The Bafta Television Awards 2000

Saturday, May 13, 2000 by , and

So they still do these kind of things, do they? Starry clothed backdrops? Cheap, cheesy music? Camera shots from the gods either side of the commercial breaks, and appalling Steve Jones voice-overs?

This is TV awards in the pre- Fox/Fleetwood/Brits mould. Muted but respectful applause greeted the likes of Peter Kosminksy (who won this year’s Alan Clarke award for the worthy Warriors), and then we cut straight to the currently ubiquitous (and now reviled) Kate Thornton interviewing the cast ofEastEnders. That was the kind of programme this was.

The television industry letting its hair down is an uncomfortable, corpulent sight, and this production offered us an unfettered glimpse into the true psyche of the British media. In truth, no more offensive a sight then any alcohol fuelled gathering of co-workers, this still went against the grain. For years these folks have mercilessly lampooned and ridiculed exactly this type of “old style variety trappings”. Tonight they were fervent participators. Apparently, countless cynical comments about awards ceremonies count for naught when you think your name might be on the cup. Erstwhile favourite of TV types (and conversely, I suspect less so of your average television viewer), presenter Des Lynam attempted to bring some unflustered gentle cynicism to the occasion: A sweetener to those media types who were sitting uneasily throughout this glittering tack.

And what of the awards themselves? There were no surprises here. Mercifully, dramas featuring Douglas Henshall failed to capture anything, and it was difficult to determine one true winner amongst tonight’s recipients. Certainly Aherne and the gang scored on the Best Sitcom and Comedy Performance category, making The Royle Family one of the only two programmes to receive more than one award (the other being the double win for Warriors). Yet there was a sense that there had been nothing particularly sensational produced in the last 12 months. Nice though it was to see The League of Gentlemen pick up a BAFTA (for Best Comedy), in the company of A Touch of Frost and Robbie the Reindeer: Hooves of Fire one felt their palpable delight to be a little devalued by such inauspicious company.

Laudable though it might have been to mark the significance of a programme such as The Avengers, a token award for “The Avengers Girls” was the wrong way to do it. They were only one part, one element of the crucial formula which rendered the series so iconographical. Patrick Macnee appeared only briefly on a pre-recorded film insert enforcing the sense that the writers, creators and designers who were responsible for much of The Avengers influential aesthetic, were inconsequential and irrelevant when compared to the presence of a poorly scripted Honor Blackman and never amusing Joanna Lumley. Here the BAFTA’s chose to commemorate The Avengers via the most easily sellable, marketable and – I suppose – attractive commodity. Whither Sydney Newman?

One of the better decision was to award Best Feature programme to Blood on the Carpet. As part of the mighty Robert Thirkell empire (which also includes Back to the FloorTrouble at the TopTrouble at the Big TopTrouble Between the Covers and Dangerous Company) this was recognition for a hitherto unrecognised vein of TV talent. Sparingly promoted by BBC2, Blood on the Carpet and its ilk are the mainstays of the channel’s popular-documentary programming line-up. And alongside – say - Living With the Enemy, these are fascinating, enjoyable programmes which will take on the status of something like Man Alive as a portrait of contemporary Britain.

Other awards recognised the more established members of the TV firmament: Dame Thora Hird received the cynical “nearly dead” award (Best Actress), and a BAFTA for A Touch of Frostrecognised the lazy ITV policy of churning out endless detective based series fronted by an actor best known for other parts. However, I suppose the most reviled decision will have been the presentation of the night’s top award to Peter Bazelgette. Curiously though, unlike much of the night which smelt of old favours re-paid, there was a pleasing honesty to this decision, and to the audience’s reaction. No standing ovation for Peter, instead something of an awkward shuffling from the chairs of those who realised that as a barometer for our current television times – this year’s ceremony had been depressingly accurate in its gloomy reading.


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