British Academy Television Awards 2016- Preview

Idris Elba is looking to win his first BAFTA Television Award for Luther, but faces tough competition from Ben Whishaw (London Spy), and Mark Rylance (Wolf Hall).

Perhaps the most unpredictable of all awards shows, due to the lack of precursors and media attention, the British Academy Television Awards return for the 2016 ceremony this Sunday night, with Graham Norton back as host. The question that many are asking before the ceremony, is whether it’ll be the high profile shows that will end up taking the top prize, or whether it’ll be more of the under-the-radar shows that the Academy have recognized in their nominations.

The odds on favourite to take the big award of the night, Best Drama Series, is the Golden Globe winning historical drama Wolf Hall. Despite being pushed up to the Drama Series category, rather than in the limited series categories that it has competed in at the Emmys, and at the Golden Globes, it’s still likely to take the crown, over Sky One’s The Last Panthers, and Channel 4’s No Offence and Humans. Going along with it’s likely triumph is recent Oscar winner Mark Rylance, who is competing in the Best Actor category for his portrayal of Thomas Cromwell in the series, a role that has earned him Emmy, Golden Globe, and SAG nominations, all of which he lost. Funnily enough, the man who beat him to the SAG Award is nominated against him again for the same role: Idris Elba for Luther. Coming off 2 recent Golden Globe nominations, 2 SAG wins, and a BAFTA Film Award nomination, Elba is on fire at the moment, and has earned him his first BAFTA nod for Luther on his third time of asking. He’s a threat, but surely, if they liked him that much, surely he would have been nominated before now. The potential spoiler here is Ben Whishaw for London Spy. He won in this category for The Hollow Crown in 2013, and has increased in popularity following acclaimed supporting roles in Suffragette, Spectre, and The Lobster, as well as his lead voice role in Paddington. He’s one to watch out for. Stephen Graham is also nominated for This is England ’90, but unless the show sweeps, a win for him is unlikely.

Moving over to the Best Actress category, it is very hard to pick a winner, as it is incredibly competitive. It’s even trickier as the frontrunner, Emily Watson, wasn’t even nominated, which, for me, came as an almighty shock. Still, it paves the way for someone to come through to take it. On paper, it looks like it should be an easy win for Sheridan Smith: she’s a BAFTA darling, she plays a woman with cancer, her film, The C Word, is nominated in Best Single Drama. But has her moment gone? If she couldn’t win last year for Cilla, what does that say about how the voters feel about her. I’m actually probably going with Suranne Jones for Doctor Foster, as it seems a more mainstream, and more popular choice. However, that doesn’t necessarily cut it in this category. Remember last year when Georgina Campbell took a surprise victory for Murdered by my Boyfriend? That suggests that Ruth Madeley is in with a shot for the similarly emotionally stirring Don’t Take My Baby, a win that would be a great success for showing how diverse the BAFTA TV Awards are, as Madeley is one of only a few disabled actors working today. I give Claire Foy little chance for Wolf Hall, however, as it’s really a supporting role, and she’s not as memorable as the other performers. In the Supporting Actress category, it’s looking like a straightforward win for Chanel Cresswell, as This is England ’90 is the one that appears to be appreciated across the board in terms of categories. Lesley Manville is a beloved actress, Michelle Gomez will have the geek vote, and young Eleanor Washington Cox will definitely get votes (I’m still surprised that voters went with The Enfield Haunting, so that’s something), but I think Cresswell has this. But you never know. There are no locks when it comes to the BAFTA TV Awards.

As for Supporting Actor, I think that it’ll go to Nigerian actor Cyril Nri, for his performance in the LGBT drama series, Cucumber. However, against three beloved veteran actors, including two-time Oscar nominees Sir Ian McKellen (The Dresser, which is clear category fraud), and Tom Courtenay (Unforgotten), an upset could occur. Also, as with Foy, if Wolf Hall sweeps, Anton Lesser could surprise. Nri should count himself lucky that Damian Lewis was shockingly snubbed, otherwise he would have a very close challenger.

As for the comedy races, the race for Best Scripted Comedy is very tight. I’m giving the slight edge to Peter Kay’s Car Share, as it has managed to receive nominations for both its stars, and its writing. However, don’t be surprised if the sentimental pick, Peep Show ends up winning. Both Cucumber, and People Just Do Nothing have a small chance, but could shock. In Male Comedy Performance, justice should finally be served for Toby Jones, as on his 3rd nomination, he looks set to win his 3rd BAFTA for his brilliant performance in Detectorists. However, the BAFTAs are known to disappoint, so the safe option of Peter Kay could be picked. Hugh Bonneville is nominated for the 4th time in this category for playing Ian Fletcher, but buzz has died down a bit too much on W1A for a victory here. The wildcard, Javone Prince, would be an interesting pick, but I doubt it. As for the women, they like to pick a wildcard. The obvious option is Miranda Hart for the final season of Miranda, but I’m going out on a limb and say Sharon Horgan for Catastrophe, as she has more critical backing. Michaela Coel would be a cool choice, but her victory at the Craft Awards will probably be it for her. The boring option would be Sian Gibson for Car Share, the kind of move that is possible if the BAFTAs love the show as much as we anticipate.

In the Single Drama category, the only TV Movie that delivered in the nominations out of the contenders was The C-Word, so I see that winning. Best Mini-Series is a stacked field, but I see the sentimental favourite, This is England ’90, coming out as triumphant. EastEnders should win Best Continuing Drama, while Transparent should come out on top as the worthy winner of Best International Programme. Host Graham Norton is likely to win yet again in Best Entertainment Performance (though look out for departing host of QI, Stephen Fry, as one who could possibly upset). Best Entertainment Programme will likely go to the popular one-off show Adele at the BBC, and Best Comedy Entertainment Programme will probably be QI.

Whatever happens, we’re in for a great show, and I for one cannot wait! Good luck to all nominees, though I am personally rooting for Toby Jones in Best Male Comedy Performance, and Transparent in Best International Programme.

The British Academy Television Awards, hosted by Graham Norton, are on Sunday 8th May 2016 at 8pm on BBC One.

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