Unmissable: Welcome recognition for Marvellous and Detectorists – 2015’s best of British

Pictured: (l-r) Toby Jones as Neil Baldwin with the real Neil Baldwin, as seen in Marvellous. Pic: B

Pictured: (l-r) Toby Jones as Neil Baldwin with the real Neil Baldwin, as seen in Marvellous. Pic: BBC - Credit: PA

The headlines of course went to the predictable news that Ant and Dec won their 93rd and 94th Bafta awards last weekend and that the “luvvies of the left” had been given a platform to air their post-election woes.

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But going largely unreported was the news that three of the best shows on TV picked up deserved recognition from the academy.

Outstanding biopic Marvellous was honoured, alongside the genial and excellently-observed sitcom Detectorists and real-life drama The Lost Honour of Christopher Jefferies.

Two BBC productions and one from ITV – which actually did a bit better than the Beeb overall on the night – as well as a host of awards for Channel 4 shows, was proof that the main terrestrial broadcasters are still delivering top-quality telly.

Despite the many millions of pounds now being spent on original programming by Sky, the cream of its output remains American imports, or co-productions with US networks.


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With Marvellous star Gemma Jones and The Lost Honour lead Jason Watkins also acknowledged with statuettes for their fantastic performances (and Jones also nominated in both the dramatic and comedic actor sections for Marvellous and Detectorists) it was confirmation of the fact that these were genuine stand-out productions with brilliant central performances in a year of truly great TV.

I spent much of last year in this column banging on about how great Detectorists, True Detective and Marvellous were, and it’s thoroughly satisfying to see them honoured during the country’s most high-profile ceremony.

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Marvellous told the moving, amusing and heartwarming life story of Neil Baldwin. It was easily the most inspiring and well put together programme of 2014, and anyone who hasn’t seen it must put that right post-haste.

It wasn’t really a drama, nor a comedy, but the sort of programme that rarely gets made these days, simply telling the unbelievable yet true tale of a man who defied disability to have a career as a clown, work for Stoke City Football Club (as kit man for several years), receive an honorary degree from Keele University, and manage his own football team (Neil Baldwin FC).

Toby Jones is terrific as Baldwin – who also features in the film – and seeing them on stage together at the Theatre Royal, to receive the best single drama award and a rapturous round of applause, brought a tear to my eye.

Detectorists was an equally unlikely award winner, but was equally deserving. The somewhat unassuming world of metal detecting was merely the backdrop for an honest-to-goodness friendship between Jones (again excellent) and writer/director Mackenzie Crook. That it was filmed in Suffolk was a bonus for those in these parts, and it proved to be a real gem that has thankfully been recommissioned for a second series.

The Lost Honour of Christopher Jefferies was a two-part ITV film looking at the extraordinarily aggressive and intrusive media coverage of the title character’s arrest in the wake of the tragic murder of Joanna Yeates in Bristol in December, 2010.

The central performance from Watkins was sublime and his moving acceptance speech outlined how important the project had been to him and how deserving the accolade was.

Along with a gong for the brilliant True Detective and a long-overdue honour for Grand Designs (which remains a consistently enjoyable show and with a format largely unchanged in 16 years) the Baftas seemed to get it just about right.

What do you think? Email me at elliot.furniss@archant.co.uk or follow me on Twitter @Elliot_Furniss

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