Hugo 2020: Dramatic Presentation

It is time to cover a couple of easy categories while I’m catching up on my reading. Full list of finalists is here.

I think of Best Dramatic Presentation as the low stakes categories

Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form

A bit of a tricky category for me as I decided that I wouldn’t watch the Watchmen sequel/reboot thus giving a partial answer to the famous epigraph. I’ve watched some of The Expanse and have read the books but not the recent series. The finalists are:

  • The Good Place: “The Answer”, written by Daniel Schofield, directed by Valeria Migliassi Collins (Fremulon/3 Arts Entertainment/Universal Television)
  • The Expanse: “Cibola Burn”, written by Daniel Abraham & Ty Franck and Naren Shankar, directed by Breck Eisner (Amazon Prime Video)
  • Watchmen: “A God Walks into Abar”, written by Jeff Jensen and Damon Lindelof, directed by Nicole Kassell (HBO)
  • The Mandalorian: “Redemption”, written by Jon Favreau, directed by Taika Waititi (Disney+)
  • Doctor Who: “Resolution”, written by Chris Chibnall, directed by Wayne Yip (BBC)
  • Watchmen: “This Extraordinary Being”, written by Damon Lindelof and Cord Jefferson, directed by Stephen Williams (HBO)

The two regulars are The Good Place and Doctor Who but neither are particularly strong episodes. Good fun in their various ways but nothing we haven’t seen before.

That leaves only The Mandalorian. A hit and miss series with the advantage of short episodes, the final episode was enormously good fun and packed full of Star Wars absurdity. It sort of gets my top vote by default but there is an embarrassment of riches in the range of science fiction television available currently.

What’s missing? Piles of stuff and that’s just thinking about the stuff I watched. I know there are series I haven’t caught up with or didn’t see because of time or not having the relevant streaming service

  • Kingdom – The Korean zombie historical would have been an interesting addition.
  • Rick and Morty – I guess the annoying versus inventive see-saw has dipped more to the one side
  • BoJack Horseman – I can see why people might not think of it as genre but it is as least as genre as The Good Place.
  • The Witcher – technically released in 2019 but I think most people saw it early this year. May have suffered from that ambiguity.
  • Years and Years – Russell T Davies series dystopian vision was maybe a bit too close to current events.
  • The Dragon Prince – charming and fun take on fantasy
  • She-Ra – an even better for-kids-but-great-for-adults animated series with some excellent episodes
  • Star Trek: Discovery – a much better second season with some solid episodes
  • Carnival Row – a much better series than its premise suggested
  • The Boys – probably not as good as Watchmen but it had its moments
  • Dark (season 2) – this absolutely deserves a nod. Solid sf television.
  • Love, Death and Robot – this anthology series was very hit and miss but there were individual episodes that were top notch.

Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form

  • Avengers: Endgame
  • Captain Marvel
  • Good Omens
  • Russian Doll
  • Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker
  • Us

A collection that amounts to some solid viewing. I was a little suprised that Ad Astra didn’t make it. However, the behemoths of the Avengers and Star Wars finales were inevitable entries. Let’s put those aside.

Captain Marvel was a decent Marvel flick but was not at the level of Black Panther or Thor: Ragnarok.

Good Omens. Oh dear. I just didn’t warm to this adaptation at all. I know other people loved it to bits and its pedigree is impeccable. Probably going to win but we’ll see.

Russian Doll. I was surprised to see this quirky and disturbing series get on to the ballot. Given the popularity of The Good Place with some Hugo voters, maybe there is a meditations-on-death-and-morality faction in the BPD zone. Definitely a top pick for me.

Us. Jordan Peele’s horror fantasy, that tunes into American fears and paranoia. One of my favourite films and rich in layers of absurd world building. A horror movie fairy tale.

Rankings:

  1. Us
  2. Russian Doll
  3. Captain Marvel
  4. Avengers: Endgame
  5. Star Wars IX
  6. Good Omens

18 thoughts on “Hugo 2020: Dramatic Presentation

  1. I put The Witcher on my ballot. I also must be the only Hugo voter who likes The Magicians. It was the last season, so I was hopeful it might finally get recognized. No.

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    1. You’re not alone! I’ve been nominating an episode of The Magicians each year. We’ve got one more year though — season 4 was 2019 and season 5 will be eligible next year.

      I nominated an episode of The Witcher and one from Star Trek: Discovery. I also nominated season 1 of both Carnival Row and His Dark Materials in long form. And for something probably no one else nominated: Orphan Black: The Next Chapter from Serial Box. Great continuation of the series narrated by Tatiana Maslany who did a fantastic job recreating her clones plus the other characters, returning and new.

      For short form finalists, I’ve only watched The Expanse and Doctor Who. In long form, only Good Omens. I nominated that episode of The Expanse and the season of Good Omens. I hadn’t actually watched the Doctor Who before nominations closed. It was fine, but must we really have an episode of Doctor Who when that was the only episode that aired in 2019?

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      1. To round off stuff I nominated that didn’t make it…
        The finale of Game of Thrones. While season 8 as a whole was a choppy rush, the last episode had really well done final scenes.

        And Prospect which had its eligibility extended for this year.

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  2. I didn’t put The Witcher on my Long Form ballot, but did include one episode (“Rare Species”) in Short Form.

    I got on OK with the Good Omens adaptation, though I think it suffers a bit from over-fidelity to the book – the narration has to carry rather more of the story than I think it should.

    Mention of Kingdom reminds me – a friend recently introduced me to another Korean show which I would have nominated if I’d only seen it a couple of months earlier, Hotel del Luna, a romantic dark fantasy involving a woman who’s been cursed for 1300 years to run a hotel for ghosts. It’s got a lot to commend it, and I think it’s worthy of your discerning attention.

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    1. I also nominated “Rare Species” from The Witcher in short form as well as an episode of Good Omens. My remaining short form nominees were The Mandalorian episode which made the ballot and an episode each of Star Trek Discovery and The Orville, which didn’t.

      Like Cam, I’m sceptical about Watchmen, though I will give it a try. Won’t bother with The Good Place again. Unlike Cam, Us just didn’t work for me, in spite of an amazing performance by Lupita Nyong’o.

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  3. I really liked Russian Doll. I need to watch Us.

    The Dark was great. I think maybe it’s not as well known as it should be?

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    1. The Dark is hampered by being a foreign language series (that is little known in its country of origin) and also by being up against hugely popular Hollywood series in one of the more competitive categories.

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  4. Good Omens. Oh dear. I just didn’t warm to this adaptation at all.
    You are dead to me, sir. Just for that, I’ll vote for Trump in the election that neither of us can actually vote in.

    I was actually really pleased to see Good Omens in the Long Form category as it’s clearly a single unit (a miniseries in old parlance), although I was mildly surprised that Watchmen didn’t end up there as well. Of course, this also shows up the shortcomings of a ballot that only has two categories when the written word now has five (or even six, depending upon how you count!)

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  5. I nominated a different episode of The Expanse–I thought ep 9, “Saeculum,” was stronger than the finale. Also nommed “Rare Species.”

    Hopefully, since there are two eps of Watchmen nominated, they will finally stop that godawful Good Place juggernaut.

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  6. I’m completely not surprised that Ad Astra didn’t make it. It was a dull, dreary treatment of the daddy issues that seem endemic to so much pop culture.

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    1. I think a lot of people are over “afflluent white men with daddy issues” and are looking for fresher things.

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  7. I am the anti-Cam in Long Form, absolutly love Good Omens, Russian Doll is the one I don’t really warm up, too, either this one or Star Wars will be my last place.

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