, of course, rightful, and the only one of these albums that own is Lizzo’s, so it’s got to be Lizzo. Ipso facto.


The Song of 2019

The music categories of the People’s Choice Awards make me feel like a cranky old person. I have mentioned this previously in conjunction with other music awards, certainly, but here it is again. I kind of like the Khalid song.


The Group of 2019

I usually default to give these things to BTS, who are impressive in their professionalism and showmanship, and their ability to, prior to the last couple of years, manufacture their whole entire fame with the internet and word of mouth. They’re more established now, so I guess I have to consider their music, which isn’t as good as BLACKPINK’s, so there you have it.


The Female Artist of 2019

This one probably has to go to Billie Eilish, who came out of nowhere to take over pretty much everything and is, to her credit, a total weirdo. Good job, Billie Eilish. The music is still pretty bad, but at least it’s bad in an interesting way.


The Male Artist of 2019

For all that I think “Old Town Road” is bad, and that the rest of Lil Nas X’s music is pretty forgettable, I’m at least into his thing, and his ability to ride out his one great idea to its logical conclusion, so he gets this one.


The Sci-Fi/Fantasy Show of 2019

I don’t know if The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina is actually as good as all that, or if it’s just impressive that they’ve managed to make exactly one Archie Comics themed television drama, and that it’s much better than its previous sitcom incarnation, but either way it’s the standout here. 

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina

The Bingeworthy Show of 2019

Talking about television in the medical language of addiction is one of those things that I always expect will go away as people realize what they’re doing, but they never really do. That seems bad. Stop doing it. Anyway, the clear winner here oughta be Bojack Horseman, so I’m going to declare it a better candidate than any of the rest of these.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Bojack Horseman, in defiance of the actual nominees

The Reality Star of 2019

So anyway Jonathan Van Ness has a podcast and it’s pretty cool, and he’s also got a memoir that everyone likes and is my favorite part of Queer Eye so it’s got to be him, but without him this category would be a bleak and desolate place, devoid of joy.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Jonathan Van Ness, Queer Eye

The Competition Contestant of 2019

While my mind twists itself into knots trying to figure out how anyone from The Bachelor/ette would qualify for this award, I’m just going to give it to T-Pain. It’s for my own health, you see.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: T-Pain, The Masked Singer

The Nighttime Talk Show of 2019

As always with one of these categories, it comes down to the current Daily Show host versus some former Daily Show correspondents. It was a hell of a show, turns out.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Samantha Bee, Full Frontal With Samantha Bee

The Daytime Talk Show of 2019

It amazes me that daytime talk shows are still a thing. I mean, I get that nighttime talk shows aren’t much less insane, but I am still amazed that in 2019 the best thing to fill network air is “a bunch of people talking in six minute chunks”. I will confess that I find it baffling, but I can’t really pinpoint why I find it so baffling. I guess I’ll have to think about it some more, which will represent just about the most thought I’ve ever spared for a daytime talk show.


The Comedy TV Star of 2019

Well, The Good Place is my favorite live-action comedy that produced episodes during the period of eligibility, so it comes down to the two women from The Good Place, of which I think the lead is funnier.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Kristen Bell, The Good Place

The Drama TV Star of 2019

So one of the seemingly-unending aspects of this particular awards show is that they don’t segregate their acting awards along sex lines when you’re evaluating along genre lines, and then it comes time to pick a man and a woman (sometimes each of whom were nominated in the same category back when it was drama vs. comedy or whatever) and give them a sex-segregated award. It is weird! 

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Millie Bobby Brown, Stranger Things

The Female TV Star of 2019

See? Now we’re only looking at the women, and in a moment the men, despite them all being in the same pot for whether it’s comedy or drama. 

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Danai Gurira, who is on a terrible show (The Walking Dead) doing fine work, and who wasn’t nominated back in the Drama tv Star category, which just compounds the weirdness. 

The Male TV Star of 2019

I still feel bad for singling out Cole Sprouse earlier, so I think he deserves a sympathy award here.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Cole Sprouse, Riverdale

The Competition Show of 2019

Shoutout here to The Masked Singer for 1) being completely unwatchable, and yet somehow compelling enough that I actually sat and watched it all, and 2) being a television show that is devoted to, and indeed completely in debt to, its costume designers.


The Reality Show of 2019

I don’t think I like a single thing about most of these, but I kind of like Queer Eye, insofar as I’m capable of liking any of this.


The Comedy Show of 2019

Unsurprisingly, I think it’s The Good Place, although I’ll probably have to figure it out after it ends, which is at the end of this season. Very sad. 


The Drama Show of 2019

Well, none of these shows brought me any particular pleasure, but the members of the cast of Big Little Lies sure are attractive, aren’t they?


The Show of 2019

I like that WWE Raw pops up here at the end, having not fit into any of the other categories, despite being dramatic enough to be drama, funny enough to be comedy, no less scripted than most of the “reality” options, and generally more entertaining than any of them. I don’t like wrestling, but I don’t like the rest of this either, and don’t see how it shouldn’t be given an award. At least it’s up front about what it is. This is, admittedly, pretty thin reasoning, but it’s a pretty thin field of nominees, and it doesn’t include The Good Place, which really should be winning.


The Animated Movie Star of 2019

I’m happy enough about Toy Story 4, and Tom Hanks generally, to declare a winner here and move on without expressing my extreme disapproval of most of the rest of these.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Tom Hanks, Toy Story 4

The Action Movie Star of 2019

I will say this: despite not being a fan of Acting, the very fact that Robert Downey Jr. managed, in an environment where he by no means had to 7, to turn in a reasonably-good capital-A Acting performance in an environment (see above) where it was not only unlikely due to circumstance, but also made actively more difficult by the process itself, probably deserves an award. Not a big award, but maybe a small award. Like, say, a People’s Choice Award.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Robert Downey, Jr., Avengers: Endgame

The Comedy Movie Star of 2019

As often happens here, my favorite performance was by the person who is not, technically, a trained actor. Go figure. 

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Ali Wong, Always Be My Maybe

The Drama Movie Star of 2019

I appreciate that, in addition to the aforementioned Man of the Woods, the People’s Choice Awards are also here to remember the existence of Glass. I mean, I’m glad they’re doing it so that no one else has to.


The Female Movie Star of 2019

It does, however, remain odd to me that Sarah Paulson can be nominated for Drama Movie Star (regardless of sex involved) but not Female Movie Star. Some of this is because they tighten up the number of nominees for the latter, but that’s an arbitrary decision they’ve already made, and besides which, it should go the other damn way. Also Scarlett Johansson is here, and not in the other category. Basically what I’m saying is that sorting these categories out by sex is stupid, and also that I did actually like Scarlet Johansson in Avengers: Endgame. But not as much as Lupita Nyong’o, generally.


The Male Movie Star of 2019

I mean, I already said the thing about Robert Downey, Jr., so now I’ll just go ahead and applaud some more special effects and point out that I like the way the computer-folks and Samuel L. Jackson assembled his de-aged performance in Captain Marvel.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Samuel L. Jackson, Captain Marvel

The Family Movie of 2019

Aw, hey, I liked The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part an awful lot. I think I’m going to vote for it here sentimentally, if for no other reason. Also because it’s going to go to Toy Story 4 no matter what I do, and I like to be contrary.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part

The Drama Movie of 2019

Dude, the idea that someone at E! wants to convince people to watch Glass is geniunely, actually funny. Not in a post-internet “dude that’s hilarious” way, but in a way that I’m always made happy when I find someone who is willing to champion something that I think is bad. I had a friend in college whose favorite band in the world was Blessid Union of Souls. This makes me think about the same reaction I had to that. I don’t understand it, I can’t fathom thinking that Glass needs an award, but I’m glad someone does, because I’m glad someone out there appreciates the time and effort spent on it.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Us. I mean, I like that someone likes Glass, I’m not one of those people. 

The Action Movie of 2019

So it’s true that there was some fine acting in Avengers: Endgame, certainly, and the directing was good enough to make sense of the whole thing, but the movie itself worked becaue of the enormous and presumably-Herculean efforts of a team of editors, staff coordinators, animators, scheduling producers (and other such calendar-mavens) and continuity experts, who could get a cast of seventeen gajillion people into a movie together, despite it being fairly certain that none of them could be together at the same time, coordinating the efforts a bunch of high-level big-name folks in addition to the fact that the movie was nearly entirely CG. While I may not agree that it was a great movie (although I liked it a lot, and can’t imagine a way in which it would have been any better), it certainly was a great achievement, even if only in terms of its staggering logistics. So it should probably win some awards or whatever.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Avengers: Endgame

The Comedy Movie of 2019

I could probably say the same thing back in the drama category about half the movies here, but instead I’m just going to do what everyone else does, and come out in favor of The Hustle.


The Movie of 2019

I probably should’ve saved all the stuff I said about The Avengers for down here, but I will also use this space to point out that, in addition to The Avengers being The Movie of 2019 in People’s Choice Awards parlance, it’s also probably the movie of 2019, in that it’s probably the apex of the superhero-movie dominance, and the movie that will forever be associated with the era. I mean, I’m not a good prognosticator, but I’m pretty sure that was it, and that it’s probably downhill from there. Not in terms of quality 8, but in terms of absolute cultural dominance. In any event, the coordination of the movie, but also the couple of dozen movies that fed into it and the constant shifting of studios and contracts and such (as mentioned above) is still really impressive. 

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Avengers: Endgame


  1. I’m not really getting into the “worst” thing, but you can see much of what I’ve written previously on the subject. 
  2. this is, of course, dependent on taking at face value that this voting, and the attendant award-granting , is all done as it is suggested that it is done – i.e. that the votes are tabulated and then the winner announced therefrom. While there are potentially all sorts of places where this could turn out not to be true – i.e. the votes could not matter, or could be massaged and/or juiced by the producers or their representatives – for our purposes here, that doesn’t really matter. In summation, it’s not that I have faith in the honesty and openness of the people at E! as much as it is that the whole ball of weirdness doesn’t actually depend on that honesty for its appeal in the first place. 
  3. For example, I was able to vote for these, a distinction shared only by the Hugos, and I had to pay money in order to vote for the Hugos. 
  4. you can see me write some about the absurdness of them in pretty much each of the annual writeups. 
  5. they formerly aired on CBS, which has long been the only broadcast network that can manage to consistently bring in traditional ratings, largely by appealing to an older demographic, although even that is changing/has changed. 
  6. which is probably attributable to her being willing to Schumer it up on the red carpet at even non-E! events. 
  7.  and, indeed, where many of his peers did not 
  8. actually, Spider-Man: Far From Home and Captain Marvel are both much better movies, as movies in and of themselves go. 

The Best Records of October 2019

Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Ghosteen (it’s true that there are no bad Nick Cave albums, or at least that there never has been one, but nobody expects a record this good forty-odd years into one’s career 1, but here we are)

Danny Brown – uknowhatimsayin (This is a fantastic change of direction for Mr. Brown – excellent flow, great production, generally just a great step forward)

Matana Roberts – Coin Coin Volume 4 (surfacing some decidedly folky elements of her noise/jaz/soul music has made it more interesting – this is the best of these albums, and they were at a pretty high level to begin with)

Sunn O))) – Pyroclasts (a second top-shelf Sunn O))) record in a year is a real gift. This one is less composed and a lot looser than the other, but also more cohesive.)

clipping. – There Existed an Addiction to Blood (this is the most like midcity they’ve sounded since midcity, and I am here for it)

  1. counting from The Boys Next Door, that is 

The 2019 World Fantasy Awards

The end of the year only means one thing 1, and that’s the World Fantasy Awards! 2

Every year I talk a big game about how the World Fantasy Awards are a lot of fun for me because they involve taking me out of my comfort zone, etc, but this year that proved to be really true: this year most of the material was very much not my bag, but it was enlightening and worthwhile to get through it all, anyway. 

We live in an exciting world full of stimulating and engaging art for all sorts of people, and almost none of those people are me. I am a smart person, and I am pretty steadfast in my opinions and the reasoning for them, and it would be very easy to let those opinions calcify, 3 and stick to the rivers and lakes that I’m used to. But it’s good to get out there and chase the waterfalls of, say, fantasy stories about warrior-poets, because it’s a useful reminder that it takes all sorts of get everything done, and the people that would respond to that sort of thing are also often people that I admire and respect. Even if they aren’t, and even if I don’t know them at all, sharing this thing with them (the nebulous, unseen enjoyers of the thing) brings us all closer together as human persons, and is therefore enjoyable to me even when I don’t much care for the work itself.

That said, I’m still right about everything all the time, so I’m here to declare which award-granting decisions are rightful. It’s the least I could do, really.

Oh, except that I don’t talk about the special awards ever, because I don’t really have a perspective on them as such, and I’m not going to say much about the Lifetime Achievement Award winners, even when one of them is given to Hayao Miyazaki (!) and the other to Jack Zipes (an excellent folklorist).


Additionally (this is the last additionally I promise) I usually spend some time equivocating in this entry about how I don’t know anything about visual art and am therefore bad at doing this category, so I largely won’t, and will just say that I like Charles Vess’s Earthsea illustrations and, while I didn’t vote for them at the Hugos, I think that they’d be just right for this here, so let’s do that.



So this year, this category was filled with many wildly-uneven sets of stories, and one clear winner.

Paolo Bacigalupi and Tobias S. Buckell’s The Tangled Lands had its moments, mostly in the first two stories, which were written several years before the last two. Bacigalupi’s stories are especially varied in quality – “The Alchemist” is much better than “The Children of Khaim”, mainly on the strength of its world-building 4 while “The Executioness” is only a bit better than “The Blacksmith’s Daughter”. All told, it was an interesting idea that doesn’t bear much out.

Andy Duncan’s An Agent of Utopia is a fine, slim set of stories that are of a pretty-consistent level of quality. Much of it is historical fiction, and he writes pretty well about a supernatural South. I wrote about the title story for the Nebulas back in May, and it’s still pretty good, and has a sense of humor that runs through the collection. “Joe Diabo’s Farewell” is a sort of barstool-type end of the night story. “Unique Chicken Goes in Reverse” and “Slow as a Bullet” turn into pretty good folksy-type stories, the formersort of a spooky campfire business 5 and the latter a straight up tall-tale-type yarn. “Senator Bilbo” turns a very familiar character into a very real villain for very plausible reasons, and works marvelously. “Close Encounters” may not read as effectively to anyone who hasn’t ever been taken by stories of alien abduction/encounter, but it sure is great if you have. “The Big Rock Candy Mountain” literalizes the place of the titular song, and talks about hobos (as the song does) and how they’d get there. “The Map to Homes of the Stars” is a bit of an outlier, and also possibly the best story in the collection, about the need to escape and the means by which people do so. It’s all pretty good, but not anything that stands above the pack.

Margo Lanagan’s Phantom Limbs is a really hard book for me to evaluate. Lanagan is a terrific writer, with a good sense of how to propel her stories and where that propulsion should take them. She’s willing to do a lot more with the “takes on fairy tales” toolbox than most, and it’s very interesting. But I bounce off of almost every single one of them – her stories are intensely biological, and are especially about the role and position of women’s bodies and the things that can and do happen to them. I suppose it says what it says about me that I have a hard time grappling with that sort of thing 6. Even with all that in place, the high points of the book break through into the “stuff I really like” pile. “Tin Pocket” has a robot (of sorts) in it, and isn’t afraid to have a happy ending, which I liked. “Titty Anne and the Very Hairy Man” is the best of the fairy-tale derived stories (“Red Riding Hood,” no less). “The Fifth Star in the Southern Cross” is a gorgeous story about aliens and what men feel entitled to and…well, the biology comes up but it’s a spoiler, so you should just go read it. “Catastrophic Destruction of the Head” is also lovely and concerns the difficulty of putting extreme things behind you. “Heads” is about children, and the way that things become normal and, well, measuring heads. It’s got its charms, and this one has the widest mileage variance of any book I’ve ever considered for an awards write-up.

Amanda Downum’s Still So Strange is the most inconsistent of the bunch. Her high points are great weird stories, and account for probably half the book. “Wrack” is a pretty, sad 7 story about a man who falls in love with a mermaid. “Dogtown” is a scary story about a town that goes way off the rails. “Wounded in the Wing” is a rather original take on a story about an angel, among other things, that it’s hard to say much about without giving away, but which ticks along well and has a great ending. “Flotsam” is about a woman’s choice to be human. “Red” deals some more with women’s bodies and their right to them, and also the idea that what we think of as a universal case for, say, zombies, might actually not be. “Smoke and Mirrors” is the best story I’ve read about a lady re-joining the circus in several years 8. “Gingerbread and Time” is also about moving on with one’s life, this time as a witch, and is probably the winner for the best collection-closing story.

NK Jemisen’s How Long Til Black Future Month, though, is the goliath to all the other collections’ David here. It’s a tremendous collection of one of Earth’s finest writers’ short work. I’ve covered “The City Born Great” in the past 9, and it’s still born great. “Those Who Stay and Fight” builds on Le Guin’s classic “Those Who Walk Away From Omelas” in a really inspiring and empowering way. “The Effluent Engine” deserves credit for not merely mentioning its airships, but actually including them in the actual workings of the actual story 10. “L’Alchemista” is about the importance of being able to treat ingredients properly when cooking them. “The Trojan Girl” gives its robots a different, non-Asimovian set of rules to work with, and is very moving for all that. “The Valedictorian” travels a similar road, flipping the expectation of what it means to be selected for being “different” in a society that discourages such for general science-fiction reasons 11“Walking Awake” is great science fiction horror, about the demands for perfection, and one woman’s attempt to get revenge, of a kind. “The Stone Eater” is the story that launched a billion people falling in love with Jemisen’s work, and while it’s not as good as the Broken Earth books, it’s still quite good. “On the Bank of the River Lex” is an admirably weird look at an admirably weird version of the future. “Too Many Yesterdays, Not Enough Tomorrows” is probably my favorite story in the collection, about the nature of online communication and closeness after a very strange, specific apocalypse. “Non-Zero Possibilities” was a lot of fun, and concerns the joys of accepting things as they are, and being able to admit when things you can’t have actually just kind of suck anyway. “Sinners, Saints, Dragons and Haints” is a great bookend to “The City Born Great,” also about a man’s love for his city (this time post-flood New Orleans) and the supernatural creatures that exist therein. The collection operates at a super-high level, and this is probably her category to run away with. It’s certainly the best collection by my estimation.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: NK Jemisen, How Long til Black Future Month?


This category was also (relative to other years I’ve been doing this) somewhat disappointing. There were a couple of interesting swings that weren’t very consistent, but by and large it was an extra-mixed bag, and while none of it was outright bad, this has definitely been a stronger field in previous years. 

Gardner Dozois edited The Book of Magic in the same vein as last year’s The Book of Swords and the like, and it’s probably the last book published under his editorship, which is bittersweet. It’s fine, and not the best of them. KJ Parker’s “The Return of the Pig” 12 was about a world where souls can travel and be trapped, in this case in a pig, and it’s terrifying (the way the sould is dealt with) and funny (it’s a pig) in equal measure, as is par for the course for Parker. Megan Lindholm 13 gave us the also scary “Community Service,” about an unknowable evil with a pretty tragic appetite, and some ingenious problem-solving. John Crowley’s “Flint and Mirror” is a good Doctor Dee story, with the good Doctor in this case training a kid for a war. Rachel Pollack wrote a sort of magic-noir in “Song of Fire”, where a card-playing Cool Dude and his Djinn investigate a mystery, and therefore deserves extra prays for being assembled almost entirely out of elements I would generally request be left out of my magic stories, but being very good anyway. Eleanor Arneson re-writes an Icelandic folk story for “Loft the Sorceror,” and things do not turn out well for our titular bad-bargain maker. Tim Powers’s very Tim Powers-y “The Governor” is about a guy who figured out how to Thing on the Doorstep his own children, and the extraordinary lengths he went to predict himself at their expense. It does feature both a terrible not-dead family member and an old book 14, and is a lot of fun besides. Elizabeth Bear’s “No Work of Mine” is a very twisty story about a magic artificer. Greg van Eekout’s “The Werewolf and the Manticore” pretty much gives you what it says on the tin (and is also quite twisty). Scott Lynch’s “The Fall and Rise of the House of the Wizard Maluril” is probably the best story in the collection, about a magic house and its relationship to the kobold servants that work in and around it. It really goes some places, and it’s worth reading the book just to get to it. 

Stephen Jones’s The Year’s Best Horror 28 was the usual Stephen Jones bag 15, which is to say that it’s a reasonably-good overview of what’s going on in short horror. . It does have two good Angela Slatter stories as bookends, with her MR James-esque “Pale Tree House” kicking it off and her Baba Yaga story “The Red Forest” ending it. Good work all around, as usual for Angela Slatter. Glen Hirschberg’s “India Blue” is the best story about an ancient destructive monster at a cricket match that I’ve ever read. Peter Bell’s “Carrying the Cross” does a good job of getting some more juice out of a church that’s All Wrong. Richard Stephen Matheson’s “Bedtime Story” is a good little screamer, although it puts one in the mind of, like, a horror-themed Whitehouse song. Darren Speegle’s “The Symphony of the Normal” is about the ancient horror-type dangers of climate change 16. Lynda E. Rucker’s “Who is This Who is Coming” is reasonably spooky, but more welcome for being quite funny, about a woman who takes a vacation to a town where outsiders are not treated as kindly as one might hope. Lisa Tuttle’s “A Home in the Sky” transforms anxiety about not being able to acquire a home into a literally unattainable house. Brian Hodge’s “On These Blackened Shores of Time” makes gripping hay out of the generally-terrifying nature of old mines. Caitlin R. Kiernan’s “Far From Any Shore” is about an archaeologist who discovers and extremely terrible ancient relic. Michael Marshall Smith’s “Over to You” gets a surprisingly-scary story out of a writing exercise involving a chess piece, which would be the least-likely scary story object if it weren’t for the cricket match several stories before. It’s also worth noting that the end material of this collection is a useful, if catalogue-ish reference, first of the horror material generated in the year in question, and then at the end for the people in the field who passed. 

Aidan Doyle, Rachel Jones and E. Catherine Tobler edited the interesting but deeply-inconsistent Sword and Sonnet. I’m going to come out and say, like last year’s Djinn anthology, this is a thing that does not in any way fall under my usual set of interests, and some of it was downright hard for me to engage with 17. Its hits were pretty effective, however. A.C. Wise made a pretty cool story in “Words in an Unfinished Poem” about a gunslinger with poem bullets. The reliable CSE Cooney’s “As for Peace, Call it Murder” is about the revolutionary power inherent in poetry, and how that itself could be the act of warriors and all that. Victoria Sandbrook’s “El Cantar de la Raina Bruja” is a pretty-good revenge story, and the author’s note 18 gives us the phrase “Attic Wife Rage” which is basically worth the entire cost of admission. Kira Lees’ “Her Poems Are Inked in Fears and Blood” deals with the idea of “women’s work” in a really interesting feudal-Japan-inspired way. AE Provost’s “Labyrinth, Sanctuary” deals with multiple definition of “walls,” literal and figurative. Matt Dovey’s “The Bone Poet and God” was probably the story I enjoyed outright the most, about a bear who does magic with bones, and the conceivable benefits of faith and behaving honorably. Samantha Henderson’s “The Fiddler at the Heart of the World” was a very good fairie story about sacrifice in a hospital 19. Cassandra Khaw’s “Recite Her the Names of Pain” is about a Siren, and has a tremendous ending, and set me firmly on the path that I should be more into Cassandra Khaw (see below). Alex Acks’s story is actually called “Siren” but kicks off a set of more science-ficiontal stories, by being about a destructive space….force? thing? Carlie St. George’s “The Lexicon of Bone and Feathers” deals with the difficulty of communication between sapient species, and also with a truly bizarre and off putting definition of “poem”. Ingrid Garcia’s “Dark Clouds & Silver Linings” mashes together Mary Shelley and Ada Lovelace, and communicates largely in a variegated set of references, and perhaps more than any other story I read here was about the joy of the language, and would probably benefit from being read aloud. I suppose when I write out all the high points, there are more of them than I thought there were while reading it, which isn’t nothing. 

Dominik Parisien and Navah Wolfe’s Robots vs. Fairies is another theme collection, and has pretty much the same trajectory as Sword and Sonnet, even if the open nature of the book means that the stories are a little bit less swingy. It includes Ken Liu’s “Quality Time” and Jeffrey Ford’s “The Bookcase Expedition,” both of which I wrote about for the Locus awards and still quite like. Seanan McGuire’s “Build me a Dreamland” is about a very odd amusement park, and is the first of the stories to explore the intersection (kind of) between robots and fairies. Analee Newitz’s “The Blue Fairie’s Manifesto” recasts the titular fairie as a workers-rights advocate, in which she foments a revolution. Sarah Gailey’s “Bread and Milk and Salt” is about the problem with trying to capture a fairy, and deserves to be noted as another story about revenge that doesn’t make me the least bit queasy 20. Jonathan Mayberry’s “Ironheart” is about the importance of putting one’s blood, sweat and tears into one’s work. Madeline Ashby’s “Work Shadow/Shadow Work” deals with when, exactly, a robot is and is not human. Alyssa Wong’s “All the Time We Have Left” is a very good, and unsettling look at the inevitable consequences of replacing humans with robots. Maria Dahvana Headley’s predictably-excellent “Adriftica” is about a music journalist who turns out to be entwined in a very familiar fairie relationship. Cathrynne Valente’s rollicking “A Fall Counts Anywhere” literalizes the title, with all of the fairies fighting all of the robots, and if it isn’t the most fun I had reading something for this set of awards, then i don’t remember what was. All told, it’s very much worthwhile, and none of the stories are bad, but it isn’t quite the winner. 

Irene Gallo put together World Seen in Passing 21 as the best of the fiction published by Tor’s website, and it turns out to be a real mammoth of a collection. “The City Born Great” is represented here again, of course, as are David Levine’s “Damages”, Alyssa Wong’s “A Fist of Permutations in Lightning and Wildflowers,” Maria Dahvana Headley’s “The Tallest Doll in New York City,” Max Gladstone’s “A Kiss With Teeth” and Tina Connolly’s “The Last Banquet of Temporal Confections”, all of which I’ve written about for various awards previously. They’re all great and very much worth revisiting 22. Aside from those, Charlie Jane Anders’s “Six Months, Three Days” is about the downfall of being able to see the future, and whether that’s actually possible. Carrie Vaughan’s “The Best We Can” has long been a favorite of mine, as it deals with all my favorite stuff: a heartless corporation stifling scientific progress and human development, space travel, and perseverance in the face of said corporate indifference. Yoon Ha Lee’s “A Vector Alphabet of Interstellar Travel” is an excellent travelling snapshot of various alien civilizations. Helen Marshall’s “The Hanging Game” is about just who, exactly, pays a debt. John Chu’s “The Water that Falls on You From Nowhere” is a lovely, heartwarming piece of magical realism about a world where lying dumps water all over people, and the power of the truth to help things turn out better than you thought. Ruthanna Emrys’s “The Litany of Earth” is about a descendant of Lovecraft’s Innsmouth in a world where the government took it out, Waco-style. Aaron Cowin’s “Brimstone and Marmalade” is a cute 23 story about a girl and her pet demon. Nino Cipri’s “The Shape of My Name” deals well with trans* issues while also presenting time travel in a really novel way. Rachel Swirksy’s “Eros, Philia, Agape” is about the nature of free will, and what it means to not have been human from the start 24. Mary Robinett Kowal’s “The Lady Astronaut of Mars” is better than the novel it was expanded into, and is very much worth the several mountains of praise that were heaped upon it. Genevieve Valentine’s “La Beaute sans Vertu” is a terrifying piece of body horror, about a monomaniacal fashion industry, and the toll it takes on the people that it consumes. Laurie Penny’s “Your Orisons May be Recorded” is a lovely story about an angel that works in a prayer-receiving call center. AM Dellamonica’s “The Cage” is about a Vancouver where there are werewolves (illegal werewolves, no less), and the value of community and what we owe to each other. Leigh Bardugo’s “The Witch of Duva” is about a little girl who goes to a witch to learn how to get rid of a monster, with another terrific ending. Cassandra Khaw’s “These Deathless Bones” is about a magic-imbued tyrant child and his caretaker, and even if the story itself weren’t great, the final line would catapult into being mentioned here. Kelly Barnhill’s “Mrs. Sorenson and the Sasquatch” is about the freedom to love who we want, and presents its magic-containing world in a very straightforward, straight faced way, which I really loved. Kathleen Ann Goonan’s “A Short History of the Twentieth Century” is a piece of historical science fiction that tells the story of a determined computer programmer, and is about the support structure of family, and specifically has a really moving mother-daughter relationship at its heart. It’s beautiful, and ends the collection well. Basically, the best of short fiction published on Tor’s website is the short fiction that appeals to me the most, and you could do a whole lot worse (and not much better) than to get this one. 

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Irene Gallo, Worlds Seen in Passing

Short Fiction

Hoo. Okay. So the writeups get a lot shorter from here on out. This was a good field, although in keeping with the general level of quality on the year, I’m unsure how much of it will remain a standout as time goes by. 

Emma Torzs’s “Like a River Loves the Sky” is a deeply weird, sweet story about taxidermy in the post-apocalypse. It takes a little while to get its wheels on the road, but once it does, it moves along effectively, and the ending genuinely took my by surprise. 

Sarah Pinsker’s “The Court Magician” has come up previously, and isn’t as wildly great as the best Sarah Pinsker, but is still a very moving and effective look at a world where magic actually requires something of its participants, and the nature of forgetting, and longing, and whether things are ever truly completely gone. It’s nice enough, and it grew on me with a repeated reading, so maybe I’ll like it more when I read it again in the future.

Adam Troy-Castro’s “The Ten Things She Said While Dying” is about the death of a woman from the perspective of an Unknowable Terror Monster (UTM). It’s a lot of fun, and plays a pretty good game with the titular statements and the point of view of the UTM. The perspective is impressive, and it’s definitely unique, which are not small things, but it’s slighter than a couple of the other stories here.

Alex E. Harrow’s “A Witch’s Guide to Escape” was also previously addressed 25, and is a good, engaging story about the nature of escape that charmingly casts librarians as literal witches, which I enjoy a great deal. It got bumped out of the number one spot, but it’s still a tremendously worthy entrant. 

A list of ten itemized things also provides the structure for Mel Kassel’s “Ten Deals with Indigo Snake,” which actually improves upon some of the themes and devices of both “The Court Magician” (i.e. the magic in the story comes at great loss) and “The Ten Things She Said While Dying” (i.e. the presentation of the things one by one, and the explication thereof). It deals with the cultural nature of snakes in the first place, and with the process under which we make major decisions, and whether or not they are the right ones. There’s also a little “Monkey’s Paw” in there for good measure. 

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Mel Kassel, “Ten Deals with Indigo Snake” 


This category fares a little better than some of the others. It was a bang-up year for novellas, and while some of these are playing pretty loose with “fantasy,” the winner wouldn’t be in there they weren’t, so I’m willing to not gripe about it 26.

P Djeli Clark’s The Black God’s Drums has come up twice before, and I’ll stand by my judgement: it’s pretty good alternate-history stuff, and I’d be interested in seeing if there are more stories that take place in its world, but it wasn’t my favorite material here.

Aliete de Bodard’s The Tea Master and the Detective remains a fun mystery story with some great world-building, but, like the Clark, doesn’t quite get over into “potential winner” status. It was also nominated for a Hugo

Seanan McGuire’s Beneath the Sugar Sky is another of the Wayward Children novellas, all of which have been previously written about in this space, and each of which is pretty fantastic. In this case she does more world-building than usual, creating a recognizable and understandable world out of the idea of a literalized candyland, and while I like the protagonist a lot, it lacks some of the punch of the other installments 27.

Kij Johnson’s “The Privilege of the Happy Ending” is a fantastic, wonderful story about a little girl and her talking chicken, and where their misfortunes take them. It also manages to deal with questions of body autonomy and fertility 28, and for all that is also occasionally very funny. It would’ve won in many years, probably even the majority of them, but, again, there’s the Bolander.

Brooke Bolander’s The Only Harmless Great Thing is among the very best great things, and deserves this and every other award for which it could possibly be nominated, as previously asserted. It’s about the way that the underprivileged are treated by those in power, and chiefly about elephants, and is beautiful and surprising and emotional in ways that were occasionally unexpected, and always welcome. Surely you’ve read it by now, yes?

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Brooke Bolander, The Only Harmless Great Thing


And, finally, we come to the last category, for the longest works. This category was the most affected by the Great 2019 Quality Malaise, as most of these are fine 29, but not spectacular. A couple of them are truly great, however, and I’m very happy to see them here.

Dale Bailey’s In the Night Wood is another in the string of Dale Bailey works that I have bounced straight off of. It’s an engaging-enough story about an inherited house with Something Wrong, and a horned king. It’s dragged around by the time spent developing the adultery plot that sets the whole backstory into motion, and which comes up basically every few pages despite not actually contributing much to the book beyond its initial role in establishing the character relationships. It’s quite readable, but not very satisfying. 

RF Kuang’s The Poppy War came up at the Nebulas and the Hugos, and there are things about it that really stick in the mind, although some of this is certainly attributable to how graphic it all is 30. It’s got a fascinating world, and tells an interesting and engaging story, and certainly one can find the violence and general human atrocity abhorrent, but it’s necessary to the story. It’s just not a story that I like as much as the other ones here. I look forward to Kuang’s career progressing, and am confident she’s got genuinely great work in her, but I don’t know that I agree that this is it. 

CL Polk’s Witchmark remains a well-rendered look at a fascinating world with a really interesting set of social relationships. It finishes in the middle because it never really seems to put its elements together in a very satisfying way, and it’s clearly the beginning of something, rather than a book of its own. 

Rebecca Roanhorse’s Trail of Lightning is a first-rate story in terms of its characterization and world. If the end is a little bit of a let-down, it’s a let-down that serves the book, and while my enthusiasm for it isn’t as wild and blazing as it was back at the Nebulas, there’s certainly nothing wrong with it, and it’s only because it’s held up against this year’s rightful winner that I’m even examining it for flaws in the first place. 

But, alack for all the rest of them, Maria Dahvana Headley’s The Mere Wife is so goddamned good. It’s a retelling of Beowulf in affluent suburbia, and rather than sketch out the familiar beats of a story told often, it manages to take the story organically through a new set of events and actions, along the way dealing effectively with veterans, shared heritage, privilege, expectations and the way that we all find ourselves cheated by the very mechanisms and systems that we rely upon to maintain our regular lives. What a fantastic book. 

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Maria Dahvana Headley, The Mere Wife

  1. that’s right. One thing. One single thing, and no other things. 
  2. that’s it. That’s the thing.  
  3. and perhaps, if I’m being honest, a sort of innate tendency in me exists to do so 
  4.  which is, in fact, the world that all four of the stories take place in 
  5. although a very funny horror story 
  6. put charitably, what it says is that I’m a big ol’ prude when it comes to my reading material, although I’m happy her work exists because it’s really quite well-wrought. 
  7. two adjectives, although I suppose it is also “pretty sad” 
  8. although it’s probably worth pointing out that with this, Jane Yolen’s excellent Dorothy story from last year, and Caroline Yoachim’s “Carnival Nine” all in the last couple of years, I might just be really into stories about circuses. I will research the matter and report on my findings. 
  9. it’s also reprinted in Worlds Seen in Passing, see below 
  10. speculative fiction is littered with mentioned and not-used airships, you see 
  11. the reasons are specific, but I try to keep these brief and devoid of details that give stuff away, because while I don’t believe in spoilers, some of my readers do, and I’m willing to make that concession. 
  12. there are many things I hope that someone comes along to pick back up in the absence of Dozois, but one of them is that someone should make sure that KJ Parker is always there to lead off a collection. 
  13. who also writes as Robin Hobb, and is another Dozois mainstay 
  14. but then, I already said it was very Tim Powers-y. Also, I love Tim Powers and do not mean this to sound critical. 
  15. full disclosure: I usually read this series anyway, although not usually as closely as I did for this. 
  16. among all the other dangers, that is 
  17. it’s probably better if the idea of a set of stories about warrior-poets sounds like something you’d be into 
  18. I will say that the inclusion of an author’s note after each story was a good tocuh, and really helped me go back and re-read some of them with an eye to what they were doing. This helped with some stories – the Sandbrook under question here being one of them – by giving me something to latch onto, since my natural reading faculties weren’t always able to get a grip on the material. 
  19. like, the concept of sacrifice, not like ritual sacrifice. Well, kind of like that. Read the story it’s good. Jeepers. 
  20. the trick, see, is generally to make the punishment fit the crime and not make it just a sort of blanket case of violent retribution. 
  21. I am from Kent, and keep mucking up the title by getting it confused with the title of the Six Parts Seven’s excellent album Things Shaped in Passing, which isn’t important, but is worth noting, and I’m not going to pass by an opportunity to praise that record. 
  22. many of the other stories in the collection were also nominated for awards that I would have written about, had I been writing about awards here for longer than five years. 
  23. I mean that in the best, least-perjorative way possible. I think it genuinely is cute and I want a li’l pet demon so bad. PRAISE IXTHOR. 
  24. also my favorite Rachel Swirsky stories are about robots. She should write about robots more. I mean, I think that’s probably true of just about everybody, but she’s especially good at it. 
  25. and, in fact, declared a rightful winner 
  26. you know, in addition to my usual avoidance of genre-classification related quibbling, which I am still not really here for. 
  27. although wait until the next one is nominated for awards, it’s amazing 
  28. real world events make it fairly obvious why this would be a recurring theme in this year’s stories. 
  29. although it’s probably fair to point out that a couple of them are well-received in ways that I didn’t receive them. 
  30. see above w/r/t me being a prude 

Rocktober Special: Every Song on The Replacements’ Dead Man’s Pop, ranked

So The Replacements have released a sort of full-bore corrective to their worst album, Don’t Tell a Soul. It’s pretty successful as that – the record really was destroyed in the mix stage, and the original mix (the Matt Wallace mix presented here) does a good job of showing how this could have been a great record.

Probably still their least-good record, but at least not a bad one.

So anyway, here’s every song on the boxed set – the remixed version of the album, the concomitant b-sides, some demos and alternate takes, and an entire contemporaneous show from the University of Wisconsin.

We’ll Inherit the Earth (Matt Wallace mix)

Valentine (live at the University of Wisconsin)

Left of the Dial (live at the University of Wisconsin)

Achin’ to Be (Matt Wallace mix)

Bastards of Young (live at the University of Wisconsin)

They’re Blind (Bearsville Version)

Talent Show (Matt Wallace Mix)

I’ll Be You (Matt Wallace mix)

I Will Dare (live at the University of Wisconsin)

We’ll Inherit the Earth (Bearsville Version)

Answering Machine (live at the University of Wisconsin)

Alex Chilton (live at the University of Wisconsin)

Rock n Roll Ghost (Bearsville Version)

Color Me Impressed (live at the University of Wisconsin)

Achin’ To Be (Bearsville Version)

Little Mascara (live at the University of Wisconsin)

Another Girl, Another Planet (live at the University of Wisconsin)

Rock n Roll Ghost (Matt Wallace mix)

Unsatisfied (live at the University of Wisconsin)

Darlin’ One (Bearsville Version)

Can’t Hardly Wait (live at the University of Wisconsin)

Anywhere’s Better Than Here (Matt Wallace mix)

Achin’ To Be (live at the University of Wisconsin)

Portland (alternate mix)

We’ll Inherit the Earth (live at the University of Wisconsin)

The Ledge (live at the University of Wisconsin)

I’ll Be You (live at the University of Wisconsin)

Talent Show (live at the University of Wisconsin)

Dance on My Planet

Talent Show (Demo Version)

Here Comes a Regular (live at the University of Wisconsin)

Born to Lose (live at the University of Wisconsin)

Darlin’ One (live at the University of Wisconsin)

Back to Back (live at the University of Wisconsin)

We Know the Night (Alternate Outtake)

I Won’t (Matt Wallace mix)

Black Diamond (live at the University of Wisconsin)

Wake Up (Bearsville Version)

Ought To Get Love (Alternate Mix)

Darlin’ One (Matt Wallace mix)

Never Mind (live at the University of Wisconsin)

I Won’t (live at the University of Wisconsin)

We Know the Night (f Tom Waits) – full band version

I Don’t Know (live at the University of Wisconsin)

Asking Me Lies (Matt Wallace mix)

Last Thing in the World

Anywhere is Better Than Here (live at the University of Wisconsin)

Date to Church (Matt Wallace Mix)

We Know the Night (f Tom Waits)

Cruella de Ville (live at the University of Wisconsin)

Back to Back (Matt Wallace mix)

Asking Me Lies (live at the University of Wisconsin)

Nightclub Jitters (live at the University of Wisconsin)

Gudbuy T’Jane (Outtake)

I’ll Be You (Bearsville Version)

They’re Blind (Matt Wallace mix)

If Only You Were Lonely (f Tom Waits)

I Can Help (f Tom Waits)

Lowdown Monkey Blues (f. Tom Waits) 

Waitress in the Sky (live at the University of Wisconsin)

The 2020 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Nominees

It’s Rocktober! And while this space used to recognize it as such in the past 1, there’s always time to stop and yell about the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nominees.

For the last couple of years, these annual writeups have been interrupted by the continued series where I examine all of the people that have ever been inducted, and largely yell about them as well, so I’ve got an ever-increasing sense of what’s actually going on here, and how these things go, which has given me a slightly more laissez-faire idea of how this all goes, since I’m basically inundated in how absurd this all is. 

It’s still fun to argue about though, so onward to the absurdity!

Pat Benatar

There are a bunch of people who are inducted to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for the degree of their mechanical talent. There are bands who are here for the performances of their guitar players, their drummers, and occasionally their singers. We can then presume that, as such, an enormously popular lady with an incredible singing voice should probably be in the offing. The fact I’d rather drive the handle of a spoon through my eardrum than actually listen to her music, then, seems to be secondary to the fact that it seems inertia will carry her forward into the HOF on the back of her being a good singer that people remember fondly. It’s not fair, but I suppose it’s the way things go, and I’m feeling charitable, because most of the other nominees are even worse.

THE VERDICT: Sure. Gotta let somebody in, after all. 

Dave Matthews Band

I’m old, and one of the many official signs of this is that the terrible radio flotsam of when I was an adolescent is now HOF eligible. That’s kind of a shame. On the one hand, it would be interesting to see where the HOF took jam-band eligibility from here, on the other hand, the HOF is unquestionably better off without any of them, not even this, the most listenable 2 and popular jam band.


Depeche Mode

Man, I do not have any words left to express my disapproval of the entirety of Depeche Mode’s ouevre, let alone their very existence of a band, and I certainly do not think it needs to be celebrated. 

THE VERDICT: Never in life

The Doobie Brothers

In lieu of laying out my exact case for why the Doobie Brothers were awful and should not be inducted into the anything hall of fame, I will state the following: I have always written them off as a Crosby Stills and Nash rip-off band, and I have recently discovered that in the early eighties the two acts toured together, which means that Crosby Stills and Nash are willing to lug around their own tribute act as an opening act. And not like how Wire did it in the eighties 3, but just because. Ew. Anyway, the Doobie Brothers are bad.


Whitney Houston

Above I decided that it was ok if Pat Benatar got in on the strength of her voice. Here I am going to say that it is insufficient, for a couple of reasons. The first is that Whitney Houston has less to do with rock and roll than anyone else in this here nominating class. The second is that while her voice is justifiably impressive when she bothered to use it, the strength of her reputation rests largely on the two or three times she employed it to do anything impressive. I will also point out that while “And I WIll Always Love You” is one of those impressive performances, I will also state that the giant nineties-soundtrack read on the song has always struck me as a wildly-inappropriate recontextualization, and without that, she’s not left with much of a case. So she’s out.

THE VERDICT: Not actually

Judas Priest

I do not love Judas Priest’s music, but a great deal of the music that I listen to on a day to day basis is made by people who do. It would be better for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame to get onboard with some more heavy metal, given how much great rock music was made within the idiom, and Judas Priest would be integral to doing so. They sold a bajillion records, some of which are counted among the best in their genre, and they existed respectably for a long time. They belong in the Hall of Fame.



I have very similar things to say about Kraftwerk as Judas Priest. It’s not my thing – there are a good half-dozen kosmische bands that I like more than Kraftwerk – but it’s undeniably important, sold plenty, and they were a genuine expression of some pretty genuine artistic impulses right up until they weren’t, which seems like fainter praise than I mean it to. I’m happy that Kraftwerk was in the world, even though they aren’t really in my record collection.



Last year the HOF inducted a bunch of single-songs, and I, as I do every year, will say that I think “Kick Out the Jams” belongs among them. I do not think that the MC5’s body of work holds up as well. I will, however, take this moment (because I have nothing new to say here) to say that I worry that I’m harder on bands who work in idioms I like and fail to impress me there, despite my generosity above for Judas Priest and Kraftwerk. In any event, however, I just don’t think there’s an argument for the MC5 to be included.



Well, I don’t have to be charitable here. Motorhead were great in all the same ways as Judas Priest, plust they were great in enough other ways that I actually like their music! It’s a hard legacy to argue with, and certainly they should have been in the HOF long before this year. 

THE VERDICT: Inarguably

Nine Inch Nails

I’ve said in years prior that Nine Inch Nails are one of those bands whose primary argument isn’t necessarily their originality as such, but rather that they were a fairly successful synthesis of a bunch of decidedly non-mainstream impulses that they figured out how to turn into a successful, straightforward rock band, and that their influence, then, is less about people copying them than in exploring the things that Nine Inch Nails can lead to 4. Couple that with a body of work that includes very few outright duds, and a couple of works of actual genius, and you’ve got yourself a pretty good case for inclusion.


The Notorious BIG

Last year they swung for the West Coast by nominating Tupac, and here we have the East Coast shot. I do think that the Notorious BIG should be in whatever the same Hall of Fame has any given other branch of itself devoted to rap, as I think he’s one of those musical forces that’s almost impossible to overrate. He was great, and while his career was brief, it was also of a uniformly high quality, and his influence is incalculable. So he goes in, with the usual protest that he is absolutely and in no way a rock and roll musician.


Rufus featuring Chaka Khan

I really think that the disco avenue is a strange one for the RRHOF to pursue, and, as every year, I will point out that if you’re going to bring a disco group into the fold, you should probably have started with Chic. Rufus is, at least, a group, albeit one that separates their singer in their official name 5, so that’s something. Anyway, they are terrible and I can’t imagine that they inspired anyone to do anything, and I’ve run out of charity for impressive singers, and Chaka Khan also isn’t that impressive a singer, so this one’s pretty much open and shut


Todd Rundgren

Todd Rundgren lived an admirable personal life, produced some truly great records in his time, and wrote two good songs. That’s not really enough to get you into the rock and roll hall of fame as a performer. I’d allow him in as a producer or whatever. But his music, in addition to not being very interesting, also dates very poorly, and I’d be surprised if anyone under the age of say, fifty turned out to be a big fan. He’s a lock for the “decent dude” hall of fame, though. 

THE VERDICT: Not as a performer


They’ll have gotten in after Pearl Jam and Nirvana, which is fair, I suppose. They would also be an interesting twist in the aforementioned heavy metal problem – they’re the heaviest of the famous grunge bands 6, or at least the most “metal”. I’d like to see them in there, because they did sort of show the way through the woods for dudes that wanted to sing like Robert Plant and play in heavy metal bands but also didn’t want to be in fucking Motely Crue, which was nice for the melodicization of mainstream metal over the decade or so subsequent, and because they were a phenomenal set of musicians, taken individually. I will, however, say that I don’t remember the last time I played one of their songs for pleasure. And it was probably “The Day I Tried to Live”.


T. Rex

Proof that we live in the darkest timeline, and have for quite some time: in 1973, Marc Bolan created twenty-four of the finest seconds of rock and roll music ever written – the beginning of “20th Century Boy,” right up until the actual singing on the first verse starts. This bolt of inspiration, which seems like it should have gone somewhere, was completely wasted on the prat that received it (the bolt, I mean), who then used his one great idea to convince rock assholes that they should wear scarves. 

THE VERDICT: Obviously not. Scarves

Thin Lizzy

They weren’t thin, and none of them were named Lizzy. There. I made that joke now. Isn’t that fun? I like Thin Lizzy, but occasionally I am reminded that there is a segment of their fanbase that is bugshit ape-crazy bananaballs bonkers over them, and when I encounter these people, I go back and listen to a bunch of Thin Lizzy to see if I can pick it up, and then I don’t pick it up, but I quite like them anyway. Just, like, a normal amount of liking them. Anyway, they had popularity, they had influence, they have rabid fans, they’re basically a textbook case of a band that should be in. 



  1. and will continue to do so in the future – as those of you who noticed that I missed a post for the first time in years will have noted, it’s been a crazy couple of weeks 
  2. for an extremely generous definition of “listenable” 
  3. Wire didn’t want to play their old songs, so they hired a cover band who could do so so that people would get to hear them, and then played their regular set as Wire which is, at least, a kind-of-good idea. 
  4. Nirvana is another HOF band that’s like this. 
  5. that’s it up there, with the “featuring” and everything 
  6. I’m calling them heavier than Alice in Chains and L7 here, and I’m using the word “famous” to leave out Tad and the Melvins. I am also not opening the floor to discussions of the definition of the term “grunge” 

The 2019 BET Hip-Hop Awards

So here’s a confession: as anyone who may have been paying attention to this space closely (probably more closely than anyone is inclined to, frankly) may have noticed, mainstream hip-hop is currently in a situation that I’m not particularly inclined to like!


I have noted in the past that this may be because I am An Old, and there may, in fact, never again be a day where I like radio hip-hop. That’s an interesting development, and certainly possible, but I’ll have to wait until the current crop of third-rate warmed-over Young Thug mumbles and would-be Future clones get out of here to know for sure.

So, anyway, the BET Hip-Hop awards are upon us. The reason, in fact that this is going up so late is that I wasn’t sure I was actually going to manage to write about it at all. But I’m here, doing so, because if I start abandoning awards situations just because they aren’t to my taste, literally the only one I’d ever write about would be the Nebulas. 

So here we go, the BET Hip-Hop Awards, hopefully at its nadir, so that I can have more fun doing this next year.

And I’ll be doing it quickly, because I believe in bringing positivity to the world, and not just screaming about Travis Scott all the time.

Best Hip-Hop Online Site/App

I will say that at least Complex is a little bit more interesting than most of these, although we’re not off to a strong start in terms of things that aren’t representative of the worst things about mainstream Hip-Hop.


Best International Flow

True story: I had to do a bunch of listening to figure out any of this. I do think it’s hilarious that, while technically accurate, Canada’s Tory Lanes is included here. Heh. Anyway, I like Sarkodie.


Impact Track

Ugh. So this is the track that makes an “impact” on the society or whatever for justice purposes or what have you. I’m impressed they managed to avoid using the word “woke”. Credit to the producers for that one. I’m also, for the first time in the history of this blog, about to declare J. Cole the rightful winner of something, a thing I once swore I would never do. This is where the world has brought me, and I am deeply ashamed of it.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: J. Cole, “Middle Child”

Sweet 16: Best Featured Verse

I kind of wish I could bring back the Mrs. Coach’s Hair running joke for this one, because I can’t imagine thinking any of these verses are the best anything. I dunno, maybe it’s time. Let’s dust it off and give it the ol’ last go. The Mrs. Coach’s Hair reunion tour.


Best Mixtape

I’ll interrupt this positivity festival to point out that the world has lost their fucking mind for this Jack Harlow thing, and I am not feeling it, but for different reasons than some of the other stuff here, so that’s fun! Anyway, I do like Kevin Gates.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Kevin Gates, Luca Brasi 3

Made-You-Look Award (Best Hip Hop Style)

I think this one almost has to go to Cardi B, although I admit that DJ Khaled’s decision to make his “style” just “carrying his adorable child around” makes him a strong contender.


Hustler of the Year

I wonder what the over-under on people mentioning that every Rick Ross is hustlin’ is? LIke a million? I’d take the over on a million. It’s not that it’s a funny joke, it’s just that it’s easier to make the joke than not to make it. Anyway. It’s Cardi B, not Rick Ross. I don’t think RIck Ross has, in fact, ever hustled.


Best New Hip-Hop Artist

The cultural juggernaut of “Old Town Road” aside, I think that we’re probably pretty well through with Lil Nas X. I think that Megan Thee Stallion has started out pretty strong, and i’m pretty to declare her the best of this outfit.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Megan Thee Stallion

Album of the Year

Hey! I actually legit love that Tyler, the Creator record! Super into it! Can say this without much thought or begrudgement! This is the best category!

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Tyler, the Creator, Igor

Single of the Year

Oh fuck it. I still don’t think “Old Town Road” is a very good song, but it’s better than “Money,” which is the only other song here I have even a little bit of affection for, and also I do genuinely love the video, so it can have this one.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Lil Nas X, “Old Town Road (Remix)” (f. Billy Ray Cyrus)

MVP of the Year

I’m a big fan of sentimentality, and also a big fan of people finally getting their due, even if it’s only posthumously, so I’m pretty in favor of this going to Nipsey Hussle. 


Producer of the Year

I swear this category is nearly-identical every damn year. I think that I’ve noticed more good stuff coming from London on da Track than usual this year, so by the highly scientific expedient of “stuff I remember”, I’m calling it for him.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: London on da Track

DJ of the Year

Oh my god I don’t care. I guess I appreciate that Mustard is out there trying to do his own thing instead of staying int he background, and I also like the irony of him winning “DJ of the year” in the year that he dropped the “DJ” from his name.


Video Director of the Year

This set of nominees is hilarious, because the nominating powers at BET clearly have specific videos in mind, but they aren’t listed on BET’s website, so we all just sort of have to guess. Some of them are very easy, some of them less so. It’s a fun little mystery here in the middle of the nominations. Good stuff.


Lyricist of the Year

It remains the case that I very much do not care about lyrics, and also that to the extent that I do care about lyrics, I would give this award to Vince Staples. But he’s not nominated, because these awards are stupid. Since I don’t know enough individual lyrics to pass judgment, I’ll just assume that it goes to Nipsey Hussle again and have done with it.


Hot Ticket Performer

I would probably go see The Carters. I mean, I never have, but I think about it every time one or both of them come through Cleveland. Traditionally in categories like this, that makes them the winner.


Best Collabo, Duo or Group

This is sort of what I mean, though. Like, all of these songs are pretty bad. Unlike the Best Featured Verse category, they aren’t so bad that I can’t choose, they’re just pretty bad. This is, sort of, what makes this particular writeup so cursory. If it were more execrable (like the CMAs or the iHeartRadio awards) I would enjoy digging in and trying to figure out which turd was the most finely-polished. If it was better, it would be more fun because it’s fun to like things. None of this is bad in a way that makes me mad (except the DJ Khaled song, which is the worst song Common has ever appeared on), it’s all just….not good. Like, I’m sure Lil Baby is happy with his situation and definitely deserves his place in all this, it’s just not a place that I give a shit about. I don’t like to keep giving these to “Old Town Road”, but, honestly, it’s the only thing I can feel positively enough about to even give the time of day.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Lil Nas X, “Old Town Road (remix)” (f. Billy Ray Cyrus)

Best Hip-Hop Video

And so we come to the most frustrating category: “Old Town Road” is nominated for a bunch of these, and it’s not nominated for this, the one category it should actually be nominated for. This is infuriating. Next year somebody better make a fucking pop-rap record that I like or this is going to get even more listless. 

It doesn’t have enough list, is what I’m saying here.

Anyway, To conclude the briefest and most cursory awards-show writeup to date, the best video actually nominated in this category is the video for “Money.” Congratulations everybody.


Alright folks, tune in next time when I’ll be a little more engaged I hope? Or at least things may have gotten terrible enough that I’d be more upset. I didn’t even footnote anything in this one! This is truly a landmark occasion!

The Best Records of September 2019

The Messthetics – Anthropocosmic Nest (look, times are hard, and I’m just here for the greatest rhythm section in the history of rock and roll to support a proggy-ass guitar player all the time)

JPEGMAFIA – All My Heroes are Cornballs (In addition to it being nice to see someone get famous for all the right reasons – ie being great – it’s also nice when they make their best record post-fame)

Brittany Howard – Jaime (On the one hand, I’ve said for years that the reason I like but don’t love the Alabama Shakes was because their singer was clearly head and shouldres above everybody else in the band. On the other hand, I was surprised by just how right I was. It’s good to be right, y’all)

(Sandy) Alex G – House of Sugar (weird enough to be opaque, and straightforward enough to be extremely likable, I might actually end liking this record even more with some more time spent with it. It’s his best record so far)

Will Johnson – Wire Mountain (I remain surprised by Will Johnson’s consistency, for no other reason than he seems like he shouldn’t be this consistent and this prolific. Great stuff.) 

The 2019 Ohio Needs a Train “Trainie” Awards

It’s that time again, where I stop telling other awards shows how to do their jobs, and instead do their jobs for them, by awarding things that feel like they need awarding. Like many of your finer awards situations, I do not publish my nominees, because of course the process is highly secret and highly scientific. 

Please to enjoy.

Outstanding Achievement in the Field of Answering Questions My Audience Probably Didn’t Know That I Had

So, for many years I’ve idly wondered where all the guitars came from. 

To wit: there are blues singers as early as the twenties from the deep south. People writing songs about how they’re so poor they can’t afford a second boot, and that they have no legs up or advantages, and they are playing those songs on guitars. They were common enough that Zora Neal Hurston even writes of ensembles created entirely out of guitars, with one strumming out chords, one playing melodies, and a third playing a sort of “prepared guitar”, making a rhythm by strumming a guitar with strips of paper threaded through the strings to deaden them. This seems to imply that there were a bunch of guitars around, enough that they were more available than any other rhythm-instrument alternative. 

Where did the guitars come from, and how were there enough of them for them to exist in a form that was cheap enough for someone with minimal resources to acquire? The answer, it turns out, is very simple: the Sears catalog

In the Jim Crow era South, the Sears catalog (which launched in 1888 1) presented a readily-available, relatively-cheap way to acquire all sorts of things to people that didn’t have any other way to acquire them, or even find them, and once a guitar was included among the possible merchandise, then people started buying them in large numbers.

Eventually, as today, people sold them when they needed money for even less than they payed, a used market built up, and ever Blind Tom, Thumbless Dick and Flat-Footed Harry could get one for a song, and use it to lament their position in the world. 

I don’t know if it’s come up in this space before, but I’ve long wondered, and now have my answer. Salut, historians! Salut, Sears!

Outstanding Achievement in Me Being a Goddamn Fortune Teller

All I’m saying here is that in July of 2017 I decided it would be funny to declare the General Mills Expanded Universe ripe for the cinematic exploration in one of my extremely-periodic “Somebody Make My Movie” posts. 

In November of 2018, General Mills put out a call for all creatives to give them ideas about ways they can tell stories using their horror cereal characters. That link, incidentally, goes to an AVClub article about the phenomenon, because the original site has been pulled 2 from the internet.

Obviously the folks at Big Cereal are running scared of my powerful fortune-telling abilities and wild creative Hollywood spirit, and decided to change their mind lest I wield my considerable power and influence against these purveyors of corn garbage! It’s only been a couple of years since people realized that millennials were destroying cereal, and perhaps they’re afraid that that’s going to start being taken literally

But I’m not a vindictive sort, I’m perfectly happy to share my ideas. All I ask in return is a crate of Boo Berry whenever I want one, and no further questions asked. 

Outstanding Achievement in Using the Internet to Create Joy, and Also Confusion, and Also Chaos, But Probably Mostly Joy

But mainly chaos. You all probably know the story. A guy who willingly answers to Matty Roberts (I’m shocked at the Matty, not the Roberts, lots of people are named Roberts) made a Facebook event to storm Area 51, stating that if they all just Naruto-run 3 they  can “outrun the bullets,” and thus “see them aliens.” 

It took off and morphed from a funny joke on Facebook to a funny joke on the whole entire internet, and everyone had a moment’s joy considering the idea of a bunch of famous people running at the gates of a government installation, and then….it kept happening.

It grew into Alienstock in Rachel, Nevada, a city with a few dozen people, no gas station, and one bed and breakfast that they partnered up with to get permits and stuff to camp and basically be around. Then the people that put that together had some shadowy, mysterious falling out with the person that runs the hotel, leaving the original proceedings and taking the name with them.

And so there came to be two gatherings meant to celebrate someone’s dumb facebook joke. The first was a massive, disappointing sellout, relocating to Vegas and getting sponsored by Bud Light, converting from a fun gathering of weirdos into yet another neon-lighted nightmare EDM festival, and causing Roberts to abandon his previous life trajectory to be a sort of travelling Alienstock arranger. 

Out in Rachel, meanwhile, a smaller event with fewer DJs and (presumably) less Bud Light was more about the original intent, even without the guy who actually had the intent, and it was certainly considerably less sponsored. People milled around, camping in the desert and, ultimately, were given the photo opportunity to approach the gates and take pictures of them “storming” Area 51. 

Its ability to launch two fairly well-attended events brings to mind this year’s complete failure (and subject of multiple posts right here) of a Woodstock event. It had a similar set of parameters – nothing but the willpower of a person being involved at the beginning, and a very short time frame, followed by a dispute with some people who wanted to put it on and a relocation.

The difference, of course, is the presence of an audience who wanted it. Ul;timately, Woodstock could have had something happen if anyone but Michale Lang had actually wanted it. This was something that people came out for, even when it split into being a brain-dead, UFO-festooned excuse for a Vegas party and a smaller, weirder still-not-actually-storming-anything event in the middle of nowhere. 

Basically I’m saying this is the power for a bunch of weirdos that take something seriously and make something happen for their effort, and I’m all in favor of it, even if this was basically the weirdest possibly manifestation of all that, and even if half of it ended up sponsored by Bud Light. 4

Outstanding Achievement in the Currently-Ongoing Trend of Multiple Documentaries Covering the Same Subject

I had not thought about the Amazing Jonathan in years. It is entirely possible that I had not thought about him in decades 5, and then, all of a sudden, there are documentaries plural about the dude. Now, admittedly, the reason we know all of this is because it’s included in the first of the documentary’s footage, and the whole point of that documentary is that there are a lot of questions about whether or not The Amazing Jonathan is dying, and zero questions about whether or not he smokes meth (he does! on camera!).

It seems, to the person writing this, to be an attempt to manufacture a sort of genre out of the whole thing, after the business with the Fyre Festival last year – which also had two competing documentaries, one paid for by the company that failed to put on the festival in question, the other by some spirited interested parties, with the two providing their own spin on a highly controversial, and also celebrity-adjacent, situation.

Since The Amazing Jonathan is his own highly-controversial (now), celebrity-adjacent situation, it stands to reason that this is an attempt to manufacture something, and capture lightning in this bottle. The problem is that you can’t really do that, and also that the Amazing Jonathan is boring, but it stands as an interesting attempt, and since I like to honor attempts at trying to build a marketing case out of something that very much cannot support one, I’m here for it.

It’s only a shame the folks that tried to make The Amazing Jonathan an icon of “what is truth”-style overmarket storytelling didn’t get ahold of Jared Eams.

Read on. 

Outstanding Achievement in Calling In to Question Literally Everything, and Also in Trying to Fake Everybody Out on a Grassroots Level and also…Aw jeez, here’s the writeup I guess

On the one hand, the story of Threatin is basically the sort of thing that I live to find out about. If it had happened thirty years ago and I read it in a book, I would never stop talking about. Instead, I had the good fortune to live through it, because it only happened nine months ago.

I’m going to try my hardest to keep this brief. Anyone who had conversations with me in early December may just want to skip ahead.

So this dude, Jared Eames, dba Jared Threatin, “starts” a “band” called Threatin, and makes up a bunch of business entities – a booking company, a record label, a press agent, all kinds of stuff – as well as a web presence in the form of YouTube videos of “performances” that feature either the crowd or the band, but never both, and a deeply hilarious set of “interviews” that were clearly just the dude “interviewing” themselves, as well as some sort of ginned-up/aid-for fake following. 

This enabled him to book a tour of the UK, which is when people started to notice that nobody was coming to these shows, even though he (acting as a fake promoter, remember) said that he had sold a bunch of tickets 6, the reaction to which meant that he ended up cancelling a bunch of the tour (forcing his band to figure out how to deal with the fallout on their own, some of which reactions were also uh….interesting) and retreating from social media.

He then un-retreated in spectacular fashion 7, coming out and saying that we all played ourselves, and we’re in the glass onion and he’s not in here with us we’re in here with him, and made up lies about being the person to have leaked the fact that the band was faked anyway. He then acquiesced to interviews with Rolling Stone and with The BBC, in which he told even more lies about how everything went according to plan and actually now he has fans and all that.

Along the way there’s an estranged family (probably true), a possible deeply-disturbing medical condition (probably not true), claims of living like a hermit (almost certainly true) and repeated insistence on a lack of drug use (possibly true, but mind-boggling).

The reason this is nothing less than the greatest story of the last twelve months is the sheer amount of effort and willpower that went into doing this. He took the time and effort to set up web presences for fake companies, he invented human beings to both act in his business interests and to be his online followers (at one point a reporter sees a stack of burner phones that he claims he used to make fake Facebook profiles, which, seriously, so much effort). 

Much of the reporting focuses on the money involved, but that’s less interesting to me. The money is likely to be significantly less than we think – certainly the outlay is a lot, but bands do tour all the time, albeit not made-up bands with zero followings, so the few grand to rent the venues could have come from anywhere, especially if you’re a single-minded maniac with a grandiose delusion. 

Similarly, it’s not actually that hard to see what he was going for. Record labels/marketing companies “help” bands become something more than they are all the time. It gets harder every year, but it happens. Wu Lyf in 2011, System of a Down in 1998, Guns n Roses in 1987, these are the three that come to mind most immediately, but it’s not like it would be hard to find, oh, a hundred or so more that were brought up through this “they started from the bottom” notion – by being marketed through the same channels as the bands that legitimately built their audiences that way and played those shows for their genuine actual earned audiences. 

The difference here is that Eames did it all himself. Well, he did it mostly himself and with the aid and support of his wife (who is also gainfully employed, which probably answers several of the questions about where the money comes from). So rather than spend the time and effort to produce an audience of the size he was comfortable with, or learning how to be satisfied with the audience he was able to collect organically, or even amiably selling out to some larger coroporo-entertainment interest, this dude went through all the business of selling out, just like tonnes of bands before him, but, like, on his own dime

This is completely insane. I mean, it’s probably tragically, pathologically insane in the literal sense. Like I am pretty sure that this guy’s lifestyle and chosen path are not things that healthy, well-adjusted people with reasonable expectations and a full set of fully-functioning neurochemical receptors are things that happen, but I’m pretending that the real-world harm done here is at its minimal potential level in order to say that this particular lunacy is the kind of craziness that I couldn’t imagine actually happening.

It’s like climbing a mountain just so that you can eat a big ol’ turd in front of as many people as possible – there is no possible way it was going to go well, and even at the end, even if you do it, you’re still the dude that ate a big ol’ turd on a mountain. And then following it up by saying that actually, there aren’t enough people eating turds these days, and you wanted to bring back turd-eating.



Outstanding Achievement in Positivity #1

Jeanette Ng, armed with nothing more than an acceptance speech and a lovely hat, started the ball rolling on getting the John Campbell Award’s name changed to honor Astounding, the magazine that Campbell founded and that publishes the new authors that are so honored with the award. 

That’s pretty much it, although I will say that, given that every historically-important figure in the world is a human being, and therefore possessed of foibles that may or may not ever come to light in a way that would make an award seem less award-like to, say, a writer that the person the award is named after would have loathed, why don’t we just stop naming awards after people? Especially not early sff people. Most of those folks are real hard to stand behind.

Anyway, naming it after the magazine is a nice way of continuing to acknowledge that magazine’s editor’s contributions to the genre (which are enormous) by relocating the focus on his work (the magazine he edited) rather than on his name, which brings into it the totality of his actions and whatnot as a person, rather than just a professional editor. 

Naturally, there is much hue and cry from the usual quarters about “erasure” and, somehow, still in 2019, SJWs. This also makes me happy, because I’d rather see anyone that feels that way upset than happy. Double positivity all around!

Outstanding Achievement in Positivity 

Every year I like to write my last bit of these about something inarguably positive, and this year gave me one of the best and most positive things I could ask for in the form of the lovely Sarah’s Channel YouTube series. 

It is true that it’s a long-standing position of this blog that I’m not into spoilers, but I will say this: if it matters to you to not know how things turn out, you can pretend this is the last sentence I’ve written in this post and go about your business, just go watch it, it takes twenty or so minutes and it’s worth every single second.

For the rest of the folks that already know, or that need to know why, the deal is that Sarah (played by the incredible Claudia O’Doherty) is a beauty YouTuber who gets brought to the post-apocalyptic future (resurrected? Cloned? Dragged through time? We never find out) to be the “Savior” of what remains of humanity, and she….does what she can. She blogs about her homemade beauty products and her workout routines, she is oblivious to what’s going on around her, until she isn’t. It starts out a wildly funny thing that turns into something considerably more poignant, and manages the neat trick of laughing at the current samey, jargon-filled YouTube Default Personality while also allowing that Sarah is a human being with a set of feelings and skills, even though we’re only seeing the worst aspects of them. 

It’s beautiful, and it’s hysterically funny, and it really is very short, and it has the best ending it could possibly have. Maybe there’ll be another season, but even if there isn’t, it’s an absolutely perfect jewel of a series, and I wouldn’t change anything about it.

  1. although it would expand for its first few years into the “selling everything under the sun” form that it took for the subsequent century 
  2. there’s a link in the AVClub story, or here’s another one, but please be advised that it literally does not go anywhere, because the website no longer exists 
  3. which is actually Tina Belcher running, if you’re actually a civilized person 
  4. if you’d like to read something more serious about this, written by an actual journalist, here’s Jennings Brown’s account, and he was actually there. It’s entertaining. 
  5. I’d have to look up when that special he did sometime in the early nineties stopped airing every three hours on Comedy Central, because it would have been shortly after that. 
  6. I will say, this is the most obvious weak point in the system – the show promoters/club owners/whatever never checked this against presale receipts? 
  7. the story in that link also contains another story in the comments about Eams paying off a battle of the bands many years ago in order to win, which is just sort of par for the course. 

The 71st Primetime Emmy Awards

It is a fact that remains true that sometimes, some awards shows are easier to write about than others. The Emmys are one of the ones that are always somewhere int he middle. They’re the first serious-Acting awards show that I do in the string of serious-Acting awards shows, which is kind of a bummer, and they honor television, which is basically my least-favorite entertainment medium. 

On top of all that, peak tv has sort of curdled (or congealed, or whatever food-related c-word it’s done) into a sort of scrum of extremely-predictable prestige dramas starring movie stars. The comedy categories remain pretty good, but they’re only about half the things on offer, and the miniseries categories are all “ripped from the headlines” news-adaptation business, albeit often older news. So if this one seems a little cursory, and a little joyless, it’s because I had to be breif to maintain my interest, and also nearly none of this brings me any joy. 

Next year, Game of Thrones will be off the board and Fosse/Verdon won’t have aired, and that will open up some serious real estate in about many of the categories, so it’ll be a lot easier. I hope. 

Until then, please enjoy some very considered and totally-final opinions on which of these winners is rightful, and debate among yourselves whether it does, in fact, matter that the Emmys are flying without a host again this year (they’ve done it several other times, and you don’t remember those times because nothing ever comes of it).

Outstanding Writing for a Variety Series

While it’s true that I don’t always treat the writing categories like technical categories, they certainly 1 have their technical aspects. So while Seth Myers and Stephen Colbert’s writers have the job of being funny a lot more often than other people (which seems hard), they do sort of have the benefit of a definite format – the show has the same basic structure every night, even though the material is demanding. Samantha Bee and John Oliver’s shows are weekly, and don’t run for as many weeks as the other late-night shows, for all that, and so have the major advantage, while also having more expectation. Saturday Night Live has to make a non-comedy celebrity funny most weeks, but is also disqualified at present by the fact that it’s coming out of a particular low point. Anyway, what I’m saying is that Documentary Now is written in a whole bunch of ways, and manages to be funny in all of those ways, and is therefore the winner here.


Outstanding Writing for a Limited Series, Movie or Dramatic Special

Someday, I will get to the bottom of why I think writing a television adaptation of real events is somehow not as hard or worthwhile as any other sort of writing. I suppose, at first gues,s it’s because you already have the story beats plotted out and, if it’s anything that’s happened in the last several decades, some portion of it robably already happened on tv to some extent. I’m not sure how much I want to defend that stance, because it might not be accurate, but I will say that every single one of these things is an adaptation of real life events, and that seems weird to me.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Ava DuVernay and Michael Starrbury, When They See Us, episode: “Episode 4”

Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series

As much as I thought the technical award nominations for GoT were ridiculous, I’d have loved to watch the people doing the nominating try to keep a straight face while they pretended to actually believe that any portion of this season deserves an award for writing. The merest idea is as insane as Emilia Clarke playing in the NBA, and I’m sure it was entertaining to hear people try to reason out. It is not the rightful winner, obviously 2, but it’s the funniest nomination. 

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Jesse Armstrong, Succession episode: “Nobody is Ever Missing”

Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series

Since this is one of those categories where a longtime reader will be able to spot the foregone conclusion here, despite some stiff competition 3, I will just point out that while “Janet(s)” is a fantastic episode with a crazy-ass decision, it also should have yielded an acting nom for D’arcy Carden I’M JUST SAYING.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Josh Siegal and Dylan Morgan, The Good Place episode: “Janet(s)”

Outstanding Directing for a Variety Series

One of the other things that makes Documentary Now! Impressive is that, in addition to the aforementioned commitment to doing a bunch of different things stylistically, they do it with a short schedule and no money, which means that the directors really have to know their stuff ot be able to get it quickly and efficiently. I guess. Also: I only like two of the shows in this category and that’s the only one I can imagine getting a directing award.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Alex Buono and Rhys Thomas, Documentary Now! Episode: “Waiting for the Artist”

Outstanding Directing for a Limited Series, Movie or Dramatic Special

While it’s true that I don’t always know what to associate with the director of any given television enterprise, and what to associate with the writer 4, I’m also going to take the position that neither does the nominating body for the Emmys, and they work in the biz, because this category and the writing category are basically the same. Anyway, I believe that wards are like manure. They’re no good in one place, ya gotta spread ‘em around.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Johan Renck, Chernobyl

Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series

No seriously, there are three episodes of Game of Thrones here. Did they watch the thing, or did they just leave three slots in the schedule because it’s the last season and then pretend like these three episodes are somehow worthy? Because no they are not. 

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Adam McKay, Succession, episode: “Celebration”

Outstanding Directing for a Comedy Series

I get that The Big Bang Theory ended and that means it gets a bunch of courtesy nominations, but given that the directing did not change even one time in eleven years, I’m pretty comfortable saying it does not deserve this. The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel episodes here are fine, as is the Fleabag episode, although there’s not much directorially interesting going on there. Of the two episodes of Barry, the more impressive is “ronny/lilly”, so that’s the last one standing.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Bill Hader, Barry, episode: “ronnie/lily”

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Limited Series or Movie

So Sharp Objects starts to be nominated in the acting categories, which makes sense: it’s almost entirely an actor’s show. There’s plenty of stuff in the writing and stuff, certainly, but it’s really the acting that makes it something people want to notice. It’s relatively rare for that to happen, even in the limited series/movie categories, so it’s worth noting. Also, I don’t have much to say about most of these nominees, not even the one that won.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Emily Watson, Chernobyl, episode: “Open Wide O Earth”

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Limited Series or Movie

I will say this, regardless of the fact that I’m not Mr. Acting Fan, I have loved three of the nominees in this category a great deal. I think that Paul Dano is the winner, but I don’t want it to reflect anything about my general opinion of Michael K. Williams or Stellan Skarsgaard. Just in this one case, Paul Dano was better. That’s all.I mean, I also love Paul Dano. I don’t want to overcorrect the other way here.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Paul Dano, Escape at Dannemora, episode: “Part 7”

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series

I have basically never had a tonne of good things to say about Game of Thrones. I have even less to say about the stupid, rushed, force-finished, lazy ending of Game of Thrones. I will say that, even among circumstances that were terrible, the fact that Gwendoline Christie not only turned in a terrific performance, but also had to submit herself for consideration because the production wouldn’t do it, is amazing, and it means she should win.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Gwendoline Christie, Game of Thrones episode: “A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms”

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series

This category can just go straight to hell. We’ve got a bunch of Game of Thrones phoner-inners, a guy reprising a character he came up with a performance for over a decade ago, and the indescribable horror of This is Us. None of this is ok, but I guess Gus Fring is the closest to an ok thing.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Giancarlo Esposito, Better Call Saul, episode: “Piñata”

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series

I was going to single Alex Borstein out like I did Gwendolyn Christie back up there in drama, for being the best part of a show I don’t care about. She still is! But Betty Gilpin is actually the best part of a show I do care about, and should be given many awards.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Betty Gilpin, Glow, episode: “Mother of All Matches”

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series

Earlier in this writeup I decried that D’Arcy Carden was not nominated for an acting award for the episode of The Good Place that was nominated for its writing. So here I will further state that William Jackson Harper gave a better performance on The Good Place, even just from a regular old acting standpoint, than several of these people. I don’t begrduge Stephen Root his eventual win, and am happy to go along to get along, but I feel it’s worth mentioning that it probably should be William Jackson Harper.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Stephen Root, Barry, episode: “berkman>block”

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Limited Series or Movie

As badly as I want to think that Niecy Nash is the best actor in this category (and she almost is), she, unfortunately, misses it only by the margin of not being the best actor on the show she’s on, and this one goes to Aunjanue Ellis.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Aunjanue Ellis, When They See Us

Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited Series or Movie

While I think that Hugh Grant’s ability to find roles that allow him to expound upon his own Hugh Grant-ness is pretty impressive, and while I’m happy to see Sam Rockwell return to something high-profile and worth his time (even though I didn’t like it), they aren’t the winners. Benicio Del Toro and Jared Harris, similarly, are delightful whenever they pop up. But Mahershala Ali basically carried an entire tv show on his own back, despite some screwy writing, and it should be rewarded.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Mahershala Ali, True Detective

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series

LOL Emilia Clarke LOL.


THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Sandra Oh, Killing Eve, episode: “You’re Mine”

Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series

LOL Kit Harington LOL


(this time with a much smaller “lol” for Milo Ventimiglia. lol.)

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Billy Porter, Pose, episode “Love is the Message”

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series

This is a tight category with lots of strong contenders, but I’m pretty here for Julia Louis-Dreyfuss getting handed one more, just because I like a winning streak 5.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Julia Louis-Dreyfuss, Veep, episode: “Veep”

Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series

After all that, it wouldn’t be very consistent or rigorous of me to not give it to the one person from The Good Place that is nominated, would it? I mean, he has like fifty other Emmys, but I suppose he does also deserve this one. What a great show.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Ted Danson, The Good Place, episode: “The Worst Possible Use of Free Will”

Outstanding Competition Program

Generally speaking, I am way more interested in watching people succeed than watching people fail. It is surprising, then – or at least seems surprising at first blush – that I’m so firmly in the camp of Nailed It!, until one considers that you’re not really watching people fail, but instead watching people for whom none of the usual advantages or even skill set applies, and they’re doing it anyway. Here’s to another fantastic and wonderful television show about things being rigged against you, and you going out there and doing it anyway, perhaps one of the more important messages television has to send under the current circumstances. Hurray for Nailed It!! 6


Outstanding Variety Sketch Series

It is the case that there are now forty-odd years worth of people who can mark the moment they became old by the point at which they started to hate Saturday Night Live. Ordinarily I’m not susceptible to this sort of thing, and so am sort of left to wonder if this is something that has finally come and sunk its claws into me, or if Saturday Night Live really has just had an awful couple of seasons. Fortunately for our purposes here, it doesn’t really matter which is the case, because it wouldn’t win even if I had liked it (I guess), because Amy Sedaris’s show is as weird and delightful as every other thing Amy Sedaris has ever done, and it wins.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: At Home With Amy Sedaris

Outstanding Variety Talk Series

While I’m sad that this is the only carryover category for a possible “Carpool Karaoke” joke and I don’t have on in the chamber, I’m glad that I don’t have to sully the category that I’m pretty much always going to give to Samantha Bee with such nonsense.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Full Frontal With Samantha Bee

Outstanding Television Movie

Call it the television climate of 2019 or whatever, but I think I’m probably more attuned than usual to the end of a beloved grim-n-gritty HBO series that actually tied things up and made for a satisfying ending to a series, and so I think Deadwood probably gets this one this year.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Deadwood: The Movie

Outstanding Limited Series

So far the hardest matchup in the whole dang awards program has been that of Chernobyl vs. When They See us, and I really don’t know where I come down on. I think probably When They See Us, but man, it could go either way on any given day. 

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: When They See Us (today)

Outstanding Drama Series

LOL Game of Thrones LOL


THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Pose, I guess. Or maybe Killing Eve. I didn’t think beyond laughing at the Game of Thrones thing. Let’s go with Pose, final answer.

Outstanding Comedy Series

Ooh! It’s The Good Place! And it better get some Game of Thrones style courtesy noms next year for its final season or I’m LEADING A MUTINY.


  1. like all parts of television production 
  2. it’s not even a rightful nominee 
  3. I love Veep, and was very impressed with Pen15, aand sang the praises for Russian Doll all over the Creative Arts writeup. 
  4. I mean, I know sometimes, but there are decisions that could go either way, and I’m always a little curious about those. 
  5. NB this completely contradicts everything I usually say about people continuing to win for the same performance, to which I say: shut up. 
  6. please note that one of these exclamation points is the one in the official title of Nailed It! and the other is the exclamation point that ends the sentence. 

71st Annual Primetime Creative Arts Emmys

The fortnight 1 of Emmy bacchanalia begins now, with the Creative Arts Emmys. As has become the custom, I will guide you through the process of being right about them, so that you always know where to stand in terms of how to award television shows. 

As with previous years, I’ll be trying to keep the word count down, even though the bulk of my viewing time is spent on the categories honored in this one, and not the other more-attention-getting one 2but there’s also seven hundred million trillion categories. 

Oh, and I’ll be skipping the juried categories because I largely don’t understand them, and they’re listed in this footnote 3.

Outstanding Writing for a Variety Special

There are few things, in any year, in any category, better-written than Nanette, which is one of the very few things in the world that deserves every single bit of hype that it’s gotten. It certainly beats Carpool Karaoke, and it seems offensive to consider them in the same category. Ah, the Emmys.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Hannah Gadsby, Nanette

Outstanding Writing for a Nonfiction Program

Interestingly, both of the once-competing documentaries about the Fyre Festival are nominated for Emmys, albeit in different categories. Also interesting (I mean, for whatever value of “interesting”) that Anthony Bourdain is still getting posthumous nominations. And they’re good ones, so this one, at least, will stand.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown, episode: “Kenya”

Outstanding Technical Direction, Camerawork, Video Control for a Limited Series, Movie, or Special

“Oh that Carpool Karaoke, such outstanding video control. Gosh, we sure do need to nominate Carpool Karaoke for a bunch of Emmys because obviously it is a quality program and not just a static camera in a car shooting people singing along to the radio.” Seriously though. If anyone can explain to me why Carpool Karaoke is nominated for multiple Emmys, I would very much appreciate it. The technical direction was just about the only part of Rent worth mentioning, so I guess it wins.


Outstanding Stunt Coordination for a Drama Series, Limited Series, or Movie

You know what, why not let Game of Thrones go out by winning one of the only Emmys it actually deserves? The one for coordinating a bunch of stunts. Good job, guys.


Outstanding Stunt Coordination for a Comedy Series or Variety Program

Feels like this is yet another category 4 that The Good Place lost out on. I’m thinking specifically of the big fight in the bar at the midpoint of the second season. Anyway, I’m impressed by the fake fighting in both Cobra Kai and Glow, but Glow has the advantage of having to make it look genuinely fake, which takes some of the pressure off, so I guess I do like something about Cobra Kai after all. I thought I didn’t. Way to go, Emmy nominators.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Cobra Kai. It comes as a huge surprise to me, also. 

Outstanding Special Visual Effects in a Supporting Role

You know, every single year I try to make sense of what the fuck this category name means, and every year I fail. This is the third year running that I have been stopped dead in my tracks by this nonsense. RENAME THIS CATEGORY OR I WALK, MR. EMMY.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Chernobyl definitely had good visual effects. I don’t know how supportive their role was, but I’m willing to give them the nod anyway. It’s not their fault this category name doesn’t make any damn sense.

Outstanding Special Visual Effects

Man, with GoT having turned in one of the cheapest-looking half-assed season (visually speaking) 5 so far, it sort of opens up the field a bit. I’m going with Star Trek, then, because I want to.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Star Trek: Discovery, episode: “Such Sweet Sorrow”

Outstanding Sound Mixing for Nonfiction Program (Single or Multi-Camera)

Boy, Free Solo just seems like the most difficult technical production I can think of, in terms of getting something you could actually show on tv that makes sense and is interesting, even down to the sound. So I’m going to go with that one.


Outstanding Sound Mixing for a Variety Series or Special

You know what, this one I can kind of understand nominating Carpool Karaoke for. I would imagine that it’s more difficult than I think to mix sound in a car with people of various voices/volumes  6. I’m going to go with the Grammys, though, because actual songs of various types are actually performed on that one, and not just weird car singing. 


Outstanding Sound Mixing for a Comedy or Drama Series (Half-Hour) and Animation

The only way that I could even imagine establishing a criteria that make sense and that any of these fit would lead me to Russian Doll, so it’s got to be Russian Doll, right?

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Russian Doll, episode: “The Way Out”

Outstanding Sound Mixing for a Limited Series of Movie

I’m a simple man, and I tend to lean these things in favor of things that require someone to mix singing and stuff, but I think I’m actually going with Chernobyl, where even the sound mixing was spooky.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Chernobyl, episode: “1:23:45”

Outstanding Sound Mixing for a Comedy or Drama Series (One Hour)

I appreciate that they have divided the sound mixing up by length, given that I (who have never worked a day in television in my life) think that it would be a different thing to mix an hour than a half hour – it would, for example, be a program that was twice as long. This is satisfying to me, a dumb outsider. I also feel like there should be a joke here about the sound mixing on “The Long Night” being super-important because the episode wasn’t lighted at all, but since that joke is an invitation for people to weirdly flex about how the problem was that my tv is insufficiently fancy, I’m not going to make it. So there. It’s still a good sound mix, though, and I don’t praise GoT easily. Battle scenes are hard, yo.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Game of Thrones, episode: “The Long Night”

Outstanding Sound Editing for Nonfiction Programming (Single or Multi-Camera)

Everything I just said a minute ago about Free Solo is still the case here, because I’m sure that editing is also difficult under those circumstances.


Outstanding Sound Editing for a Limited Series, Movie, or Special

Everything I just said a minute ago about Chernobyl is still the case here, because the spookiness remains important.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Chernobyl, episode: “1:23:45”

Outstanding Sound Editing for a Comedy or Drama Series (Half-Hour) and Animation

Everything I just said a minute ago about Russian Doll is still the case here, because I still don’t know what I’m doing.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Russian Doll, episode: “The Way Out”

Outstanding Sound Editing for a Comedy or Drama Series (One Hour) 

Everything I just said a minute ago about Game of Thrones is still the case here, because they still had to edit the sound without being able to see it.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Game of Thrones, episode: “The Long Night”

Outstanding Production Design for a Variety Special

I thought the Norman Lear tribute thing was pretty cool, but it wasn’t really a new production design. Interestingly, all of these variety specials are more-or-less live to tape 7. I really thought I didn’t have much to say about Rent, but it turns out I remember a lot about the way it looked and the way it was staged, so I’m going to go with it as the winner here. Yay!

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Rent. Somehow. Again. 

Outstanding Production Design for a Variety, Reality or Competition Series

There’s a sort of existential question about what, exactly, constitutes the production designe for Queer Eye, if I’m being honest, because the final production design of the thing is so in the hands of the people being eyed, as well as the people doing the eyeing. Nevertheless, I think it’s the winner here.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Queer Eye, episode: “Jones Bar-B-Q”

Outstanding Production Design for a Narrative Program (Half-Hour or Less)

I appreciate that they’re leaving themselves open with that “or Less” for Adult-Swim-style half-length shorts or whatever. Makes me happy. There are, of course, none here, but that doesn’t mean it’s a bad idea to not rule them out.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Russian Doll, episode: “Nothing in the World is Easy”

Outstanding Production Design for a Narrative Period or Fantasy Program (One Hour or More)

I’m just happy to see A Series of Unfortunate Events nominated, and definitely think that the production design was a clear high point, so it goes to that one. Especially since it’s done, and isn’t going to get more chances. I mean, Game of Thrones is also done, but ASOUE has much better production design.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: A Series of Unfortunate Events, Episode: “Penultimate Peril: Part 1”

Outstanding Production Design for a Narrative Contemporary Program (One Hour or More)

I don’t have a lot of good things to say about The Handmaid’s Tale, really, but the production design is where it shines. In fact, as I write these, the production design categories are really causing me to consider that it’s the production design that is where television makes its best cases. It’s really a production designer’s medium.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: The Handmaid’s Tale, Episode: “Holly”

Outstanding Picture Editing for an Unstructured Reality Program

Every year I take umbrage at the term “unstructured”, even though I totally know what it means in this context, because there’s got to be a better word for it. ALL TELEVISION IS STRUCTURED. IT’S ARRANGED IN DISCRETE BLOCKS OF TIME. 

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: I guess Born This Way (Editing Team)

Outstanding Picture Editing for a Structured Reality or Competition Program

Queer Eye is nominated for the whole season. Hard to argue with that, I guess. I mean, it might not be hard, but I’ll never know because I’m not really arguing with it.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Queer Eye (Editing Team)

Outstanding Picture Editing for Nonfiction Programming

There are many things to recommend about both Three Identical Strangers and also Leaving Neverland, but I’m not entirely sure the Picture Editing is one of them.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Free Solo (Bob Eisenhart)

Outstanding Picture Editing for Variety Programming

I am, again, not a television insider, and have but minimal knowledge of how the world of television works, but I am, again, forced to question whether Carpool Karaoke is the miraculous achievement of technical acumen that it is positioned to be here. I just don’t buy it. If it were something that had happened once, maybe, or if it had just started happening and they had to figure something out, maybe. But this is a long-running late night segment that they turned into a whole special, and I can’t imagine that didn’t have that shit dialed in already, so even if it is a special now, and therefore longer (I guess), I still don’t buy it! So I’m going to go with Drunk History, which is sort of built on having a bunch of really impressive editing of all sorts.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Drunk History, (John Cason, Episode: “Are You Afraid of the Drunk?”)

Outstanding Multi-Camera Picture Editing for a Comedy Series

I don’t mean to sound like that guy, but these are all awful, and I can’t imagine caring about how they are edited.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Mom, I guess. (Joe Bella, episode: “Big Floor Pillows and a Ball of Fire”)

Outstanding Single-Camera Picture Editing for a Limited Series or Movie

I’m willing to go so far as to say that even the picture editing contributed to the spookiness of Chernobyl, and that “Open Wide, O Earth” was the spookier episode.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Chernobyl (Jinx Godfrey, episode: “Open Wide, O Earth”)

Outstanding Single-Camera Picture Editing for a Comedy Series

It’s real hard not to keep pulling these for Russian Doll, so I guess I’m just going to give into temptation and do it again.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Russian Doll (Laura Weinberg, episode: “Ariadne”)

Outstanding Single-Camera Picture Editing for a Drama Series

Ah, what the hell, Killing Eve seems well-edited

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Killing Eve (Dan Crinnion, episode: “Desperate Times”)

Outstanding Music Supervision

Since the music supervision is an enormous part of the very fiber of Fosse/Verdon, let’s go with that one.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Fosse/Verdon (Steven Gizicki, episode: “Life is a Cabaret”)

Outstanding Original Music and Lyrics

True story: Fred Armisen’s musical contributions to his comedy efforts are, to a one, better than Trenchmouth 8! Regardless of comparative worth, the fact that Documentary Now contains such multitudes is worth a bunch of awards, including this one.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Documentary Now, Episode: “Original Cast Album: Co-Op

Outstanding Original Main Title Theme Music

I hadn’t thought about it until I evaluated it for this very writeup, but I do really like the opening titles of Good Omens. So that one.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: David Arnold for Good Omens

Outstanding Music Direction

I am compelled to choose the one that is explicitly and entirely about the music, quite frankly.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Beyonce Knowles-Carter and Derek Dixie, Homecoming: A Film by Beyonce

Outstanding Music Composition for a Documentary Series or Special (Original Dramatic Score)

I can’t say any of these scores jump out at me, so I’ll give it to Steven Price for basically just not getting in the way.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Steven Price, Our Planet episode: “One Planet”

Outstanding Music Composition for a Limited Series, Movie, or Special (Original Dramatic Score)

It pains me to pass over T-Bone Burnett like this, but David Arnold’s excellent contributions don’t end with the title music. 

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: David Arnold, Good Omens episode: “In the Beginning”

Outstanding Music Composition for a Series (Original Dramatic Score)

I’m inclined to give this one to Barry merely for being a nonstandard bit of work. Good job, Barry.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: David Wingo, Barry (episode: What?”)

Outstanding Prosthetic Makeup for a Series, Limited Series, Movie or Special

I will say that I really thought that Star Trek: Discovery would get this one, but after some thought, I will say that while much of the prosthetic work on American Horror Story was not exactly groundbreaking, the scoliosis effects were pretty great (NB that they might not have been in the specific episode nominated, I didn’t go back and watch) and there was a bunch of prosthetics on everyone all the time, so I think maybe it goes to that. They made Kathy Bates a robot!

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: American Horror Story: Apocalypse Then, episode: “Forbidden Fruit”

Outstanding Make-up for a Limited Series or Movie (Non-Prosthetic)

The only time of the year that I praise biopics for their accuracy and/or verisimilitude is in technical categories at the Emmys, where I praise them for making people look like other people.


Outstanding Make-up for a Multi-Camera Series or Special (Non-Prosthetic)

Not only does RuPaul’s Drag Race have the best makeup, it also has the most makeup. Who says you have to choose between quantity and quality?

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: RuPaul’s Drag Race, episode: “Trump: The Rusical”

Outstanding Make-up for a Single-Camera Series (Non-Prosthetic)

So all that other stuff said, I’m not entirely sure what the non-prosthetic makeup that AHS was nominated for would even be. The people look like people, I guess. Ditto for Game of Thrones, although at least they had to paint somebody blue or whatever. So I’m gonna go with GLOW, because at least I know what the non-prosthetic makeup is doing.


Outstanding Main Title Design

I do appreciate that the main titles of Game of Thrones served a practical purpose (laying out the geography of Westeros and the players remaining in the titular game), which is something the rest of them don’t really do.


Outstanding Lighting Design / Lighting Direction for a Variety Special

As with every year, I must acknowledge that it is a herculean effort to put on an awards show, and the technical demands are considerable, but also that any live event is hard, and the people that lighting designed Rent didn’t have the advantage of several decades of this exact thing happening at the same time every year, and so I think it’s a more difficult (and therefore more impressive) piece of work. This is because I have a pretty rudimentary grasp on how this stuff works. 


Outstanding Lighting Design / Lighting Direction for a Variety Series

I feel like America’s Got Talent, even by the finals, is such a grab-bag of different stuff going on, plus there’s the onstage stuff, the backstage stuff, and the judges’ table stuff, that it must be hard to lighting design. That’s how I feel.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: America’s Got Talent, episode: “Semi-Final #1 Performance Show”, which is a perfectly-reasonable title for a show where the titles don’t matter, but which also sounds like it was poorly translated into English.

Outstanding Creative Achievement in Interactive Media within an Unscripted Program

Oooooookay. I will buy a hat for the person who can explain to me what Carpool Karaoke is doing in this one. Is this a prank? What the hell is going on? What on Earth was interactive about the thing? Anyway, Conan Without Borders was pretty cool.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Conan Without Borders

Outstanding Creative Achievement in Interactive Media within a Scripted Program

As much as I just want every award to go to The Good Place all the time, and as much as I didn’t exactly love Bandersnatch, I do think it was a cool experiment that came out pretty well, and probably deserves to be honored as such.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Black Mirror: Bandersnatch

Outstanding Interactive Program

Clearly we are using a definition of the word “interactive” that I simply do not understand. NASA and SpaceX: The Interactive Demo 1 has interactive right there in the title though, and it was really cool, so it wins.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: NASA and SpaceX: The Interactive Demo 1

Outstanding Original Interactive Program

Am I in favor of just giving as many of these as possible to the space shit? You’ve probably been reading this blog long enough to know that the answer is: yes. Absolutely.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: NASA Insight’s Mars Landing

Outstanding Host for a Reality or Competition Program

Gosh, but Amy Poehler and Nick Offerman were delightful. I mean, this whole category could pretty accurately be renamed “Most Amiable”, but they were especially delightful. I’m exclusively using that word to describe them, obviously. 

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Amy Poehler and Nick Offerman, Making It

Outstanding Hairstyling for a Limited Series or Movie

I think most of my opinions from the makeup categories come through here, so big ups to the Fosse/Verdon people for accurately recreating hairstyles.


Outstanding Hairstyling for a Multi-Camera Series or Special

Once again: RuPaul has not only the best hairstyling, but the most hairstyling. 

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: RuPaul’s Drag Race, episode: “Trump: The Rusical”

Outstanding Directing for a Reality Program

I will be honest: while I have a pretty good sense of what directors do in many contexts, I can’t get my head around how Shark Tank is nominated here. I don’t get it. Anyway, I’m giving it to American Ninja Warrior, because I like American Ninja Warrior and think it should get awards for stuff.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Patrick McManus, American Ninja Warrior, episode: “Minneapolis City Qualifiers”

Outstanding Directing for a Variety Special

Sigh. Guys. What do I have to do to make the Carpool Karaoke thing stop? It’s not even that I think it’s that bad. It’s pleasant! Sometimes even downright delightful! Why is it nominated for every dang technical Emmy? This is completely insane. The live Norman Lear thing was pretty cool.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: James Burrows and Andy Fisher, Live in Front of a Studio Audience: Norman Lear’s All in the Family and The Jeffersons

Outstanding Directing for a Documentary/Nonfiction Program

I think in this case an ability to work with such subject matter in an effective and reasonable matter means that Leaving Neverland wins this one.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Dan Reed, Finding Neverland

Outstanding Costumes for a Variety, Nonfiction, or Reality Programming
Somehow I guess the costumes for Carpool Karaoke just weren’t up to Emmy snuff. I can only imagine this is a tragic oversight on the part of the Emmy nominating body. Anyway, since RuPaul’s Drag Race is predominantly about the costuming, I think it’s got to go to that one.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: RuPaul’s Drag Race, episode: “Trump, The Rusical” 

Outstanding Contemporary Costumes

Of all the technical categories, this is the one I have the hardest time with. I just don’t know enough about costume design to know which of these shows has the best costumes on it. I’m going to go with Grace and Frankie, because the nominated episode had a wedding in it, and that means it was more elaborate. 

 THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Grace and Frankie, episode: “The Wedding”

Outstanding Fantasy/Sci-Fi Costumes

I’m still out here riding for pretty much any given visual aspect of A Series of Unfortunate Events, frankly. I love it. 

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: A Series of Unfortunate Events, episode: “The Penultimate Peril, Part 2”

Outstanding Period Costumes

Ordinarily, as an Old Person, I don’t fight the notion of my oldness. Still and all, when GLOW popped up in “period” costumes and not “contemporary” costumes I still tought “hey wait!”. But thirty years ago is long enough to quality, and also it makes this category much easier, because it’s the only one of these where I can actually be said to like the costumes.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: GLOW, episode: “Every Potato Has a Receipt”

Outstanding Commercial

On the one hand, my reaction to this category is “commercials aren’t even the simulacrum of art that television is”, but I it runs into the fact that television is, in many instances a vessel to keep people looking at the screen in between blocks of commercials 9. So I guess I’m just going to say the Sandy Hook thing and leave it at that, cognitive dissonance be danged.


Outstanding Cinematography for Nonfiction Programming

You know, the only real components of Our Planet are the cinematography, the editing and the narration, so I think it’s probably good that half the field comes from it. It really sells itself on the cinematography. The “Coastal Seas” one is not only gorgeous, but seems like it was especially difficult to do, technically, so it gets the nod.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Our Planet, episode: “Coastal Seas”

Outstanding Cinematography for a Reality Program

Obviously I think the nature cinematographers have a harder job, and while I’m sure the Deadliest Catch folks have their shit pretty well dialed in by this point, the Life Below Zero folks might be less so, and so deserve the award.


Outstanding Cinematography for a Single-Camera Series (One Hour)

I genuinely like the camera work in The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. Not much else, but he camera work is nice.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: M. David Mullen, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, episode: “Simone” 

Outstanding Cinematography for a Limited Series or Movie

See above w/r/t spookiness, etc.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Jakob Ihre, Chernobyl, episode: “Please Remain Calm”

Outstanding Cinematography for a Single-Camera Series (Half-Hour)

What We Do in the Shadows isn’t up for enough awards, and I’m still a dipshit about these things, so I’m giving it to What We Do in the Shadows.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: DJ Stipsen, What We Do in the Shadows, episode: “Manhattan Night Club”

Outstanding Cinematography for a Multi-Camera Series

Literally the only one of these television shows I can even pretend to get behind is Rel, which makes this fairly easy.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: George Mooradian, Rel, episode: “Halloween”

Outstanding Choreography for Variety and Reality Programming

Oh come now, certainly someone does some car seat wiggling in Carpool Karaoke, or some hand dancing or something, and can have been worthy of an award here. It’s like they’re not even trying anymore. 

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Travis Wall, So You Think You Can Dance

Outstanding Casting for a Reality Program

RuPaul’s Drag Race’s casting concerns are both specific and ongoing 10, and I’m always impressed that they put together as many worthwhile contestants as they do every single year. In this case, the show’s longevity works in its favor, which is also kind of novel for an Emmy awards writeup, where I usually get all cranky about such things. 


Outstanding Casting for a Limited Series, Movie, or Special

Many things are not worth the hype about Fosse/Verdon, or at least weren’t worth it to me 11, the casting was superb. One might even use the word “impeccable” if one were so inclined.


Outstanding Casting for a Drama Series

Before I become the latest (and possibly last, speaking chronologically) person to heap praise upon the casting of Pose, allow me to pose (sorry) the following question: given that there were zero new characters in the last season of Game of Thrones, what, exactly, would qualify it for a casting award this year? I get that it’s probably for the series as a whole or whatever, but shouldn’t that be a different award? Should not each year’s Emmys be for that year’s work, in which case the casting department was responsible for, oh, six billion extras or whatever, but zero people that spoke lines? I rest my case, and hereby declare the award should go to Pose.


Outstanding Casting for a Comedy Series

Obviously, given the previous entry, I think that casting awards are easier to win for the first season of a show, when everyone is a new cast member and the casting team have to do the most work. So I’m going with Russian Doll yet again. 


Outstanding Actress in a Short Form Comedy or Drama Series

Hack Into Broad City was the best of these, but I don’t want to choose which winner was better, so I’m declaring a tie.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson, Hack Into Broad City

Outstanding Actor in a Short Form Comedy or Drama Series

Not only an Emmy for Megan, but also an Emmy for anyone associated with An Emmy for Megan.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Patton Oswalt, An Emmy for Megan

Outstanding Narrator

Earlier I said that the three components of Our Planet were the cinematography, editing and narration, and the narration is the best narrator to ever narrate, so my biases should be fairly obvious here.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: David Attenborough, Our Planet

Outstanding Character Voice-Over Performance

The early awards show write-ups on this here website were heavy on corrective write-in candidates. I’ve stopped doing that, mainly because I believe every running joke should be permitted to die a natural death, and also because it’s not really reacting to the awards show as presented, which is what I’m doing here. That said, in “Outstanding Animated Program,” the actual greatest show on television 12, Bojack Horseman, is nominated for the episode “Free Churro,” which is singled out in FN7 as being one of the series high points, and which is an episode in which only one voice actor (Will Arnett) appears – as both the title character and as that character’s father, Butterscotch. It’s an incredible, cathartic episode of television that really goes to places in terms of dealing with some really tough questions, and it ends on the kind of joke that requires the kind of commitment that I can only stand back and admire. What I’m saying is: Will Arnett should have been nominated in this category for his performance in what the emmy folks agree is one of the best episodes of television of the year, and he is not, and that seems like it’s a mistake. So I’m writing him in, especially since two of the fucking nominees here are for Family Guy.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Actually Will Arnett, for Bojack Horseman, episode: “Free Churro” 

Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series

You know, I didn’t think much of Constance Langdon’s return to American Horror Story until I heard Jessica Lange talk about the process of getting into a character she had last played many years before, which involved watching her own performance for (what she claimed was) the first time. Turns out there might be something to this acting thing after all!

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Jessica Lange, American Horror Story: Apocalypse, episode: “Return to Murder House”

Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series

Kumail Nanjiani is such an all-around great actor that I’m happy to see him in pretty much anything, and I’m especially glad to see him nominated here.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Kumail Nanjiani, The Twilight Zone, episode: “The Comedian”

Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series

I mean, whatever praise my outraged footnoting may have made it seem I don’t have for The Good Place does not actually mean that I don’t love Human Treasure Maya Rudolph, and the magnificent Judge Gen, short of Hydrogen, the only other thing in existence at the time she was born 13.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Maya Rudolph, The Good Place, episode: “Chidi Sees the Time Knife”

Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series

There’s an awful lot of Saturday Night Live in this category, especially considering that it’s all for their worst season in a long, long time. Even in a good season, though, it’d be hard to top Peter MacNicol.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Peter MacNicol, Veep, episode: “Oslo”

Outstanding Short Form Variety Series

Oh thank heavens some form of Carpool Karaoke is back. I couldn’t fathom going on without it continuing to be nominated all the time. I’m glad I don’t have to envision a world in which that happens. Anyway, I quite like Billy on the Street.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Billy on the Street

Outstanding Short Form Comedy or Drama Series
I just don’t understand who can watch An Emmy for Megan and not agree that it definitely deserves an Emmy. Obviously.


Outstanding Short Form Nonfiction or Reality Series

This category is dumb. FX’s Inside Look things are always kind of boring bog-standard pseudo-documentaries, and there’s been so much filmed and written about creating Saturday Night Live that Creating Saturday Night Live could only ever have felt pretty redundant. That leaves us with the RuPaul’s Drag Race specials, of which Portrait of a Queen is better.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: RuPaul’s Drag Race: Portrait of a Queen

Outstanding Children’s Program

Star Wars: Resistance is fine and admirable, but I really, really dug A Series of Unfortunate Events.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: A Series of Unfortunate Events

Outstanding Short Form Animated Program

I suppose I’m the last person on the “praising Steven Universe train,” but I shouldn’t be, and also I think that’s more about how it should be nominated for more awards, which is kind of the only way that I write about television anyway.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Steven Universe, episode: “Reunited”

Outstanding Animated Program

If you’ve forgotten what I’ve already said about the wonderful “Free Churro,” it’s back up at the voice performance category. But also you shouldn’t have forgotten what has it been, two minutes? Jeez.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: BoJack Horseman, episode: “Free Churro”

Outstanding Variety Special (Pre-Recorded)

We interrupt the runner of being baffled by the Carpool Karaoke thing to point out earnestly (and for the second time this writeup) that Nanette is also among the very best things that Netflix has ever shepherded into existence, and should win this award and any other award for which it is eligible.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Hannah Gadsby: Nanette

Outstanding Variety Special (Live)

Finally, I get to not complain about a nomination for the Norman Lear thing, but to celebrate it, because it was outstanding, if not a super-technical achievement.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Live in Front of a Studio Audience: Norman Lear’s All in the Family and the Jeffersons

Outstanding Documentary or Nonfiction Special

It’s sad that the Fyre Festival documentary that was meant to exonerate Fuck Jerry is in here, if perhaps predictable. I’m giving it to Leaving Neverland, for changing and elevating the conversation around Michael Jackson (again) in a way that seems to make it more supportive of the survivors he left in his wake.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Leaving Neverland

Outstanding Documentary or Nonfiction Series

I probably don’t have to come out and say it at this late date, but I love Our Planet, y’all.


Outstanding Informational Series or Special

As impressive as much of this is (and I like the nominees in this category, by and large, quite a bit), only one of these programs actually played a part in getting a serial rapist finally into some sort of arrest situation. So it wins, because that’s above and beyond the call of television.


Exceptional Merit in Documentary Filmmaking

I like Three Identical Strangers a lot as a piece of television. It’s got a crazy-ass plot and all sorts of twisty business, and it’s a documentary. That’s pretty cool, and worthy of an Emmy.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Three Identical Strangers

Outstanding Unstructured Reality Program

It seems like United Shades of America was nominated for a bunch of these last year, and this year it’s not in nearly as many categories. That’s fine, it’s still very good and it deserves this one.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: United Shades of America with W. Kamau Bell

Outstanding Structured Reality Program

Every year I am perplexed and/or frustrated by this category, and every year I give to Antiques Roadshow out of spite. I’m nothing if not comfortable with tradition.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Antiques Roadshow

  1. not that one 
  2.  the amount that this level of interest is offset by the number of technical categories regarding which I am far from an expert is left up to the reader  
  3. Outstanding Motion Design, Outstanding Innovation in Interactive Programming, Outstanding Choreography for Scripted Programming, Outstanding Individual Achievement in Animation 
  4. I acknowledge that it seems weird to say “yet another category” when this is the first time it comes up, but I’m in the future and I know the rest of the categories, both here and in the primetime ceremony 
  5. and also in every other way  
  6. I mean this both in the sense that their voices are of varying degrees of sonic loudness, and also the volume of human tissue in the car probably affects things considerably, in terms of the mix, due to acoustic reflection and whatnot. 
  7. with the caveat that I don’t actually know what all went into Homecoming, as such 
  8. which is strange, because Trenchmouth should have been great: Fred Armisen is a very good drummer, and Damon Locks has made a bunch of great music since then, including the very week in which I’m writing this. 
  9. the other option being that the programming is there to prop up the money made from paid subscribers 
  10. to wit: they have to find people that are good in drag, and that can do all the stuff associated with costuming and performing in a drag persona, and still be competitive – i.e. they have to make sure that the winner isn’t a foregone conclusion every year (some of this is probably on the editors, also) 
  11. I mean, a salacious sensational biopic about a storied choreographer and his favorite dancer was basically never going to be for me, so that might go without saying. 
  12. I know that I bestow this honor on three different shows, but until Atlanta and/or The Good Place can deliver me as many episodes as good as “Escape from LA,” “Fish Out of Water”, “That’s Too Much, Man”, “Stupid Piece of Shit,” “Ruthie,” “Free Churro” or “Mr Peanutbtter’s Boos” then they will, no matter how much more awards attention (and ratings) they get, always be, at best, second. And even then, it is deeply unlikely that any television program will ever top the one-two of “The Old Sugarman Place” and “Time’s Arrow” as actual bona-fide masterpieces of television writing (NB that these episodes are from all over the series’ run, so wouldn’t all be eligible, like “Free Churro”. This is not to say that I don’t love the other contenders very much, but only to say that Bojack Horseman is a genuine actual genius piece of work, and deserves many more awards from all corners. 
  13. I love this joke more than I love some members of my family.