Ant and Dec – two people but only one brand or entity, like Crosse & Blackwell or health and safety. They might be a ‘Geordie duo” but for the past 13 years they’ve been named best Entertainment Presenter at the National Television Awards. The obvious question to ask is – can they win 14 in a row?
I don’t see why not. They’re peerless and brilliant at what they do; professional but never slick. Or maybe they are slick – they’re just so good, they don’t actually look it when, for instance, they’re howling with laughter at yelping, embattled I’m a Celebrity contestants. If anyone else did this, it would seem mean. When Ant and Dec do it, well, it’s only a bit of fun, isn’t it?
It’s fitting that Ant and Dec should be such huge popular favourites in the only television awards voted for by the viewing public, rather than TV types sitting in small rooms droning on about “authored pieces” and the “zeitgeist” as they adjust their fashionable spectacles and drink expensive bottled water. No, this is all down to you, dear readers.
But look at the lists opposite. Not easy, is it? Doubtless many of your favourites don’t get a look-in. The long-lists were very long indeed and were whittled down to four per category, and there’s nothing for popular favourites like Endeavour, Grantchester, Scott & Bailey, New Tricks.
Still, look on the bright side – the NTAs as a whole is a beacon of fairness when it comes to gender equality. There’s no best actress or actor category; men and women arm-wrestle it out under the catch-all Drama Performance. Thus Sarah Lancashire, so searing and unforgettable in Happy Valley, will be judged against Sherlock himself, Benedict Cumberbatch.
As I will say again, not easy, is it? Dame Maggie Smith (Downton Abbey) and Sheridan Smith (for her turn as Cilla Black in the ITV biopic Cilla) will join them. Tough choice. (Sad to see no nomination for Keeley Hawes after her career best Line of Duty. Maybe Jed Mercurio’s icy crime drama was just a bit too niche. No nod for the new Doctor, Peter Capaldi, either. Maybe next year.)
There are a couple of new categories: Skills Challenge Show is an elegant way of saying “A Bit More Upmarket than a Talent Show”, and it’s a way of allowing the mighty Great British Bake Off to get a look-in. It’s accompanied by Come Dine with Me, MasterChef and The Apprentice.
Also making its debut is the TV Judge category, where Mary Berry of the Bake Off joins the delightfully eclectic line-up of Simon Cowell, Cheryl Fernandez-Versini and David Walliams (What, no Mel B?).
Over at Daytime, we have Pointless, which has become a cultural icon, against The Chase, which I love (host Bradley Walsh is recognised in best Entertainment Presenter) even though I don’t understand it, no matter how many times it’s explained, against This Morning and the horribly alluring Jeremy Kyle Show (I know, there are no words, I’m sorry).
Everything shortlisted is a behemoth because this is an awards ceremony devoted to the big beasts, as opposed to documentaries about yak-milkers on the Tibetan Plateau. But there’s nothing wrong with that – let TV’s lions roar.
You can vote for the National Television Awards here