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The Royal Television Society Awards 2020: Stephen Graham and Phoebe Waller-Bridge among winners at closed ceremony

The Virtues

Story by Jack Foley

STEPHEN Graham and Phoebe Waller-Bridge were among the winners at the prestigious Royal Television Society Programme Awards, in partnership with Audio Network.

British actor Graham was named best actor for his performance in critically-acclaimed Channel 4 series, The Virtues, from multi-award winning writer Shane Meadows.

The judges described his performance as “utterly mesmerising and steeped in a real rawness”, adding: “We were seeing an actor discovering new places to go emotionally in his work.”

While Phoebe Waller-Bridge was named best writer (comedy) for her show Fleabag, which also picked up the prize for best scripted comedy.

Judges felt that Waller-Bridge delivered “a truly stand-out performance in a brilliantly funny series”, adding that “she confidently commits to the character despite the craziness of the world she inhabits”.

Tamara Lawrance took the best actress for her performance in BBC1 drama The Long Song, with judges describing her performance as “captivating and full of humanity, conveying an almost unimaginable strength in the darkest of moments”.

The winners were revealed by writer and comedian Paul Merton and were streamed live to nominees and viewers at home, via the RTS website, due to ongoing concerns and restrictions surrounding the coronavirus.

Commenting on the decision to host the ceremony behind closed doors, Wayne Garvie, chairman of the RTS Programme Awards, said: “We are all facing an incredibly difficult time and rightfully have made responsible changes to the format of the RTS Programme Awards.

“Despite this, we would like to acknowledge the incredible contribution of all our nominees to the UK’s television output and celebrate our deserving winners. This is my last year in the role of Chair of the RTS Programme Awards and throughout my tenure I have been proud to witness the outstanding talent in the UK, and have been repeatedly inspired by the creativity across our industry.”

Other winners of this year’s prizes included the BBC’s Gentleman Jack, which was named best drama. Judges opined that the show was “sharply written, beautifully acted and directed, and all built around relationships which genuinely caught the audience’s imagination”.

BBC2’s The Choir: Our School By The Tower was named best documentary, with judges deciding that it offered “a genuine insight into lives that we rarely see captured so vividly and so carefully on television”.

The RTS Programme Awards seek to recognise UK productions and, where appropriate, international co-productions which, between November 1, 2018 and October 31, 2019, have made a positive contribution worthy of acclaim by the industry and UK viewers.

The winners (and nominees) in full…

Actor (Female)
WINNER – Tamara Lawrance – The Long Song (Heyday Television and NBCUniversal International Studios for BBC One)
“Captivating and full of humanity, conveying an almost unimaginable strength in the darkest of moments”

Nominees:
• Niamh Algar – The Virtues (Warp Films and Big Arty Productions for Channel 4)
• Suranne Jones – Gentleman Jack (A Lookout Point Production in association with HBO for BBC One)

Actor (Male)
WINNER – Stephen Graham – The Virtues (Warp Films and Big Arty Productions for Channel 4)
“Utterly mesmerising and steeped in a real rawness – we were seeing an actor discovering new places to go emotionally in his work”

Nominees:
• Jared Harris – Chernobyl (Sister, The Mighty Mint and Word Games in association with HBO for Sky Atlantic)
• Micheal Ward – Top Boy (Cowboy Films, Easter Partisan Films, Dream Crew and SpringHill Entertainment for Netflix)

Arts
WINNER – Bros: After The Screaming Stops (Fulwell 73 for BBC Four)
“Remarkable access, and a masterful study in the tensions and triumphs of the creative process that was – at times – brutally honest, but ultimately moving”

Nominees:
• imagine…James Graham: In the Room Where It Happens (BBC Studios for BBC One) • Superkids: Breaking Away From Care (Expectation for Channel 4)

Breakthrough Award
WINNER – Tanya Moodie – Motherland (Merman Television and Delightful Industries for BBC Two)
“Genuinely, a star in the making”

Nominees:
• Aisling Bea – This Way Up (Merman Television for Channel 4)
• Tim Renkow – Jerk (Roughcut TV and Primal Media for BBC Three)

Children’s Programme
WINNER – Zog (Magic Light Pictures for BBC One)
“This felt special, a real piece of inclusive quality television full of positive messages and warmth.”

Nominees:
• The Athena (Bryncoed Productions for Sky Kids)
• Step Up to the Plate (Lion TV for CBBC)

Comedy Performance (Female)
WINNER – Saoirse-Monica Jackson – Derry Girls (Hat Trick Productions for Channel 4)
“A truly stand-out performance in a brilliantly funny series, she confidently commits to the character despite the craziness of the world she inhabits”

Nominees:
• Phoebe Waller-Bridge – Fleabag (Two Brothers Pictures in association with All3Media International for BBC Three and Amazon Prime Video)
• Diane Morgan – Motherland (Merman Television and Delightful Industries for BBC Two)

Comedy Performance (Male)
WINNER – Ncuti Gatwa – Sex Education (Eleven Film for Netflix)
“Perfectly balanced, combining slapstick and big comic set pieces with moments of tender emotion and great heart in a truly wonderful series”

Nominees:
• Alex Murphy & Chris Walley – The Young Offenders (Vico Films and Rotator for BBC Three)
• Youssef Kerkour – Home (Jantaculum and Channel X for Channel 4)

Daytime Programme
WINNER – The Repair Shop (Ricochet for BBC One)
“The passion pours through the screen. Produced with great confidence and real commitment, it’s a show that feels just right for today’s audience”.

Nominees:
• Good Morning Britain (ITV Studios Daytime for ITV)
• Beat the Chef (Twofour and Motion Content Group for Channel 4)

Documentary Series
WINNER – The Choir: Our School By The Tower (Twenty Twenty Productions for BBC Two)
“A genuine insight into lives that we rarely see captured so vividly and so carefully on television”.

Nominees:
• Hometown: A Killing (7 Wonder for BBC Three)
• Crime and Punishment (72 Films for Channel 4)

Drama Series
WINNER – Gentleman Jack (A Lookout Point Production in association with HBO for BBC One)
“Sharply written, beautifully acted and directed, and all built around relationships which genuinely caught the audience’s imagination”

Nominees:
• The Capture (Heyday Television and NBCUniversal International Studios for BBC One)
• Ackley Bridge (The Forge Entertainment for Channel 4)

Entertainment
WINNER – RuPaul’s Drag Race UK (World of Wonder Productions for BBC Three)
“In its own unique way, it said something rather unexpected and fun about being British, as well as being full of warmth and laughs”.

Nominees:
• Love Island (ITV Studios Entertainment/Motion Content Group for ITV2)
• Britain’s Got Talent (Thames/Syco for ITV)

Entertainment Performance
WINNER – London Hughes Don’t Hate The Playaz (Monkey Kingdom for ITV2)
“Authentic, witty, and with an infectious personality”.

Nominees:
• Mo Gilligan The Lateish Show with Mo Gilligan (Expectation and Momo G for Channel 4)
• Stephen Mulhern In For A Penny (ITV Studios Entertainment/Mitre Television for ITV)

Formatted Popular Factual
WINNER – The British Tribe Next Door (Voltage & Motion Content Group for Channel 4)
“Genuinely innovative, bravely breaking new ground as a format, an idea realised and executed impeccably well”

Nominees:
• The Circle (Studio Lambert & Motion Content Group for Channel 4)
• Celebrity Gogglebox (Studio Lambert for Channel 4)

History
WINNER – Jade: The Reality Star Who Changed Britain (Blast! Films for Channel 4)
“A provocative, highly revealing piece of work full of many challenging questions still to be answered”

Nominees:
• Spotlight on The Troubles: A Secret History (BBC NI for BBC Four and BBC One Northern Ireland)
• The Last Survivors (Minnow Films for BBC Two)

Live Event
WINNER – Stormzy At Glastonbury 2019 (BBC Studios for BBC Two)
“This transcended the event to become a significant national moment, as well as an outstanding television spectacle”

Nominees:
• The Royal British Legion Festival of Remembrance (BBC Studios for BBC One)
• The BRIT Awards 2019 (BRITs TV for ITV)

Mini-Series
WINNER – The Long Song (Heyday Television and NBCUniversal International Studios for BBC One)
“An extraordinary achievement in storytelling and a stand-out piece of important television”

Nominees:
• Chernobyl (Sister, The Mighty Mint and Word Games in association with HBO for Sky Atlantic)
• Years and Years (Red Production Company for BBC One)

Presenter
WINNER – Mobeen Azhar Hometown: A Killing (7 Wonder for BBC Three)
“A uniquely engaging and compelling presence on screen”

Nominees:
• Vicky McClure Our Dementia Choir with Vicky McClure (Curve Media co-produced with The Open University for BBC One)
• Fred Brathwaite A Fresh Guide to Florence with Fab 5 Freddy (BBC Studios for BBC Two)

RTS Channel of the Year
WINNER – Channel 5
“A confident broadcaster reaping the rewards of years of steady growth and development – a channel that increasingly now both surprises and delights”

Nominees:
BBC Three
• Sky Atlantic

Science and Natural History
WINNER – The Parkinson’s Drug Trial: A Miracle Cure? (Passionate Productions for BBC Two)
“Produced with immense care over a long period, it was informative, packed with drama and emotion”.

Nominees:
• The Planets (A BBC Studios Production with NOVA and WGBH Boston for BBC, PBS co-produced by Tencent Penguin Pictures. A BBC Open University Partnership for BBC Two)
• 8 Days: To the Moon and Back (BBC Studios, PBS & The Open University, The Science Unit for BBC Two)

Scripted Comedy
WINNER – Fleabag (Two Brothers Pictures in association with All3Media International for BBC Three and Amazon Prime Video)
“Beautifully accomplished, supremely well written and performed”

Nominees:
• Stath Lets Flats (Roughcut TV for Channel 4)
• Derry Girls (Hat Trick Productions for Channel 4)

Single Documentary
WINNER – War in the Blood (Minnow Films for BBC Two)
“A consummate piece of work…subtle and unsensational, immaculately balanced but uncompromising”

Nominees:
• Undercover: Inside China’s Digital Gulag (Hardcash Productions for ITV)
• David Harewood: Psychosis and Me (Films of Record co-produced with The Open University for BBC Two)

Single Drama
WINNER – The Left Behind (BBC Studios for BBC Three and BBC Cymru Wales)
A smart piece that shone a light on the real state of the nation, telling multi-layered stories in an emotional and nuanced way”

Nominees:
• Brexit: The Uncivil War (House Productions in association with HBO for Channel 4)
• Doing Money (Renegade Pictures for BBC Two)

Soap and Continuing Drama
WINNER – Casualty (BBC Studios for BBC One)
“Excellent central dramatic performances combined with an authentic and gripping story”

Nominees:
• EastEnders (BBC Studios for BBC One)
• Coronation Street (ITV Studios for ITV)

Sports Presenter, Commentator or Pundit
WINNER – Alex Scott 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup (Input Media [now known as Gravity Media] and BBC Sport for BBC One, BBC Two, BBC Four and BBC iPlayer)
“A former player willing to draw on immense knowledge of the game to bring confident, concise analysis in a refreshing, inspiring way”.

Nominees:
• Nasser Hussain The Ashes (Sky Sports for Sky Sports Cricket)
• Gareth Thomas 2019 Rugby World Cup (BBC Sport for BBC One)

Sports Programme
WINNERICC Cricket World Cup Final (Sky Sports & Sunset+Vine for ICC TV and Sky Sports Cricket)
“A spectacular and extraordinary moment in sporting history, captured brilliantly by a production team clearly right at the top of their own game”

Nominees:
• 2019 Rugby World Cup (ITV Sport for ITV)
FIFA Women’s World Cup 2019 – Semi Final: England v USA (Input Media [now known as Gravity Media] and BBC Sport for BBC One)

Writer (Comedy)
WINNER – Phoebe Waller-Bridge Fleabag (Two Brothers Pictures in association with All3Media International for BBC Three and Amazon Prime Video)
“A truly stand-out performance in a brilliantly funny series, she confidently commits to the character despite the craziness of the world she inhabits”

Nominees:
• Laurie Nunn Sex Education (Eleven Film for Netflix)
• Danny Brocklehurst Brassic (Calamity Films for Sky One)

Writer (Drama)
WINNER – Craig Mazin Chernobyl (Sister, The Mighty Mint and Word Games in association with HBO for Sky Atlantic)
“It was a complex story told with a compulsive narrative shape – profound and affecting. The writer unflinchingly presented prescient and relevant themes”

Nominees:
• Roy Williams Soon Gone: A Windrush Chronicle (A Douglas Road and Young Vic Production for BBC Four)
• Neil Forsyth Guilt (Happy Tramp North and Expectation for BBC Scotland and BBC Two)

Judges’ Award
WINNER – Jane Featherstone (Founder and Chief Executive, Sister Pictures)

The recipient of this prestigious honour is a Producer of drama who – over the last 12 months in particular – has shown that her time has truly come.

Just five years ago, Jane Featherstone left the security of being Chief Executive of Kudos and Chair of Shine UK, where she’d enjoyed a great run of success. Jane had joined Kudos in 2000 as Head of Drama and risen to the top job, along the way bringing to the screen hit shows like Broadchurch, Life On Mars, Ashes To Ashes, The Tunnel and Spooks.

On leaving Kudos she struck out on her own and founded Sister Pictures – now just branded Sister, in a partnership with Elizabeth Murdoch and Stacey Snider. In her new company Jane quickly hit her stride with a deep development slate of bold, eye-catching drama. By 2019, just four years after starting up, she had FIVE series running in the same year in peak-time on British television – all radically different pieces in content and tone, but all highly distinctive and with their own very specific voice:

Cleaning Up on ITV starred Sheridan Smith as a working class Londoner who decides to play life by the rules usually reserved for the people she cleans for; The Split on BBC One was a multi-layered story of privilege and betrayal in a family-owned law firm; Don’t Forget The Driver, produced for BBC Two, was an acutely-observed comedy starring Toby Jones as a coach driver in one of Britain’s forgotten seaside towns; Giri/Haji on BBC Two was soulful thriller set in Tokyo and London which succeeded in being both dark and witty in equal measure; and of course, Chernobyl was one of the big, globally-acclaimed and talked-about events of the year – a searing dramatization of the story the Soviet Union tried to supress when the world held its breath following the worst nuclear accident in history.

It is, by any measure, an exceptional slate of extraordinary work, all in a single year. Drama of the very highest quality, produced with passion and flair by one of the stand-out stars of British television production.