How did The Greatest Dancer get nominated for a BAFTA at the expense of Britain’s Got Talent?

A parting gift for the show, which was cancelled after two series, but how did it beat BGT?

the greatest dancer

Finally, the team behind The Greatest Dancer has something to smile about – the axed series is now BAFTA nominated!

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Despite Cheryl, Matthew and Oti’s star power, the experience of Simon Cowell’s production company and the novelty factor of auditions featuring a stunt mirror, the dance competition failed to resonate with viewers. The BBC wanted it to be the next Strictly, but it was all just a bit too nice – even the Bake Off contestants get a bit of criticism sometimes.

The show, hosted by Alesha Dixon and Jordan Banjo, was cancelled after just two series, leaving the producers to go back to the drawing board.

What a surprise then, to see the show shortlisted for a BAFTA, the highest honour a TV programme can receive in this country. Seriously, what happened? Was there something about that really annoying receptionist that the BAFTA jury loved? Or did they just enjoy the over-excited way Alesha would shout the show’s title into the camera?

This year’s Entertainment Programme category certainly raised a few eyebrows, and not just because of one show. While the drama nominations predictably (and quite rightly) honoured the shows we loved – Chernobyl, Gentleman Jack, The Crown, A Confession, The Virtues etc – the entertainment nominations went a bit rogue.

Some of it makes sense when you break it down. For starters, Strictly Come Dancing did get nominated as expected, and it’s no great surprise that the celebrity series of X Factor wasn’t deemed BAFTA-worthy. The omission of Ant and Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway, which often features in this category, is understandable when you do some digging – although it feels like a regular fixture on our screens, the show was actually off air during 2019, and therefore wasn’t eligible for consideration.

But no nod in this category for Michael McIntyre’s Big Show, which regularly gets nominated, or Britain’s Got Talent, which has won the award for the past two years. Was series 13, won by veteran Colin Thackeray, a duff year? Not particularly.

The Greatest Dancer
The Greatest Dancer 2020 champs

Of course it’s good to mix things up – one of the greatest criticisms aimed at the National Television Awards is that we could sit here in June and correctly guess 70 per cent of next year’s nominees (and winners) – it can be a little repetitive. And props to The Voice UK for a well deserved nomination, and The Rap Game on BBC Three, which should see its audiences triple with this kind of profile-boosting nod.

It’s absolutely right that shows shouldn’t automatically receive a nomination because they get good ratings. EastEnders was left out of this year’s soap category, leaving fans upset, but it only deserves its place if the episodes have been strong enough, not just because it’s one of the most famous programmes in its genre.

But The Greatest Dancer elbowing BGT off the list? It does seem odd. But that is exactly what keeps awards shows interesting. A jury critically assesses the runners and riders and comes to its own conclusion. BAFTA is about excellence, not popularity, and clearly The Greatest Dancer was found to be worthy of a shot at the trophy.

I’m all for it… as long as Strictly takes a well-deserved win on the night of course.

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This year’s British Academy Television Awards, hosted by Richard Ayoade, will air on Friday 31st July on BBC One. To find out what else is on, check out our TV Guide.