Sunday 23 October 2016

The BAFTAs judges got it right on the night ... mostly

MOST awards ceremonies tend to be curate’s eggs and Sunday night’s BAFTA television awards were very much a case of The Good, the Not Bad and the Frankly Bewildering.

The standout moments in my book were Matt Berry taking Best Male Comedy Performer for the hilarious Toast of London (despite it having a tiny audience) and Marvellous winning Best Single Drama.

Writer Peter Bowker and director Julian Farino’s 90-minute film was a lovely, funny, touching and gloriously uplifting tribute to the extraordinary Neil ‘Nello’ Baldwin, a man who’s never allowed his learning disability to prevent him from living a full and rich life (circus clown, Stoke City FC kit man, honorary graduate of Keele University), or from enriching the lives of everyone who comes into contact with him.

More than that, it was also a dazzling demonstration of what can be achieved when a talented bunch of people decide to rip up the TV drama rulebook and create something completely fresh and original. Like Nello himself, Marvellous, an intoxicating mixture of fact, fiction, comedy and fantasia that never stooped to cynical, heart-tugging schmaltz, was a genuine one-off.

The only thing that would have made its triumph even sweeter was if Toby Jones, who played Nello, had nabbed Best Actor. As great as winner Jason Watkins was in the miniseries The Lost Honour of Christopher Jefferies, I thought Jones deserved it more.

Still, at least the great Gemma Jones (no relation) was rewarded with Best Supporting Actress for her performance as Nello’s devoted mother.

On a night of mild surprises, the biggest upset was probably a relative unknown, 22-year-old Georgina Campbell, winning Best Actress for her performance in BBC3’s powerful single drama Murdered By My Boyfriend. While it’s always good to see young talent being rewarded, especially when drama producers tend to rely too much on the same pool of familiar middle-aged talent, I can’t help but feel Keeley Hawes was robbed.

She was simply sensational in Line of Duty, playing a detective whose motives remained ambiguous right to the very end. You often found your suspicion switching to sympathy and back to suspicion again within a single scene. The fact that the tension never let up once during the six episodes was as much due to Hawes’s exceptionally nuanced acting as Jed Mercurio’s ingenious script.

For the record, I would have given the Best Drama Series award to Line of Duty, although it was a tight call between it, The Missing and the eventual winner, Happy Valley (the fourth nominee, Peaky Blinders, was always going to be the outsider in this kind of company).

But let’s not forget about the bearded fellow in our picture. Graham Norton the host had to make way at the podium for Graham Norton the winner as his Friday night BBC1 chat show picked up the Best Comedy Entertainment Programme gong.

Gracious and generous, he stepped aside and let the show’s production team bask in the glory of the moment.

This was the Corkman’s third BAFTA for the show and, including the ones he won hosting So Graham Norton on Channel 4, his sixth in 15 years. It reaffirms, as if anyone needed it to be reaffirmed, that he’s now the undisputed best at what he does.

Meanwhile, Jonathan Ross, the man Norton replaced, but who his critics said he could never truly displace, failed to even get a nomination for his Saturday night ITV show.

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