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Bafta TV Awards 2009: Wallander named best drama

Kenneth Branagh in Wallander

Story by Jack Foley

KENNETH Branagh’s Wallander was named best drama series at the Bafta TV Awards (2009), beating the likes of Doctor Who and Spooks.

The show, based on Henning Mankell’s critically acclaimed book series, featured three two-hour episodes and was screened on BBC1 on Sunday nights. The prize marked Branagh’s first TV Bafta and came 20 years after he won a film Bafta for Henry V.

Collecting his trophy and beaming with pride, Branagh said it was “marvellous” to win and thanked the BBC for commissioning the programme, adding: “They took a risk in wondering whether the world would be interested in the troubled life of a melancholy Scandinavian.”

Further top prizes on the night went to comedian Harry Hill, who was named the UK’s best entertainment performer for the second year in succession, thereby beating Jonathan Ross, Stephen Fry and Ant and Dec.

Commenting on his trophy, his third in total, Hill said: “I never thought I’d get three Baftas for a clip show. Ridiculous.”

The Bill, meanwhile, beat soap operas EastEnders, Emmerdale and medical drama Casualty to the continuing drama trophy – its first Bafta in 25 years.

Acting awards

Stephen Dillane was named best actor for playing a grieving father in Channel 4 drama The Shooting of Thomas Hurndall, beating a strong field of leading men that included Jason Isaacs for The Curse of Steptoe and the hotly-tipped Ken Stott for Hancock and Joan.

And Anna Maxwell Martin was named best actress for Channel 4’s Poppy Shakespeare, beating EastEnders veteran June Brown, aka Dot Cotton.

Brown had gone into the ceremony as the first soap star to be nominated since 1988, and was cited for a January 2008 episode in which she appeared alone. But the 82-year-old left empty-handed.

A clearly delighted Maxwell Martin triumphed for her performance as a mental health patient in Poppy Shakespeare, completing a memorable double Bafta success – she won the same award for Bleak House in 2005.

Comedy prizes

Harry Enfield and Paul Whitehouse were awarded the best comedy programme trophy for their sketch show Harry and Paul and dedicated their award to their late producer Geoffrey Perkins, who died last year.

And David Mitchell won best comedy performance for Peep Show, and promptly thanked his comedy partner Robert Webb for helping him achieve the accolade, even though Webb hadn’t been nominated.

In what proved to be a particularly memorable night for Channel 4, another comedy programme, The IT Crowd, won the best sitcom prize.

Meanwhile, Bafta’s highest honour, the Fellowship, went to comedy duo Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders.

Attenborough accolade

Enduring favourite Sir David Attenborough proved one of the most popular winners on the night after receiving the award for best specialist factual for Life in Cold Blood, his series on reptiles and amphibians.

The accolade came some 48 years after his first Bafta and the presenter was typically modest in victory, attributing the success of the show to the animals that are featured.

“Our thanks of course goes to spitting cobras, axelotls, golden frogs, dwarf chameleons, those happy tortoises,” he reminisced.

The Bafta TV ceremony was hosted by Graham Norton in London on Sunday, April 26, 2009.

View the winners in full