Eastenders sweeps the boards at TV awards

EastEnders made a clean sweep of the National Television Awards tonight and trounced arch rival Coronation Street.

EastEnders made a clean sweep of the National Television Awards tonight and trounced arch rival Coronation Street.

The BBC show won the coveted best soap award and scooped all three main acting honours.

Shane Richie and Jessie Wallace, who play Alfie Moon and Kat Slater, were crowned most popular actor and actress.

And Albert Square heart-throb Nigel Harman, aka bad boy Dennis Rickman, won best newcomer.

The cast of Coronation Street, also up for four prizes, came away empty-handed from the awards, which are voted for by viewers.

The glitzy ceremony at London’s Royal Albert Hall was full of surprises.

Biggest of all was the appearance of special guest Tony Blair, there to present the special recognition award to host Sir Trevor McDonald.

Veteran newscaster Sir Trevor had no idea that he was to be the recipient of the evening’s final award.

And he was moved to tears when the Prime Minister walked on stage beside him.

Mr Blair said: “This goes to a man admired and respected by everyone in this country.”

TV personalities, including David Frost and Lenny Henry, paid tribute to the man who became Britain’s first black TV presenter in 1973.

Among Sir Trevor’s career highlights include interviews with Saddam Hussain after the invasion of Kuwait and Nelson Mandela on the day of his release from prison in South Africa.

The night’s other big shock was when David Jason announced he was thinking of retiring from acting.

Jason, one of the nation’s favourite stars, picked up the most popular drama award for A Touch Of Frost, in which he plays grumpy DI Jack Frost.

Afterwards he said: “You reach a point when there are only so many times you can say, ‘Time of death’. When a show is still popular you do want to continue but Frost should retire now and maybe I should retire.”

The 63-year-old, best loved for his role as Del Boy in Only Fools and Horses, said he may make the final episode of A Touch Of Frost this year.

Stars from Britain’s favourite TV shows dressed up to the nines for the ceremony, which is one of the glitziest events in the showbusiness calendar.

But it was Nancy Dell’Olio who outshone everyone on the red carpet in an ivory and black silk evening gown.

The creation was the work of design duo Dana and Liliana Kruszynska, who also made the red catsuit Dell’Olio famously wore to a reception at Downing Street.

The 43-year-old girlfriend of England manager Sven Goran Eriksson refused to answer questions about former love rival Ulrika Jonsson, who gave the ceremony a miss.

But she made sure to flash the enormous diamond ring adorning her wedding finger, which she wore over her long satin gloves.

Richie joked that Dell’Olio would make a fine addition to EastEnders, saying: “She’d make a great Slater sister.”

It was one of the first times Dell’Olio has spoken in public and the Italian displayed a less than perfect grasp of the English language.

Her attempt to tell the audience she was honoured to be there got a little mangled in translation as she proudly announced instead: “It’s quite an effort for me to be here.”

“Mind control expert” Derren Brown pulled off the evening’s biggest stunt as he presented the best newcomer award.

Instead of announcing the winner, Brown asked the five nominees to stand up and say the first words that came into their head.

Nigel Harman (Dennis from EastEnders) chose “dyslexic”, Kate Ford (Tracy from Coronation Street) said “sausage”, Charley Webb (Debbie from Emmerdale) picked “love”, Daniel MacPherson (Pc Cameron Taite from The Bill) said “ocean” and Zoie Kennedy (Meryl from The Royal) plumped for “dawn”.

Brown then asked Sir Trevor to read out a note he had handed to him when he first came on the stage.

To the audience’s astonishment, it said that whoever had offered the words love, sausage, dawn or ocean could sit down because they were not the winners.

That left a delighted Harman still standing – and the Albert Hall audience amazed.

It was illusionist Brown’s latest attempts to make the headlines – the last ended in ignominy when his televised Russian roulette stunt was exposed as a fake.

Ant and Dec were triple winners, scooping most popular entertainment presenters, most popular reality programme for I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here! And most popular entertainment programme for Ant And Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway.

They arrived at the ceremony with their mini-me doubles Little Ant and Dec.

Cold Feet’s James Nesbitt won most popular comedy performer, My Family won most popular comedy programme and GMTV was voted most popular factual entertainment programme.

Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? Scooped the most popular quiz award yet again.

But the night really belonged to EastEnders, which won best soap for the third year running.

Wallace beat Coronation Street’s Suranne Jones (Karen McDonald) to the most popular actress award and Richie triumphed over Coronation Street’s Brian Capron, who played evil serial killer Richard “Tricky Dicky” Hillman.

The EastEnders cast tried not to gloat about trouncing arch rivals Coronation Street.

Richie said: “It’s great how EastEnders swept the board. We’re really chuffed.

“Corrie has had great storylines this year, particularly Brian Capron as Tricky Dicky. But do I feel sorry for Coronation Street ?, No.”

Full list of winners:

:: Most Popular Quiz Programme – Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?

:: Most Popular Drama – A Touch of Frost

:: Most Popular Newcomer – Nigel Harman (EastEnders)

:: Most Popular Comedy Programme – My Family

:: Most Popular Entertainment Presenters – Ant and Dec

:: Most Popular Actress – Jessie Wallace (EastEnders)

:: Most Popular Comedy Performer – James Nesbitt

:: Most Popular Factual Entertainment Programme – GMTV

:: Most Popular Reality Programme – I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here!

:: Most Popular Actor – Shane Richie

:: Most Popular Entertainment Programme – Ant and Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway

:: Most Popular Serial Drama – EastEnders

:: Special Recognition Award – Sir Trevor McDonald

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