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The Guardian - UK
The Guardian - UK
Mark Lawson

The Crown to Happy Valley: who will win the TV Baftas … and who should?

Ta-da! Elizabeth Debicki as Princess Diana in The Crown.
Ta-da! Elizabeth Debicki as Princess Diana in The Crown. Photograph: Daniel Escale/Netflix

The 2024 Bafta TV awards are on Sunday (BBC One from 7pm), with the finales of Happy Valley and Succession plus newer dramas The Sixth Commandment and Slow Horses carrying the most nominations. As a Bafta member, I voted on the long lists and in one jury but have no advance knowledge of winners. Under Bafta’s policy of rewarding the previous calendar year, Mr Bates vs the Post Office (which premiered on 1 January 2024) has to wait until May 2025, so don’t be surprised by its absence. Here are my predictions for the TV Oscars.

Drama series

Though Top Boy and The Gold deserve their top-four finish, this feels like a final straight dash between the 10-year thoroughbred Happy Valley, going for a hat-trick of wins, and that frisky two-year-old Slow Horses. But the jury won’t have known that Gary Oldman was overlooked for his brilliant grotesquerie in that spy show and, anticipating several more runs from Slow Horses, seem likely to take a last chance to honour Happy Valley.

Limited drama

The earlier Bafta Television Craft awards (on 28 April) are often a good indication for success. Black Mirror’s Demon 79 won twice there (photography and lighting fiction), perhaps indicating the impact of a Bafta policy to appoint more younger jurors, which may also help it here. But the biggest rival must be The Sixth Commandment, a meticulous true murder drama with big audiences.


One category for the vast volume of foreign streamer content seems increasingly absurd, even with six (rather than the usual four) contenders. Could you easily pick one from The Bear, Beef and The Last of Us? But, as in the drama series category, a clinching factor may be the final chance to pay respects, laying Bafta’s bouquets in honour of the loss of Logan Roy and the wondrous Succession.

Leading actress

Another tough one. Anjana Vasan would be a deserving winner in yet another nod to Black Mirror’s 1979-set disaster movie episode. But in how many professions does someone reaching 89 this month maintain top form? That suggests a lot of love for Anne Reid, nudging her ahead of Sarah Lancashire, who delivered the new depths that writer Sally Wainwright found for her in the Happy Valley finale.

Leading actor

With TV fiction dominated by bio-drama, rumour suggests that some jurors struggle to separate recognising an actor from implied endorsement of the real character. So the technical brilliance of Steve Coogan in The Reckoning may be offset by his re-animating paedophile monster Jimmy Savile. Conversely, Republican doubts about Dominic West’s portrayal of the former Prince of Wales in The Crown could be softened by the health of the king this year. Paapa Essiedu is accumulating superb credits: honoured here for The Lazarus Project, he’s also in that multinominated Black Mirror episode. But Timothy Spall is seen sparingly on TV and would be a popular winner as the victim of fraud and murder, Peter Farquhar, in The Sixth Commandment.

Female performance in a comedy

Bridget Christie, a standout standup, deserves honour for The Change, as does Roisin Gallagher in The Lovers, a Belfast romcom that deserved more attention. But it should really go to Gbemisola Ikumelo for the cop comedy Black Ops.

Male performance in a comedy

If jurors are aware that one of our greatest actors is receiving his first Bafta TV nomination after an almost 40-year screen career, then surely it has to be David Tennant for Good Omens. If it’s not, the academy risks a credibility problem.

Supporting actress

In performance categories, the nightmare is great acting in a rubbish series. Should the uncanny accuracy of Elizabeth Debicki as Diana overcome her ludicrous scenes as the princess’s ghost (“Ta-da!,” to her widower on a private jet) in The Crown? Not in my view. So, ahead of Siobhan Finneran as the protagonist’s sister in Happy Valley, I’d like to see Jasmine Jobson win for a complex role in Top Boy.

Supporting actor

Salim Daw, as Mohamed Al Fayed in The Crown, faces the Debicki issue of skill v scripts. But Éanna Hardwicke looks like a future superstar and should be a shoo-in as the murderer in The Sixth Commandment.

Entertainment performance

The annual quandary here is whether Ant and Dec or Graham Norton have achieved anything recently they haven’t been doing brilliantly for decades. More imaginatively, the panel could reward a performer new to presenting – Hannah Waddingham for co-hosting the Eurovision song contest.

Comedy entertainment

Again, can the constant watchability and A-lister attraction of The Graham Norton Show be ignored? If it can, then Joe Lycett, with the fresher Late Night Lycett, feels like a threat.

Scripted comedy

If the Craft Baftas are a clue, Jack Rooke took the comedy writer trophy there for Big Boys and the show seems the leader here.

Specialist factual

An unusual section: lacking contenders from traditional British broadcasters (BBC, Channel 4, ITV, Sky), this feels very open. Channel 5 ranks highly with White Nanny, Black Child – about a contentious historical adoption policy – and might just take it from the higher-profile Chimp Empire (Netflix), previewing post-Attenborough wildlife TV.


What was once a joke category is now among the most strongly contested. Banged Up, Married at First Sight UK and My Mum, Your Dad would all be fitting victors but there should be a stewards’ inquiry if the trophy doesn’t go to the lavish and magnetic UK spin-off of a Korean drama, Squid Game: The Challenge.

Current affairs

There is understandably strong #MeToo support for Russell Brand: In Plain Sight, which may prevail. But Norma Percy is our greatest current affairs documentary maker and Putin vs the West showcases how she and her team create a first draft of history on which future chroniclers will depend. Present and former world leaders clear diaries to speak to her. Bafta must recognise this.


Three regulars – Later … With Jools Holland, Michael McIntyre’s Big Show, Strictly Come Dancing – challenge Hannah Waddingham: Home for Christmas. As long as Waddingham won entertainment performance for Eurovision, I’d be happy to see this go to the extravagantly inventive Michael McIntyre’s Big Show.

Factual entertainment

Extremely strong pressure from my housemates Delilah and Fred to pat the back of pet-rescue heartwarmer The Dog House, but the biggest threat to their tails wagging feels likely to be Celebrity Race Across the World.

Factual series

Another discussion likely to have been long. Evacuation (from Kabul) and Lockerbie (exploring a still contested terrorist event 35 years on) were high-class. But if jurors understood the centrality of the UK’s only non-contiguous territory to British politics – from the Troubles through coalitions to Brexit – then Once Upon a Time in Northern Ireland must win.

Live event coverage

At the 2023 ceremony, it was assumed that this year’s winner would be the coronation. But with the King undergoing cancer treatment and BBC anchor Huw Edwards resigning from the BBC after 10 months’ disciplinary suspension, that event feels far longer than a year ago, and misses the shortlist. The Coronation Concert is a compromise option for monarchists, but, after a strong showing at the Craft awards, Eurovision Song Contest feels Tattooed on to win.

News coverage

With two of the shortlist of three being the Channel 4 and Sky News coverage of the Israel-Hamas war, the committee chair may have had to fight to keep the debate focused on televisual excellence. Expect Sky News: Inside Myanmar – The Hidden War to emerge as an impressive compromise.

Single documentary

ITV, mysteriously, tends to be ignored by Bafta, so a win for Ellie Simmonds: Finding My Secret Family would redress a little of that wrong, but it may be close with David Holmes: The Boy Who Lived, about the health struggles of Daniel Radcliffe’s Harry Potter stunt double.


A choice between interchangeable contenders in a threadbare category. Casualty, Eastenders or Emmerdale? Who cares? Bafta should retire this prize but, if there has to be a winner: Emmerdale.


Sports broadcasting production values are so uniformly strong that awards tend to involve other factors. Increasing equality in sport makes MOTD Live: Fifa Women’s World Cup 2023 the logical and populist winner.


Almost supernaturally, in Bafta terms, ITV has half the contenders. Juries see only a single episode chosen by producers, so I’d be surprised if the one-off co-ed edition of Loose Women And Men (generally Loose Women) didn’t pique the panel.

P&O Cruises memorable moment

Disclosure: I was one of the jurors choosing the shortlist on which the public votes. Logan Roy’s final flight, the climactic Cawood-Royce kitchen standoff and Bill and Frank’s last supper in The Last of Us will win votes from fans of Succession, Happy Valley and The Last of Us. But a national ballot based on single clips benefits scenes immediately relatable to viewers unfamiliar with the series. That should help Victoria’s revelation of her dad’s Rolls-Royce in Beckham, but a history of emotive results in this section hints at victory for Lucy in Channel 4’s The Piano, stilling and silencing Leeds train station with her interpretation of Chopin.

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