NEVER mind what I think -
the British Academy Television Awards (BBC1, Sunday) tells
us what the professionals themselves judge to be the best
performances and productions by their peers over the previous 12
months. It is an illuminating and impressive line-up, indicating
that television's peaks in 2012 reached the highest standard.
It was, of course, an
exceptional year: Channel 4's coverage of The London 2012
Paralympics won gold in the Sport and Live Event category, but
this meant that the BBC's broadcasting of the London Olympics and
the Olympics Opening Ceremony (contenders in the same category) won
nothing, despite their superlative quality.
Continuing the theme, the
British genius for laughing at ourselves was properly lauded by the
Situation Comedy prize's going to Twenty Twelve, the
brilliant spoof that mocked our preparation for the Games; and the
compère, Graham Norton, did not bother to hide his contempt that
the Radio Times Audience Award - the only one voted for by
supposedly ordinary mortals - was given to the egregious Game
of Thrones instead of to The London 2012 Olympic Opening
Many awards played to
im-memorial strengths: Simon Russell Beale as Falstaff in Henry
IV; Ben Whishaw in Richard II. The prizes give an
interesting commentary on our public values: the Paralympics given
preference over the Olympics; Last Tango In Halifax, "a
love story for the over-35s", winning the award for Drama Series;
The Great British Bake-Off winning the Best Feature; the
Specialist Factual award given to All in the Best Possible
Taste, the cross-dressing artist Grayson Perry's series, in
which he took delight in the supposed kitsch ornaments and pictures
that many people love.
All this suggests a
nation at ease with itself, eager to accept rather than condemn,
aware that the ordinary is often very special indeed. There was
not, I'm afraid, much to be seen of the Church, or religion.
The Shame of the Catholic Church, an excellent documentary
about the cover-up of paedophile priests in Ireland, won the
Current Affairs prize, but was considered too boring to be included
in the televised part of the ceremony.
The delicious Olivia
Coleman, who won not one, but two, BAFTAs, spanning both drama and
comedy, is for ever, as far as I'm concerned, thanks to her co-
starring role in Rev, a Vicar's wife - and therefore most
assuredly counts as "one of ours".
Context is all: that
mantra of serious biblical scholarship, which insists that we need
thoroughly to understand the background of ancient texts before we
can properly understand them; that what appears simple on the
printed page can be misunderstood if we read only through the
distorting lens of our present-day assumptions, was applied to a
less august but widely loved text in Pride and Prejudice:
Having a ball (BBC2, Friday).
It celebrated the bicentenary of the novel by seeking an
accurate historic reconstruction of the ball at Netherfield. What
would they really have worn, eaten, and danced? Alas, all admirable
purpose was undermined by the presenters' treating the whole thing
as rather a romp, with no opportunity for an arch aside left
unturned. The title said it all.