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Last Updated: Monday, 21 May 2007, 00:33 GMT 01:33 UK
Baftas unmask unheralded talent
By Kevin Young
Entertainment reporter, BBC News

It was a night for the underdogs at the Bafta TV Awards, held in the Palladium theatre in London's West End.

Ross Kemp
Kemp went to the US, Russia and El Salvador for his series on gangs
A host of categories went to actors and shows who may not realistically have believed they stood a chance of collecting the famous golden mask.

Sure, Victoria Wood was a worthy double-winner - and there was no denying that fellow recipients Jonathan Ross, Ricky Gervais or The Royle Family were hotly-tipped to succeed.

But could the makers of The Choir, a reality show about teaching school pupils to sing, have expected to triumph over Sir Alan Sugar in The Apprentice or Gordon Ramsay's The F Word?

Shows as diverse as Prime Suspect, Coronation Street, Planet Earth and The Catherine Tate Show all missed out - with Life on Mars snubbed by the Bafta panel to win only the audience award.

And what about Hollywood-based comedy Entourage beating Lost and House in the international category?

'Get smashed'

Ex-EastEnders star Ross Kemp was unrepentant about winning best factual series ahead of Stephen Fry's documentary on manic depression and family history programme Who Do You Think You Are?

It's sort of indescribable, the shock that you get
Longford star Jim Broadbent on winning the Bafta for best actor

"We've been shot at," he said of his show, which profiled gangs around the world.

"We've been in prisons where people are raped on a regular basis. I've been on my own on a number of occasions with people who are multiple murderers.

"I interviewed a man who'd shot 16 people through the head before his 10th birthday."

The cast and producers of Casualty
Casualty beat Coronation Street, EastEnders and Emmerdale
And to celebrate the recognition for his work, he was "definitely going to get smashed" after the ceremony, he quipped.

Long-running medical drama Casualty won best continuing drama - a posh term for soaps.

Former producer Mervyn Watson described how "special" it was that "one of the icons of British television" had received a Bafta ahead of Coronation Street, EastEnders and Emmerdale.

"I think after 21 years, to see them off, is just fantastic."

'Historic' achievement

ITV's regional news bulletin for north-west England, Granada Reports, beat three heavyweight rivals - BBC One's Ten O'clock News, ITV1's Evening News and Channel 4 News - for its coverage of the trial which followed the deaths of 21 Chinese cockle-pickers in Morecambe Bay.

"We are stunned and we will be stunned from now until the day I die," programme editor Richard Frediani explained.

Rescue workers carry a body into an ambulance in Morecambe in 2004
Granada Reports dealt with the trial over a 2004 tragedy in Lancashire
"For us, just to get nominated was historic in the fact that regional news had never been recognised since Bafta came into recognition in 1953."

And he said the prize proved the importance for broadcasters to support regional bulletins with funding and airtime.

News teams such as Granada's "have got a role to play and that role is very, very important", he added.

Backstage, a quiet, humble Jim Broadbent was looking very much like the underdog after being named best actor in Longford.

Many thought John Simm would win that category for Life on Mars, and Broadbent described being "very surprised and very shaken, really".

"It's sort of indescribable, the shock that you get, and of course now I'm just feeling guilty because I didn't mention the director or the particular debt that's owed to Lord Longford and his family for allowing us to invade their lives."

Actors 'overlooked'

Dame Helen Mirren's last-ever Prime Suspect lost out to See No Evil: The Moors Murders - starring Sean Harris and Maxine Peake as Ian Brady and Myra Hindley - for best drama serial.

Talk about rubbing salt into the wound
Stephen Merchant collects Ricky Gervais's Bafta after being overlooked in the same category

Executive producer Jeff Pope said that collecting the award was "a fantastic moment for us and we accept it from everyone - production and cast".

However, "it was sad that some of the standout performances weren't nominated for the individual performance awards," he stressed.

It was left to comedian David Mitchell, co-star of That Mitchell and Webb Look, to offer a little guidance to lesser-known Bafta winners about the trappings of fame.

His sketch series beat The Catherine Tate Show and Little Britain Abroad to win comedy programme of the year.

David Mitchell and Robert Webb
David Mitchell (L) bemoaned the interest in his fashion selections
On the red carpet, he described how "someone asked me where my suit came from and I very nearly said, 'It's none of your business.' But people are interested [in things like that]."

But perhaps the underdog of the night was Stephen Merchant, nominated against Extras co-star Ricky Gervais for best comedy performance.

It was Gervais who won, but in his absence, Merchant - bizarrely - was asked to collect the award for which he had just been snubbed.

"Talk about rubbing salt into the wound," he deadpanned.

"I'm sure he would like me to say I've been robbed, and I would agree. And it's not like he hasn't got enough already."

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