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Last Updated: Friday, 5 May 2006, 07:23 GMT 08:23 UK
The highs and lows of the TV year
By Caroline Briggs
BBC News entertainment reporter

Billie Piper and David Tennant in Doctor Who

The Bafta TV Awards, which take place on Sunday, have thrown British small screen talent into the spotlight for another year.

During the last 12 months, viewers have been treated to TV highlights like the return of the daleks, a Charles Dickens "soap opera" and a school dinner crusade.

But it also brought less inspiring offerings in the form of programmes like ITV's Celebrity Wrestling, and The Real Good Life, which was quickly axed.

The overall result, says Alison Graham, TV editor of Radio Times, was "a memorable year in patches".

And one of the most noteworthy was surely the return of the Time Lord.

"The big thing that everyone talks about is, of course, Doctor Who and the way it has revolutionised Saturday night family viewing," she says.

"It has been a huge success."

Critical hit

Freelance TV critic William Gallagher says the return of Doctor Who and shows like Life on Mars meant fantasy shows were "back in fashion".

"It would be simplistic to say that Doctor Who has been a shot in the arm since most of the best shows were already on their way before that aired," he says.

"But still the energy of that show feels as if it's somehow led the way in new drama, particularly new fantasy.

"Fantasy is back in fashion and we're going to see more of it with shows like the Doctor Who spin-off, Torchwood, but drama in general has had a boost," added Mr Gallagher.

Other drama highlights of the year included the BBC's Charles Dickens' costume drama Bleak House.

Gillian Anderson as Lady Deadlock
Bleak House's Gillian Anderson has been nominated for a Bafta

Stylish, and delivered in bitesize cliffhanger episodes, the series was a critical and viewing success, leading to four major Bafta nominations.

"Bleak House was a revolution in costume drama and the way it was broadcast in soap-style episodes was innovative," says Ms Graham.

"And people did stick with it. It kept its audience throughout."

It was also a good year for one-off dramas like The Queen's Sister, about the life of Princess Margaret, and The Government Inspector, which depicted the David Kelly affair.

Both dramas have been nominated for two Baftas each.

"It was a year that TV tackled real political issues," says Ms Graham.

[Jamie's School Dinners] changed attitudes towards what we feed our kids
Alison Graham, Radio Times

"More4's A Very Social Secretary was a farce, but The Government Inspector was a sober look at reality."

Meanwhile, Jamie Oliver proved that a TV-chef-on-a-mission to change the nation's dietary habits could also serve up a surprise hit.

Ms Graham described Jamie's School Dinners, which was broadcast in the spring, as "a remarkable piece of television".

"It changed attitudes towards what we feed our kids and changed government opinion," she says.

"There has always been campaigning television, but not campaigning TV like this.

"Even if you don't have kids it was still compelling to watch"

The Queen's Sister
Royal drama The Queen's Sister featured sex and drug-taking

Television in 2005 has also done little to satisfy the vicarious appetite for reality TV.

The adventures of Kemal, Makosi and Kinga et al brought strong audience figures for Big Brother's sixth outing.

And while the BBC's The Apprentice caught the public's imagination, it was also the year that reality TV hit new heights - literally.

Channel 4 invested millions blasting off the ambitious Space Cadets, but it failed to fire the viewing public's cylinders.

Three contestants were fooled into thinking they had blasted off from a cosmonaut training camp in Russia into space, but were in fact in a fake spaceship in a Suffolk warehouse.

Ms Graham says: "Space Cadets did not work for me on any level at all.

"It was one of those things that was probably a good idea, but between the page and the screen something happened.

Shayne Ward
Shayne Ward won the recent series of The X Factor

"It didn't capture the imagination of the public, or any of the tabloids which is important if it is going to work."

"Everyone was predicting the death knell for reality TV, but Celebrity Love Island showed reality TV is here for a while longer yet.

"And, of course, The X-Factor came to dominate the world," adds Ms Graham.

It was a generally uninspiring year for soaps, but EastEnders managed to bounce back from the viewing doldrums thanks in part to the return of the Mitchell brothers, while Coronation Street maintained its high standards.

It was a quiet year for comedy, with highlights including The Catherine Tate Show, Extras and the darkly comic The Thick of It.

For a real TV breakthrough, fingers were hovering over the Channel 4 button for a quiz show featuring Noel Edmonds, 22 excitable contestants and a mysterious banker.

"Deal or No Deal has given Noel Edmonds a remarkable comeback," says Ms Graham.

"Television throws up oddities that capture the imagination like that."

"Channel 4 spent millions on Space Cadets, but something like Deal or No Deal didn't have anything behind it.

"It's part of the strange alchemy of TV - you just never know what is going to work," she adds.


SEE ALSO:
Bleak House leads Bafta nominees
27 Mar 06 |  Entertainment
Bleak House wins TV drama award
15 Mar 06 |  Entertainment
Bleak House finale tops ratings
17 Dec 05 |  Entertainment
Bafta TV Awards 2006: The shortlist
27 Mar 06 |  Entertainment


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