Rick Dixon writes from Cambridge: I only hope The Modfather, Paul Weller of The Jam, can forgive me for mangling some of his most insightful lyrics by paraphrasing to suit my purposes, but this sprang immediately to mind:
‘…Pissing down with rain on a boring Wednesday -
Watching the National TV Awards and not eating your tea –
A freezing cold flat and damp on the walls –
Yes, the 18th National Television Awards were held last Wednesday. No, it wasn’t raining but watching it was like being pissed on. And yes, it was most definitely boring. For those of you not familiar with the original song, the line ‘That’s Entertainment’ is meant to be a bitterly sarcastic comment on the drudgery of modern life but it works equally well when talking about the drudgery of watching British Television.
I honestly don’t have the stomach to give you a minute-by-minute recap of the ceremony, or gush over who wore what – I’d fully expect you to hunt me down and hurt me if I did – so instead I’ll give you an overview of some of the winners. There is also absolutely no way I could hope to compete with rent-a-host Dermot O’Leary and his loveable, cheeky Everyman persona, so – not keeping with the spirit of the occasion – let’s get down to business with the minimum of fuss…
Most Popular Drama: ‘Drama’ – the word itself suggests thought-provoking, topical and intelligent fare, but don’t be fooled – there’s none of that on the menu. Nominated were: Downton Abbey; Doctor Who - because can’t we all relate to the threat that Daleks pose to us on a daily basis?; Merlin – I don’t know about you but the adventures of a mythical wizard in an England that never existed hardly speaks volumes to me about my life; and Sherlock - an entertaining diversion, but ultimately tiresome – there’s only so many times I can watch Benedict Cumberbatch’s eyes glaze over and his lips move in silent calculation to demonstrate his immense intellect at work.
Winner: Downton Abbey. But of course, how very proper. In these days of Broken Britain, why wouldn’t an idealised version of simpler times, dripping with über-Englishness be popular? The hired help aren’t just servants but valued and respected employees who are even consulted for the benefit of their earthy wisdom. The fiercely Republican Irish chauffeur, who marries into the aristocracy from below stairs, is eventually welcomed into the bosom of the family and accepts this – and is accepted – with a bit of curmudgeonly eye-rolling. His staunch political views and former way of life are gradually forgotten and less important with each episode. Isn’t it lovely when everyone gets along?
Most Popular Talent Show: I’m sure you’ll agree that the word ‘talent’ is being used very loosely here, especially when this category was essentially a two-horse race between The X Factor and Strictly Come Dancing. What a choice! A scripted pantomime with pre-determined winners masquerading as a singing contest and a show where a panel of queens and has-beens desperately pretend that the ability of C-list ‘celebrities’ (with an obligatory fat and/or old one for comedy value) to learn the foxtrot is the most important thing in the world.
Winner: Strictly Come Dancing – A ‘shocking’ loss for The X Factor, and yet the world keeps on turning…
Most Popular Entertainment Presenter: Ant & Dec – for being a poor man’s Morecambe and Wise, even though they’re both trying to be Morecambe (if you’re under 35, Google and YouTube can help here); Alan Carr – for services to stereotyping; Dermot O’Leary for turning up and for making everyone feel like he is their best mate; Keith Lemon – for promising never to mention his film again. Ever.
Winner: Ant & Dec – apparently they count as one entity: something we’ve all known for a long time given that this is their 12th straight win in this category.
Look, I’ll be honest – I like to think I provided a public service by sitting through this and reporting back in order to spare you the pain. However, as I go down my notes and see shows like The Jeremy Kyle Show and Big Fat Gypsy Weddings are being nominated in categories that don’t contain the words ‘shit’ or ‘mind-numbing’, I don’t think it’s particularly fair to you to carry on.
Ultimately, if you’d wanted to see a bunch of celebrities congratulating themselves on the mediocrity of British Television you’d have been watching the damned thing yourself and there’s probably nothing I can do to help you. Better to spend the time speaking to my landlord about the freezing cold and the damp on the walls in this flat.