Downton Abbey wins best drama at National Television Awards

If 2012 was a catastrophic year for the BBC, 2013 didn’t start too well either. They had to watch and smile as the posh and dumb ITV show Downton Abbey beat their own cerebral Sherlock in the best drama category at the National Television Awards.

It should not have come as much of a surprise. Unlike the BAFTAs, the National Television Awards are voted for by viewers and, in a clear contradiction of the "wisdom of crowds", have a tendency to favour populist inanities. It may have been a clue to the level of drama being celebrated that the other two nominees in the category were both kid’s shows, Doctor Who and Merlin (which the BBC has already cancelled).

Downton enjoys considerable success in the USA where it panders to fond American stereotypes about decadent aristo Brits. It also seems to have chimed with a present mood in Britain where people seem strangely willing to tug their forelocks at arrogant toffs once more.

The awards pretty much lost all credibility with the best actress in a drama award. It was won by Miranda Hart for a bit part in Call The Midwife. Her hapless clowning in her comedy show is about the limit of her acting ability, so to claim one of the year’s major acting awards was preposterous.

Elsewhere there were consolations for the BBC. They were beneficiaries of inexplicable public taste in the sitcom category, where Mrs Brown’s Boys, arguably one of the worst comedy shows to sully British screens, won.

They also held sway in the battle of the Saturday nights. In the high tower of Syco headquarters, Simon Cowell would have been scowling and releasing his winged monkeys with a cry of "fly my pretties" after hearing the news that Strictly Come Dancing had beaten X Factor in the talent show category.

The most hollow laughter at the BBC might have greeted the announcement that Phillip Schofield’s This Morning won the best daytime programme category for a year when it had to pay damages of £125,000 to Lord McAlpine for Schofield’s indiscretion during an on-air interview with the Prime Minister.

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