With one exception, this year’s TV Baftas got things spectacularly right. It’s always hard to single out specific shows and personalities who are worthy of praise in an age when so much good television is being made but, credit where credit’s due, Bafta’s hit rate was almost impeccable.
Of course Jamie Demetriou won best male comedy performance for Stath Lets Flats. For three seasons he has created less a performance and more a sheer gravitational force, terraforming an entire genre to his whims. And of course Matthew Macfadyen won best supporting actor for Succession. Because, for a performer once stereotyped as starched and staid, to see the full spectrum of colour he gave Tom Wambsgans – the tragedy and the duplicity, plus the pinpoint comic timing – is to see Macfadyen reach full capacity. So yes, with one exception the Baftas knocked it out of the park.
And what a disastrous exception. It’s a Sin – the series that sauntered through the nominations as the year’s clearfrontrunner – came up short. In every single category.
Its lack of success is genuinely bewildering. Not only was It’s a Sin an obvious labour of love for Russell T Davies, but it was a risk that paid off in almost every regard. Critics swooned at its feet and people watched it in swathes. It’s a Sin was the popular choice. It was the intellectual choice. It was even the political choice; because surely if you wanted to rub mud in the eye of anyone thinking of privatising Channel 4, you have no better weapon than a blockbuster series about the AIDS crisis.
And yet, nothing. Now, we should probably be clear that this doesn’t represent a grand conspiracy. I’ve sat on Bafta juries before, and they’re all isolated. There wasn’t word from on high that It’s a Sin needed to be punished. What happened is that, in every single category that contained a nomination for It’s a Sin, a different group of people snubbed it.
Who knows why. Perhaps they thought the show had already got enough love, and chose to put the spotlight on a less visible series. Maybe each category assumed It’s a Sin would walk every other category. Who knows? But whatever the reason, the defining television series of 2021 is now one of the least recognised.
Which isn’t to say the shows that beat it are undeserving. Time, which won best mini-series, was tight and urgent and contained two stupendous performances at its heart. Sean Bean (who won best actor) was incredible in it, just as Jodie Comer (who won best actress) was incredible in Help. It isn’t as if It’s a Sin was egregiously robbed by an unworthy competitor. But not to won anything at all? That just makes Bafta look foolish.
But this is a snubs and surprises piece, and not all surprises are bad. Who would have thought, going into this ceremony, that Big Zuu would emerge as one of the biggest winners? Zuu won twice, for best features and best entertainment performance, for Big Zuu’s Big Eats. If you haven’t seen Big Eats, this should be all the encouragement you need. It’s the kick in the arse that the cookery genre urgently required, and Big Zuu is one of the most likable, engaging faces on TV. Big Eats currently airs on Dave, but if this news doesn’t initiate a Taskmaster-style feeding frenzy then something will have gone terribly wrong. Whether you’d heard of him or not before now, it has become undeniable. Big Zuu is a star.
It was also great to see some recognition for Together and Alma’s Not Normal. But, really, when anyone thinks of the 2022 television Baftas, they’re destined to only remember the staggering failure to recognise one of the defining shows in all of Channel 4 history. It’s a Sin was robbed and, well, it’s a sin.