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Why is this the first time David Tennant has been nominated? Examining the merits and flaws of the TV Baftas list of nominees.
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Why is this the first time David Tennant has been nominated? Examining the merits and flaws of the TV Baftas list of nominees.


The Bafta TV nominations for this year carry a sense of farewell. Three drama series – The Crown, Happy Valley, and Succession – dominate the nominations with a combined total of nineteen. These are their final seasons, unless Netflix manages to bring back the creators of the fictional Windsors for a possible epilogue involving hospitalizations and manipulated images.

Sally Wainwright and Jesse Armstrong, the creators of Happy Valley and Succession, celebrated their success by leaving at the peak of their achievements. However, Peter Morgan, the creator of The Crown, was not recognized for his work, possibly due to a finale that featured the appearance of ghost Diana. The dominance of The Crown in the Craft awards (Costume, Make-Up, Hair, etc.) can be attributed to its strong visual production, which outshined its writing in the latter part of the series.

Two other noteworthy dramas, The Long Shadow and The Sixth Commandment, are likely to be one-time productions due to their investigations of notorious murderers (Peter Sutcliffe and Ben Field). In a time of struggle for viewers, the industry may be apprehensive about losing such strong output. In this regard, the standout performer, with six nominations, is Slow Horses from Apple TV+, which takes place in an MI6 unit for failed spies. Thankfully, with author Mick Herron still producing source material (including at least five novels and four novellas yet to be adapted for screen), Gary Oldman should have the opportunity to continue his role as the unpleasant spymaster Jackson Lamb for as long as he desires. Lamb could be seen as a counterpart to John le Carré’s George Smiley, played by Oldman in the 2011 film adaptation of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy that earned him a Bafta Film nomination.

Gary Oldman in Apple TV’s Slow Horses

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Among performers, the biggest surprise is that, at 52, David Tennant, by consensus one of our finest screen and stage actors, only now gets his first main Bafta nomination (the Welsh and Scottish academies have previously noticed him), and in the Comedy section for Good Omens. Tennant’s earlier mistake with Academy voters may have been to appear in work considered either too populist (Doctor Who, Broadchurch), or too brutal, such as the serial killer in the miniseries Des.

Recently, Bafta voters have displayed hesitation in honoring detestable wrongdoers. It is noteworthy that, although James Norton portrayed a villain in Happy Valley and Sarah Lancashire played the protagonist, Lancashire is expected to win in her category while Norton’s performance in the remarkable final scene goes unrecognized. This trend of avoiding recognition for villains is evident in Steve Coogan’s acknowledgement for his portrayal of Jimmy Savile in The Reckoning, which stands as a rare example of technical proficiency overshadowing reservations about the subject matter. Coogan’s ability to accurately capture the voice, appearance, and inner emptiness of Savile triumphs over any reluctance to acknowledge his heinous actions.

Elizabeth Debicki in The Crown

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The recent nominees once again highlight the nuances in role size that are prevalent during award seasons. After receiving a complete Golden Globe for her portrayal of Diana in The Crown, Elizabeth Debicki is now considered a supporting actor. Similarly, Matthew Macfadyen, who is arguably the main character in the finale of Succession, is nominated in the supporting category alongside Brian Cox, who is the lead in the show. (Interestingly, Bafta voters have the freedom to select any actor for any category, suggesting that strategic voting may have occurred.)

Hannah Waddingham, previously recognized for her talent in musical theatre, now receives recognition for her exceptional performance in both Hannah Waddingham: Home For Christmas and Eurovision Song Contest 2023. With her impressive credentials, she has a plethora of potential TV opportunities to choose from. She could have even added a Bafta win to her list if Ted Lasso, the show in which she stars, had been eligible in the International category. Unfortunately, it did not qualify due to the overwhelming amount of exceptional international broadcasts, including The Bear, Beef, Succession, and The Last Of Us, which only comprise four out of the six outstanding shows this year.

Renewed for this season, reality TV, an award that was lacking in competitors, is now surprisingly innovative. Despite The Traitors’ absence in the previous year, there are three promising new shows: Squid Game – The Challenge, Banged Up, and My Mum, Your Dad. In a time where the concept of truth is uncertain, reality, once ridiculed for its deceptive nature, is ironically gaining credibility.

The Factual competition highlights the important role that documentaries play as educational supplements to the news. BBC2’s Once Upon A Time In Northern Ireland served as a valuable overview of the region’s past during a time when there was a prolonged lack of government control and a nationalist leader became the first minister – a significant development that was previously thought to be impossible. Norma Percy, a renowned documentarian, has effectively shed light on Russia’s aggression towards Ukraine in her latest series, Putin v The West. There is a possibility of a second series being released next year, though we can only hope that the geopolitical situation improves and there are not many more conflicts to be documented.

The 2025 awards have a different approach compared to this year’s. Like other awards in the broadcast industry, Bafta recognizes work from the previous year. This may seem unusual as a show that aired immediately after the 31st of December must wait for about 16 months until the following spring to receive recognition. An example of this is the final season of Happy Valley, which premiered on 1 January 2023.

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Mr Bates V The Post Office

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In the current year, a particularly noteworthy situation occurred: A television program called “Mr Bates V The Post Office” aired on ITV on the first evening of the year, attracting approximately 15 million viewers through live broadcast and replay. As a result, the law was altered to vindicate the majority of the 700-plus assistant postmasters who were wrongly accused of fraud due to unreliable accounting software. Additionally, the former CEO of the Post Office, Paula Vennells, had her CBE revoked by the King.

Is it strange to wait until next year to thank the TV programme, while the Post Office delays cause concern? Amidst the ongoing national conversation, some argue that a special award should be given by the Broadcasting Press Guild before tomorrow’s prize announcement, and the Royal Television Society is also considering a similar solution for its Tuesday awards. Bafta, however, is sticking to its complicated timetables involving multiple stages of member voting. Nonetheless, at the ceremony on May 12, there is still the possibility of honoring someone involved in exposing the Post Office scandal with a fellowship or special trophy.

Unfortunately, two of the categories seem to lack strong submissions despite the overall high caliber and variety of work included. One category, Soap, has faced challenges with viewership and overall quality. As a result, it was reduced from four to three finalists due to a limited number of contenders. However, the same three shows – Casualty, EastEnders, and Emmerdale – have made the shortlist again this year.

I am reiterating my request from last year to have the News Coverage category cancelled, or at least put on hold during this time of numerous, conflicting bloodshed. It has always been uncomfortable for judges to determine the “top” coverage of a war, but the 2024 panel will have to decide between Channel 4 News and Sky News for “the Israel-Hamas War” as mentioned in the nominations. In today’s social media-heavy society, concerns about bias within the judging room or in the news coverage itself are likely to spark controversy.

(Note: I am a member of Bafta and voted, but I was unaware of the outcome until today’s announcement.)

Source: theguardian.com