While the Emmys have been often criticized for their lack of originality when picking their nominees, the same surely can’t be said for the BAFTAs, who released their nominations this morning to a mixed reception due to some shameful snubs, accusations of category fraud, and unknown names and shows dominating some major categories. However, it wasn’t a surprise to see the period drama Wolf Hall, which has already one the Golden Globe Award for Best Limited Series/TV Movie, and reaped plenty of Emmy nominations, leading the way with 4 major bids, including nominations in Best Drama Series, and Lead Actor for recent Oscar winner Mark Rylance. Despite the love for Wolf Hall, Damian Lewis, who has picked up Emmy and Golden Globe nominations for his portrayal of King Henry VIII on the series, missed out in Supporting Actor to his co-star Anton Lesser. Claire Foy, who plays Anne Boleyn, was nominated in Lead Actress, despite her role being very much a Supporting one, and was where she was nominated at the Critics’ Choice Awards last year.
Her categorisation as a lead performer arguably led to perhaps the biggest snub of the morning: the Oscar-nominated actress Emily Watson for her heart-breaking performance in A Song for Jenny. It’s a classic BAFTA-winning performance, and she’s outstanding in the made-for-television movie, so her missing out came as a massive shock, and is a shameful snub at that. However, Watson missing paves the way for Sheridan Smith to win for her role as a cancer patient in the drama The C Word, which was used to explain why she lost last year for Cilla, as it was said to be a given that she would win for The C Word the following year, with Watson being her only real competition. That being said, I wouldn’t count out Suranne Jones for the mini-series Doctor Foster, or Ruth Madeley, who’s role in Don’t Take My Baby recalls last year’s winner, Georgina Campbell in Murdered by my Boyfriend. There were also complaints of category fraud on the men’s side as well, with Sir Ian McKellen nominated for his lead role in The Dresser in Best Supporting Actor, and Stephen Graham nominated for his supporting role in This is England ’90 in Lead (Graham was only in 2 of the 4 episodes). This is the reason why campaigning is so crucial in lining out who’s in which category, as without it, we end up with messes like these.
In Lead Actor, it’s looking like a tight race, with Rylance and Graham being joined by Ben Whishaw, who won in this category in 2013 for The Hollow Crown, for London Spy, and Idris Elba, who receives his first BAFTA TV nomination for his performance on Luther. Following the extra recognition he has received from his Oscar win for Bridge of Spies, I give Rylance the edge, but definitely don’t count out Elba, who beat him at the Screen Actors Guild Awards for these performances, the only time the two have faced off for these performances. Another actor trying to build off his big screen success is Tom Courtenay, who’s nominated for Best Supporting Actor for Unforgetten, coming after his critically acclaimed performance in the drama film 45 Years. He’s my pick to win at the moment, as there isn’t a clear alternative, as he is up against the aforementioned McKellen, and Lesser, as well as character actor Cyril Nri for the Channel 4 drama Cucumber. Over in Supporting Actress, I’m giving Lesley Manville the slight edge for her role in River, but this looks like the prime place for an upset, as she is up against 14-year-old Eleanor Washington-Cox for The Enfield Haunting, Chanel Cresswell for This is England ’90, who could win if the show sweeps, and Michelle Gomez for Doctor Who, despite her unpopularity among some whovians.
Over in the comedy categories, there was a shake up in the Best Scripted Comedy category, as none of last year’s nominees returned, with the most notable absentee being last year’s winner Detectorists, which received only one nomination overall, a well deserved nod for Toby Jones in Best Male Comedy Performance. Despite both David Mitchell and Robert Webb missing in the Male Comedy Performance category, Peep Show is surely the frontrunner to win for it’s final season. It’ll compete against Peter Kay’s Car Share, which has extremely well, receiving nods for both leads, Peter Kay, and Sian Gibson, the Channel 4 comedy-drama Chewing Gum, and the urban BBC Three sitcom People Just Do Nothing, which I hadn’t heard of before today. In Comedy Actor, it looks like an even field, with Kay and Jones facing off against one of last year’s nominees, Hugh Bonneville for W1A (the show’s only nomination), and a surprise inclusion for Javone Prince, for his little-watched BBC Two sketch show, The Javone Prince Show. I’ll go for Kay for now, due to his beloved reputation. In Female Comedy Performance, the field was opened massively by the presumed frontrunner, transgender actress Rebecca Root for Boy Meets Girl, missing, paving the way for Miranda Hart to win for the final season of her sitcom, Miranda. It won’t be easy for her, though, as she is up against the aforementioned Gibson, Michaela Coel for Chewing Gum, for which she has also picked up writing and directing nominations, and Sharon Horgan for the critically acclaimed trans-atlantic comedy Catastrophe.
As for the main categories, Wolf Hall looks like a comfortable winner in Best Drama Series, ahead of Humans, The Last Panthers, and No Offence, while This is England ’90 is likely to take home Best Mini-Series for the final season of Shane Meadows’ anthology series, as it goes up against Doctor Foster, The Enfield Haunting, and London Spy, the latter being the biggest threat for a potential upset. With three major contenders missing in Best Single Drama (A Song for Jenny, An Inspector Calls, and The Dresser), The C Word looks like a comfortable victor, with it’s toughest competition coming from Don’t Take my Baby, which is the only of three other nominees with multiple nominations. Cyberbully and The Go-Between complete the list. On a personal level, I am delighted to see my favourite show, Amazon’s Transparent, nominated for Best International Programme, which it’ll likely win against the weak opposition of The Good Wife, Narcos, and French drama Spiral. However, I’m not happy about Casualty missing out in Best Continuing Drama as it is the best of the eligible shows by a mile. The predictable line-up of Coronation Street, EastEnders, Emmerdale, and Hollyoaks are nominated instead, with Corrie the likely victor.
Overall, it was a mixed bag, with plenty to be happy about, in terms of recognition for shows that have struggled to find a mainstream audience, and plenty to be grumpy about, particularly category fraud, that continues to be a major issue. That being said, I’m very looking forward to the ceremony, and finding out who wins, as the nominations have shown that the BAFTA Television Awards continue to be unpredictable. And that’s a good thing, right?