Comedies have the last laugh at Baftas

· Double awards for Harry Hill and Gavin & Stacey
· Attack on 'bullying' reality TV by documentary maker

For seven years he has mercilessly, if affectionately, reheated the leftovers of the TV week to hilarious effect. Last night Harry Hill's TV Burp was rewarded with two Bafta television awards, reflecting the ITV programme's evolution from cult favourite to mainstream hit.

But there was disappointment for BBC1's period drama Cranford, which received four nominations but went home with only one Bafta, for Dame Eileen Atkins, 73, who played Deborah Jenkyns.

Accepting the award, her first Bafta, Atkins said: "I really do have to share this with the ladies of Cranford. Judi Dench is as lovely as you all think she is."

There was a note of controversy as the documentary maker Paul Watson punctured the backslapping atmosphere to launch a withering attack on the "sneering, bullying" nature of much modern broadcasting. Hitting out at reality programmes and formatted documentaries like Wife Swap, Watson, who has been called the father of reality TV for his 1974 series The Family, said: "I'm certainly not the father of such bastards."

On a night that signalled a home-grown comedy revival, Gavin & Stacey, the warm-hearted BBC3 hit dubbed the modern-day successor to Only Fools and Horses, was also a double winner. It beat a host of shows with bigger audiences, including Cranford, The Apprentice and Strictly Come Dancing, to the audience award, the only award voted for by viewers rather than an industry judging panel.

James Corden, who plays Gavin's best friend Smithy and co-writes the show, also won the prize for best comedy performance. The win came as a surprise to Corden, who questioned the wisdom of the judges on his way into the event at the London Palladium for not nominating the show in the best sitcom category. That prize went to the Channel 4 comedy Peep Show, with the broadcaster also winning best comedy programme for subversive prank call show Fonejacker.

Hill, whose shiny pate and wing collars have become his trademark, has recorded his best-ever viewing figures for the current series, with up to 8 million viewers tuning in. His show beat Britain's Got Talent and Strictly Come Dancing to the best entertainment programme prize, the first time it had won a Bafta.

After picking up the specialist factual Bafta for his History of Modern Britain, Andrew Marr revealed he would follow it by a sequel covering 1900 to 1945. He said it was "shameful" how little modern British history was taught in schools.

The ceremony, hosted by Graham Norton, flirted with controversy by deciding to give the special award to Watson in the year that his film Malcolm and Barbara: Love's Farewell was embroiled in the industry furore over TV fakery.

The documentary, 11 years in the making, came under fire when it emerged that it did not feature the actual moment of death of Malcolm Pointon - who was suffering from Alzheimer's disease - as claimed by ITV at the time. An inquiry later said that Watson was the "primary source of the misunderstanding", but cleared him of deliberately misleading the broadcaster. Yet the programme was widely acclaimed when it finally went out with the full support of Pointon's widow, Barbara, who spoke out in support of Watson. John Willis, the TV committee chair, said Watson was "one of the giants of documentary film-making" and a "very well-deserved" recipient.

After receiving his award, Watson called for more "ordinary people" onscreen, but said they should not be shoe-horned into reality formats. He said X-Factor and Britain's Got Talent host Simon Cowell was "a symptom of today, the bully factor". "There's too much bullying, too much trashing," he said.

Bruce Forsyth, the veteran entertainer whose career has been revitalised by Strictly Come Dancing, was awarded the Academy Fellowship in the year he turned 80. He said it was "quite overwhelming" to receive the award in the theatre where he began his career.

Two critically acclaimed one-off Channel 4 dramas dealing with harrowing topical issues - Britz and The Mark of Cain - also took home prizes.

Andrew Garfield, 24, was named best actor for his acclaimed portrayal of a child murderer released from prison and his search for redemption in Boy A, also a Channel 4 show.

At a time when Channel 4 is arguing for a slice of public funding to meet a claimed £150m funding gap, it will point to its haul of awards, also including one for Gordon Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares, as evidence of its ability to marry popular television with public service purpose. It won eight Baftas, to the BBC's overall total of nine.

Winners: And the award goes to ...


Andrew Garfield, Boy A, Channel 4


Eileen Atkins, Cranford, BBC1

Entertainment performance

Harry Hill, Harry Hill's TV Burp, ITV1

Comedy performance

James Corden, Gavin & Stacey, BBC3

Single drama

The Mark of Cain, Channel 4

Drama series

The Street, BBC1

Drama serial

Britz, Channel 4

Continuing drama

Holby City, BBC1


Heroes, BBC2

Factual series

The Tower: A Tale of Two Cities, BBC1

Specialist factual

Andrew Marr's History of Modern Britain, BBC2

Single documentary

Lie of the Land, Channel 4


Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares, C4

Current affairs

China's Stolen Children: A Dispatches Special, Channel 4

News coverage

Sky News, Glasgow airport attack


ITV F1: Canadian Grand Prix Live


Spooks Interactive,

Entertainment programme

Harry Hill's TV Burp, ITV1

Comedy programme

Fonejacker, Channel 4

Situation comedy

Peep Show, Channel 4

Audience award for programme of

the year

Gavin & Stacey

· This article was amended on Monday April 21 2008. We misspelled Gordon Ramsay's surname. This has been corrected.


Owen Gibson, media correspondent

The GuardianTramp

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