Casualty stuns soap rivals to net first BAFTA

Casualty trounced its soap rivals on a night of surprises at the TV Baftas tonight.

Casualty trounced its soap rivals on a night of surprises at the TV Baftas tonight.

The long-running BBC hospital show beat Coronation Street, EastEnders and Emmerdale to the award for Best Continuing Drama.

It was the first Bafta in Casualty’s 21-year history and left Coronation Street and EastEnders stars stunned.

Victoria Wood was the night’s double winner, scooping the Best Actress and Best Single Drama awards for Housewife, 49.

But it was a bad night for Life On Mars.

The show was hotly tipped to win Best Drama Series and Best Actor for John Simm, whose character Sam Tyler is a modern-day detective who finds himself transported back to the 70s.

But it was snubbed by the judges although it did win the Pioneer Audience Award, the only prize of the night voted by viewers.

Instead Jim Broadbent won Best Actor for Channel 4’s Longford, in which he played the prison reformer who befriended Moors Murderer Myra Hindley, while the drama award was won by gritty Northern drama The Street.

The two big comedy prizes went to Jonathan Ross and Ricky Gervais.

Ross won his third Best Entertainment Performance award for chat show Friday Night With Jonathan Ross, while Gervais beat co-star Stephen Merchant to Best Comedy Performance for Extras.

But the audience were left disappointed when both failed to turn up, Gervais because he is filming in the US and Ross due to a family commitment.

The biggest night in the TV calendar was hosted by Graham Norton from the London Palladium.

Norton arrived on the red carpet in the 70s Ford Cortina from Life On Mars.

The soap category proved the biggest upset of the night.

EastEnders won the prize last year and Coronation Street took it home the three previous years.

Casualty’s Ian Bleasdale, better known as paramedic Josh Griffiths, accepted the award and dedicated it to Britain’s NHS staff.

"To the doctors, nurses and ambulance crews, thank you for doing the job you do. I hope we go some way to showing exactly what it is," he said.

Victoria Wood, recently voted the nations most popular female comic and the star of shows such as Dinnerladies and Victoria Wood As Seen On TV, declared herself amazed to win both awards, describing them as a big thrill.

"I didn’t bring any jokes because I wasn’t expecting to get either of them," she said as she took the stage.

She beat young stars Samantha Morton (Longford), Anne-Marie Duff (The Virgin Queen) and Ruth Wilson (Jane Eyre), and joked: "They have got a long time ahead of them to win this because I’m quite old now".

The 54-year-old comedienne wrote and starred in Housewife, 49.

Based on the real-life diaries of Lancashire housewife Nella Last, the ITV drama showcased Woods serious acting talents. She has won five previous Baftas, all for her comedy performances.

The double win took her all-time Bafta tally to seven, matched tonight by Ricky Gervais who won Best Comedy Performance for Extras.

Gervais pipped co-star Stephen Merchant to the title, sweet revenge after Merchant beat him at last year’s British Comedy Awards.

And Merchant had to take the stage to collect Gervais’s prize for him.

"He could have mentioned this before; talk about rubbing salt into the wound," deadpanned Merchant.

"I’m sure he would like me to say I’ve been robbed, and I would agree. And it’s not like he hasn’t got enough already".

The Royle Family Christmas special, Queen of Sheba, was named Best Sitcom.

Creator Caroline Aherne did not attend the ceremony because her mum, Maureen, is ill.

The Queen of Sheba episode dealt with the death of the family’s beloved nana, and series co-writer

Craig Cash said: "I would just like to dedicate this award to the memory of Molly, Caroline’s nana, who passed away last year. Caroline can’t be here because her mum’s ill, so this award tonight is for all three generations".

The X Factor won Best Entertainment Programme for the second year running while former EastEnder Ross Kemp scooped the award for Best Factual Series with his Sky One show Ross Kemp On Gangs.

See No Evil: The Moors Murders, ITV1’s dramatisation of Britain’s most notorious child killings, won Best Drama Serial.

There were also wins for That Mitchell & Webb Look (Best Comedy Programme) and Entourage (Best International Series).

All the awards were voted by the Bafta Academy except for the Pioneer Audience Award, which was chosen by the public.

BBC1’s time-travelling cop drama Life On Mars was the winner, beating The Royle Family: Queen of Sheba, Dragons Den, The Vicar of Dibley Christmas Special, Planet Earth and Celebrity Big Brother.

The BBC was the big winner of the night, with nine awards to ITV’s seven. Channel 4 won two prizes, as did Sky One.

Presenters at the ceremony included Ugly Betty star Ashley Jensen, Tara Palmer-Tomkinson, Top Gear’s Richard Hammond, EastEnders actress Lacey Turner and newsreader Emily Maitlis.

Academy Fellowship winner Richard Curtis made a dig at The Apprentice candidate Katie Hopkins.

The Four Weddings And A Funeral writer urged the audience to make the world a better place and joked he might start by killing that posh bird off The Apprentice.

Melinda Messenger made one of the more unusual fashion choices of the night.

The TV presenter and former model turned up in a £199 wedding dress from Marks and Spencers bridal collection.

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