It was fifth time unlucky for Sherlock star Benedict Cumberbatch, who failed to break his Bafta duck on a night when there were double wins for BBC2 drama Marvellous, ITV’s The Lost Honour of Christopher Jefferies and the perennially youthful double act of Ant and Dec.
Cumberbatch, nominated for the fifth time at the Bafta TV awards, was beaten to the lead actor prize by Jason Watkins, star of ITV’s real-life drama The Lost Honour of Christopher Jefferies. The drama about the slandered Bristol schoolteacher also won the mini-series prize, one of a number of double winners at the ceremony at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane, London, on Sunday night.
Peter Bowker’s BBC2 drama Marvellous, about Stoke City kit-man Neil Baldwin, won best single drama and best supporting actress, for Gemma Jones. Another drama based on a real-life story, BBC3’s Murdered by My Boyfriend, won the best actress prize for its star, Georgina Campbell, who beat Sheridan Smith, Keeley Hawes and Sarah Lancashire to the award.
It was a night when many of the best-known dramas failed to win, including BBC1’s acclaimed James Nesbitt series The Missing and BBC2’s police drama Line of Duty, which were each nominated three times but failed to pick up any awards. BBC1’s drama Happy Valley, also nominated three times, won the award for best drama series.
Murdered by My Boyfriend was one of two awards for BBC3, the channel which will close in the new year and go online only under controversial cost-saving plans announced by the BBC last year.
Winning the best factual series prize for Life and Death Row, BBC3 matched the haul of BBC1, which could only win two Baftas – the entertainment prize, for the Graham Norton Show, and best drama series, for Happy Valley. It also won the Radio Times award, voted for by viewers, for Sherlock.
Ant and Dec were also double winners, repeating their feat of last year, winning best entertainment programme and best entertainment performance for their ITV show, Saturday Night Takeaway.
Matt Berry, the co-writer and star of Channel 4’s Toast of London, won the award for best male performance in a comedy programme, with the female equivalent picked up by W1A star Jessica Hynes.
A number of winners referred to last week’s general election in their acceptance speeches. Peter Bowker, writer of Marvellous, said: “Thank you, at least one vote went the right way this week.”
Bowker said his drama was a “celebration of the positive contribution everyone can make, a celebration of diversity and community and the spirit of optimism. These are values worth fighting for more so now than ever”.
Hynes used her speech to protest against the impact of government cuts in education funding and urged support for a mentoring charity, Arts Emergency.
Hynes said she was “really worried” about the impact of the cuts on people in low-income families. “I don’t think low income means low talent or low imagination or low intelligence,” she said.
Channel 4 won six awards, with five each for ITV and BBC2. There were two Baftas each for BBC1 and BBC3. BBC4 won a single Bafta, for its comedy The Detectorists, with Sky News winning the news prize for its reporting of the Ebola crisis. International winner True Detective is made by HBO and shown in the UK on Sky Atlantic.
Channel 4 winners included Grand Designs, which beat BBC1’s The Great British Bake Off to the features prize, Grayson Perry: Who Are You?, which won the specialist factual award, and reality winner The Island With Bear Grylls.
Special awards went to Clive James, who had pre-recorded his acceptance speech, and writer and producer Jeff Pope. Channel 4 News anchor Jon Snow awarded the Bafta fellowship.
James said he had a wonderful time working in television and “missed it very much” since he retired in 2001. “I think it was the right time,” he said. “The young people were getting very good, very quick, and a lot of the stuff we invented, like pre-YouTube footage and satellite interviews, had become standard.
“But I was very glad to have been there and I missed it sorely. I suppose I could have struggled on for a bit, after all when I entered my career Bruce Forsyth was just beginning his – he did his first shows under Queen Elizabeth I. But I can’t dance like him, all I could do is speak and I have spoken too long.”
Coronation Street producer Stuart Blackburn dedicated the ITV soap’s win to Anne Kirkbride, who died of cancer in January and played the role of Deirdre Barlow for 42 years.
In his role as host, Graham Norton had some fun at the expense of Jeremy Clarkson, in the wake of his axing from BBC2’s Top Gear, and the BBC. “There are more stars of stage and screen here than Jeremy Clarkson has had hot dinners,” Norton told the audience.
He said BBC1’s Poldark had “done very well for the BBC. A drama about a Cornish miner … it’s the first positive story involving a miner they have had for years”.
Neither of Shelock’s stars, Benedict Cumberbatch or Martin Freeman, were at the ceremony to collect the Radio Times audience award.
Sherlock showrunner Steven Moffat, said: “Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson cannot be here tonight. Martin is looking after the kids, and Benedict is looking after his pregnant wife which is what real men do.”
Bafta TV awards 2015: the full winners list
Leading actress Georgina Campbell, Murdered by My Boyfriend, BBC3
Leading actor Jason Watkins, The Lost Honour of Christopher Jefferies, ITV
Supporting actor James Rea, The Honourable Woman, BBC2
Supporting actress Gemma Jones, Marvellous, BBC2
Entertainment programme Ant and Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway, ITV
Soap and continuing drama award Coronation Street, ITV
Drama series Happy Valley, BBC2
Mini-series The Lost Honour of Christopher Jefferies, ITV
Single drama Marvellous, BBC2
International True Detective, HBO
Comedy and comedy entertainment programme The Graham Norton Show, BBC1
Male performance in a comedy programme Matt Berry, Toast of London, Channel 4
Female performance in a comedy programme Jessica Hynes, W1A, BBC2
Scripted comedy The Detectorists, BBC4
Entertainment performance Ant and Dec, Ant and Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway, ITV
News coverage Sky News Live at Five
Features Grand Designs, Channel 4
Factual series Life and Death Row, BBC3
Single documentary The Paedophile Hunter, Channel 4
Sport and live event WW1 Remembered – From the Battlefield and Westminster Abbey, BBC2
Current affairs Dispatches: Children on the Front Line, Channel 4
Specialist factual Grayson Perry: Who Are You?, Channel 4
Radio Times audience award Sherlock, BBC1
Reality and constructed factual The Island With Bear Grylls, Channel 4
Special award Clive James
Special award Jeff Pope, writer and producer
Fellowship Jon Snow, Channel 4 News