EastEnders triumphs in a night of surprises at the National Television Awards

Corrie and Doctor Who leave empty handed

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BBC’s flagship soap opera EastEnders was the big winner at last night’s annual National Television Awards picking up three prizes including the coveted best serial drama gong at an event that threw up a number of unexpected results.

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Despite controversy surrounding the show’s recent “babygate” plot that attracted thousands of viewer complaints to the BBC and television regulator Ofcom, EastEnders spoiled the party for Coronation Street in its 50th-anniversary year by taking the top prize for ongoing drama.

Lacey Turner (Stacey Slater/Branning) and Ricky Norwood (Arthur “Fatboy” Chubb) added to the gloom in Weatherfield by winning the best serial drama performance and best newcomer awards respectively for EastEnders, leaving Corrie undecorated.

However, perhaps the biggest surprise of the evening was the failure of Doctor Who to win a prize in any category – the first time the popular sci-fi show has left the awards empty-handed since it was relaunched in 2005.

Although most commentators expected the best drama award to be a two-horse race between the BBC’s Sherlock and Doctor Who, it was Waterloo Road that triumphed in the category, also seeing off Paul Abbott’s critically acclaimed Channel 4 drama Shameless.

Fans will now be wondering whether a split in the vote for Steven Moffat – the man behind both Doctor Who and Sherlock – contributed to the lack of awards for the shows.

The disappointment continued for the two BBC series, as David Jason beat Matt Smith and Benedict Cumberbatch to the best drama performance prize for his role as DI Jack Frost in ITV’s crime drama A Touch of Frost.

There was also no award for the godfather of reality TV, Big Brother, which ended in 2010 after a decade on Channel 4. Instead, the viewers honoured ITV’s I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here! in the best entertainment programme category. The award was collected by this year’s finalists Shaun Ryder and Stacey Solomon, who had already been on stage to open the ceremony with a rather awkward duet of the Happy Mondays’ Step On.

Less surprisingly, Ant and Dec were voted best entertainment presenters for the tenth year in a row (yes, tenth!), This Morning won the best magazine programme prize, Top Gear scooped best factual programme and E4’s comedy smash hit The Inbetweeners took home the best digital choice award. ITV’s Benidorm was awarded best comedy programme for the second time in its short history.

The special recognition award was presented to Bruce Forsyth by last year’s winner Stephen Fry. In his acceptance speech, 82-year-old Brucie teased the audience with characteristic wit. “This kind of night would be a good night to announce my retirement” he said. “Well, I’m not bloody going to!”

The best talent show crown (better described as the Strictly v X Factor award) was taken by ITV’s ratings behemoth X Factor after a controversial seventh series that culminated in record numbers of viewers tuning in to watch Essex-boy-done-good Matt Cardle take the top prize.

In a year that will see Simon Cowell launch the show in the US, the media mogul was keen to emphasise that he’s not done with British TV.

“I have some ideas,” teased Cowell, when asked backstage at the 02 Arena what’s in store next for UK viewers.

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He refused to be drawn on whether Cheryl Cole will be a member of his judging panel on The X Factor America, but confirmed: “There will be an announcement in a couple of weeks.” Type your content here…