TELEVISION’S “biggest night of the year” and its host were already dead in the water when David Walliams headed into the first advert break with a threat.
“Still to come . . .
“Pop royalty, showbiz royalty, a hedgehog, plus my second joke of the evening. Look out for that.”
So I did, but still can’t isolate the exact moment it arrived at last week’s National Television Awards, on ITV, where the industry had assembled for the 25th time and, quite possibly, the last as well.
If it was the NTA’s farewell, then it’d be a mercy killing for an event where shock results have come along about as regularly as Hezbollah divisions have arrived at the Changing of the Guard.
Five years ago, you could’ve bet the house Ant and Dec would claim their 19th presenting title, and This Morning’s Phillip and Holly would milk their tenth consecutive Best Magazine Show hangover, to the point their long-suffering audience were probably feeling homicidal.
This year’s only vague surprise being, it transpired, Ant and Dec thought the same way as the viewers, with Dec admitting they: “Feel more and more sick every year.”
There was a flip side to all these set-in-stone voting patterns, of course.
The NTAs remained the one place on television earth where Mrs Brown’s Boys could be relied upon to beat the massively overrated Fleabag.
Considering how regimented the actual voting is, though, the far more remarkable thing about the NTAs is that it’s nearly always a shambolic production.
Categories come, go, mutate and divide into three drama sections (New Drama, Drama, Serial Drama).
Some are accompanied by clips (Best Challenge Show). Others, like New Drama, aren’t. It also whores itself out commercially and jumps on every available bandwagon.
So David Mitchell trudged on randomly, dressed as Shakespeare, to promote a stage show, and the Impact Award was given to Gavin & Stacey, when it had “Caroline Flack’s bedside lamp” written all over it.
A lot of this was down to the fact the NTAs still don’t know their own mind.
They want to be both popular and highbrow, which meant poor old Michael Palin was left describing it as “a hotbed of talent”, while the camera went looking for Tess Daly.
Through it all (and even rehab), Ant, Dec and This Morning have endured, and it’s possible to have a bit of sympathy for the production, with such stubbornly repetitive voting habits.
The NTAs and ITV really are the authors of most of their own misfortune here, though.
Insecure television networks need a Best Magazine category, TV awards don’t.
Nor do they need a Best Judge, which was the section that eventually lumbered them with four-times winner David Walliams, the trouserless host — a man whose world begins and ends with himself and, when required to do something else, like pay tribute to Nicholas Parsons, performs it with all the sincerity of a “mind the gap” announcement.
As luck would have it, however, two very obvious solutions to the hosting problem presented themselves in the audience, on Tuesday.
One was Ricky Gervais, who probably wouldn’t do it.
The other, in about row 17, was Bradley Walsh, who stole the entire show by virtue of winning and saying nothing, but pulling all the right faces.
Bradley would be the most obvious fit in the event’s history and I’m sure it would be warmly welcomed by most people, if only the National Television Awards were worth saving.
Unexpected morons in the bagging area
All contributions gratefully received
Geoff's a Brexit winner
THREE and a half meandering years it took us to reach Friday night’s 11pm Brexit countdown.
Yet in all that time I can’t remember one occasion when British TV’s satirical shows actually had something laugh-out-loud funny to say on the subject.
That’s almost certainly because Have I Got News For You, The Last Leg, The Mash Report and Frankie Boyle’s New World Order all decided their left-of-centre anti-Brexit opinion was far more important than mere comedy.
The wonderful irony is that the collective fury and bile has definitely had an effect.
It’s made a minor star out of Geoff Norcott, one of those very rare comedians who’s not just a Conservative/Leaver, he’s actually likeable as well.
As the token voice of Brexit, Channel 4 and the BBC, very grudgingly, have had to include Geoff on almost every comedy show, including The Last Leg: Countdown To Brexit, where they’ve been trying and failing to screw a laugh out of Adam Hills’ beard for months now.
I gave up on the latest attempt after about half an hour, which meant I was still looking for a show to make sense of Britain’s relationship with Europe and had only two reasonable options available, as the clock ticked down to 11pm.
One was calm, sober analysis from the BBC, the other was ITV+1’s screening of Love Island.
Obviously, I took the more credible option and discovered men in lederhosen were flinging jugs of beer at scantily clad Frauleins while the commentator explained: “We sent a runner to buy strap-on harnesses and stuff poles on them.
“The girls’ job is to toss pretzels at the boys and the couple with the least amount of pretzels on their pole at the end is out.”
Sophie Raworth, you’ve changed.
MAN Like Mobeen?
Man don’t like Mobeen.
Great Sporting Insights
I luvvie a fine wine
THE dressing-up box brigade lulled me into a false sense of security, at Sunday night’s Baftas, on BBC1.
True, host Graham Norton made sure there was an undercurrent of hostility to “white men” (boo), from the start, and there was all the usual self-aggrandising flannel about “giving a voice to the voiceless”.
But Andy “Gollum” Serkis made a two-minute 20-second speech, accepting his Outstanding Contribution award, that was so beautifully judged it seemed to pacify them for nearly an hour and a half.
Then Rebel Wilson (sort of) joked that it was only sexism that stopped her joining Martin Scorsese and Sam Mendes in the Best Director category and it was like she’d flipped a switch on the entire room.
Suddenly, Joaquin Phoenix was agonising about “systemic racism” and Prince William was lecturing everyone about “diversity” without the entire Royal Albert Hall gasping at his brass neck.
Then, just when I thought it couldn’t get worse, up popped Hugh Grant to announce he was so impressed with the Best Film contenders His Lordship had actually condescended to vote for one of them, which I’m assuming lost.
For a couple of seconds at least, though, it really was possible to think, “Maybe the National TV Awards weren’t so bad, after all.”
Great TV lies and delusions of the week
WINTERWATCH, prediction of the week, Iolo Williams to Chris Packham: “In ten years’ time, we’ll probably have penduline tits.”
Arthritic groins, Spacehopper-sized prostates and chronic flatulence.
Further to last week’s allegations, Good Morning Britain weather girl Laura Tobin says: “I do not crave attention. I like to have attention for my work, good climate change stories and Nasa trips.”
As I noticed myself, when I saw Laura appear in Tipping Point: Lucky Stars, Drive, with Vernon Kay, Pointless Celebrities and Sharknado 5: Global Swarming.