TV REVIEW: National Television Awards, Film 2017, Winterwatch

James Waller-Davies
James Waller-Davies
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The National Television Awards (ITV), otherwise known as the Ant and Dec awards show, was held this week.

The annual self-congratulatory shindig is a curious affair inasmuch as it is ‘judged’ by the public, those people who actually watch television, as opposed to critics, who generally prefer to reward programmes that no one actually watches.

As a result, the winners were pretty much in direct correlation to the viewing figures. It’s all very democratic – even if after the last year, democracy, and its outcomes, has become somewhat of a dirty word.

The soaps, naturally, did very well, with Emmerdale taking its turn to pip the other two. Casualty won the best drama, even it is on with the regularity to arguably place it in the soap category. The only real surprise was Ant and Dec’s I’m a Celebrity scooping the best ‘challenge show’ from Bake Off, even if Mary Berry did grab the ‘most popular TV judge’.

The problem with the NTAs is that it confuses ‘best’ with ‘popular’. It awards mass market and primetime slots. As a consequence, some of the truly great productions of the year get side-lined, as borne out by The Night Manager losing out to Casualty.

Only Gogglebox (Channel 4) managed be break the grip of BBC1 and ITV, proving that if you want to win, you have to be in the right place to be seen. BBC2 and satellite stations came away empty-handed.

Film 2017 (BBC1) is back for another run. The once highly acclaimed BBC flagship film programme, which under Barry Norman and then Johnathan Ross was a serious review for film buffs, has struggled ever since the Beeb took the decision not to replace Ross with the blindingly obvious choice of Mark Kermode.

Ironically, over on Radio 5 Live Kermode, with Simon Mayo, has one of the most critically regarded and worldwide popular film shows with an audience of millions who would queue up and stay up for a television version.

This week on Film 2017, Charlie Brooker sat in for usual presenter, Zoe Ball. Rather miscast, Brooker couldn’t get away from his Screenwipe persona and irritatingly spoke more and over the guest experts. And if you’re staying up till almost midnight, it would be nice to hear some informed critical comment, rather than the grumpy witterings of someone who’s stayed up past his bedtime.

On Winterwatch (BBC2), the UK seasonal nature programme was having problems with the fog. Filming nature live is challenging enough - the fauna just doesn’t sit up and beg to camera like a kitten on social media. But as the fog came down and stayed down, the presenters and viewers were treated to a fuzzy grey gloom. Somewhere out in the monochrome, the animals watched back and sniggered.