Fantasy drama Game of Thrones has scooped the Radio Times Audience Award at this year’s Bafta Television Awards, the only award decided by the public.
In a closely fought battle that saw tens of thousands of viewers voting for their favourite show of the year, series two of the HBO drama – which airs in the UK on Sky Atlantic – beat off competition from period drama Call the Midwife, The Great British Bakeoff, US conspiracy thriller Homeland, Strictly Come Dancing and coverage of the Olympic Opening Ceremony.
Although it’s produced by an American TV network, and has garnered an Emmy for US actor Peter Dinklage, Game of Thrones is populated by a predominantly British cast, with veteran actors such as Charles Dance and Diana Rigg appearing opposite rising stars like Richard Madden, Emilia Clarke, Kit Harington and Gwendoline Christie.
Dance and Christie joined producer Frank Doelger on stage to accept the award. Asked afterwards what was the key to the show’s success, Vogler said it was impossible to identify a single element and that it was very much a team effort.
“The quality of the writing is superb. I think the character drama is first-rate, and I think the mix of reality with fantasy elements is pretty intoxicating,” said Doelger. “The casting is very strong, the productions values, all the people who have contributed to it in all the different departments – it all seems to work.”
Game of Thrones is based on the epic series of novels by George RR Martin, and follows the warring factions of Westeros as they vie for the Iron Throne which rules the land’s seven kingdoms.
Despite featuring dragons, sorcery and supernatural beings, the series’ complex political machinations, twisting plot and flawless characterisations and performances have seen it gain a loyal following of not only fantasy fans but also viewers and critics who would never usually show an interest in the genre.
Journalist and author India Knight described Game of Thrones as “a great deal more than ‘just’ fantasy.
“It presents fully realised worlds, rich and labyrinthine – worlds that live in your head. In terms of enormous themes – life, death, love, revenge, power – it makes Shakespeare’s history plays look a bit piecemeal.”
Boyd Hilton, TV editor of Heat magazine, and a member of the panel that chose the six nominees for the Radio Times award, said “I think it’s the best show on TV right now. It’s intelligent, its clever, it’s got loads of nudity. What more could you want?
“And it’s got a massive, loyal fan base.”
It’s that fan base which has made Game of Thrones an unprecedented ratings hit for Sky Atlantic, with 750,000 viewers tuning in to the satellite channel for the launch of season three – a staggering 1,700% increase on the channel’s average in the show’s Monday 9pm slot.
And, of course, it’s those same fans who have scooped Game of Thrones this year’s Bafta Radio Times Audience Award.