25 May

The BAFTA television awards have just passed and while there were a few givens (Olivia Coleman won both awards she was nominated for and currently holds the title of Number One Person you want to sit and have a cup of tea with) the rest of the bunch was varied to say the least.

But how much of what was shown accurately reflects what we as viewers are tuning into week in week out? The BAFTAs are decided by critics rather than voted for by the public like ITV’s National television awards and therefore has that air of gravitas. This is high culture right here, the stuff we should be watching. But is it?

There was one single audience award comprised of Homeland, Game of Thrones, Call the Midwife, Strictly Come Dancing, The Great British Bake Off and the 2012 Olympic Opening Ceremony. Surprisingly for some Game of Thrones took the prize (and delivered a very stilted acceptance speech) but some of those nominated were not recognised in any other category or they were in limited catagories that don’t received as much attention or are not perceived of as important.


The one thing apart from that, that all those shows have in common is they are labelled as “populist” usually by those who use the word in a derogatory way. They draw in huge audience numbers (Sky Atalantic saw a 1700% increase in viewers for the Monday night slot when GoT series three debuted) and generate a load of interest from viewers but are not always critically acclaimed or if they are praised then there is an exception to them receiving wider acclaim and more nominations.

For example no one doubts the high quality and production values of GoT but it is often analysed within the parameters of genre since it is a fantasy show. Call the Midwife is Sunday Night Fluff, (Good Lord I hate the word “Fluff”) Bake Off is quaint Britishness, indicative of the twee WI wannabees sub-culture, Strictly is a guilty pleasure and Homeland is foreign so despite a British lead actor we can’t take credit for it and use it as a way to bemoan the lack of “slickness” on British TV.

In a way that can only be described as Hispster-esque, the word populist has negative connotation because of the idea that if something has mass appeal then it is automatically less deserving of our praise and conversely something is only praiseworthy is it has been seen by less than thirty people.

About the writer: Sarah is a filmmaker and writer with an obsession for luscious visuals and a distain for tomatoes (they are a sneaky and untrustworthy foodstuff). If she’s not blogging or tweeting, she’ll be watching films or running around with her video camera.


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