Thursday, 13 December 2012

British Comedy Awards 2012: the results

Thursday, 13 December 2012

I have a deep attachment to the British Comedy Awards (hereafter the BCAs), mainly because they're the only awards ceremony I've seen every edition of, and I like its mix of anarchy and self-mockery. It doesn't take itself too seriously, and host Jonathan Ross's opening monologues used to be amongst the funniest things you'll hear all year. These days, that's less the case, but only because the marketplace is so crowded with other awards ceremonies and comedy interludes—on television, radio and online.

This year's ceremony was once again broadcast by Channel 4 "live" (with a minor delay to edit around anything troublesome). The big winner was undoubtedly Sky Atlantic's dark period drama Hunderby by Julia Davis, which took home BEST SITCOM and BEST NEW COMEDY PROGRAMME. It wasn't to everyone's taste, and most people probably won't have seen it because it's broadcast behind a subscription wall, but I thought it was an unexpected and strong winner.

The Thick of It also won big for its actors Peter Capaldi and Rebecca Front, who won BEST COMEDY ACTOR and ACTRESS respectively. Armando Iannucci's political mockumentary is an unfortunate blind spot for me, but both are actors I've admired in other things for a long time. Front in particular has been doing great supporting work for around 20 years now, so it's great to see her getting some recognition.

One surprise was Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer winning the prestigious WRITER'S GUILD OF GREAT BRITAIN award. Good writing isn't something you associate them with, but it was nice to see everyone poke fun at that fact when they went up to collect the award. I think the quality of their writing is debatable, as they're more about ideas and imagination. Writing is just the conduit to get that stuff onto television, but maybe their process is more about typing away in Final Draft than we imagine.

Harry Hill's TV Burp was given BEST COMEDY ENTERTAINMENT PROGRAMME, which felt like a token gift because the show has come to an end. I'm also not sure Charlie Brooker deserved BEST COMEDY ENTERTAINMENT PERSONALITY. Ditto Jack Whitehall, who won the public's KING OF COMEDY phone vote. He's great in Fresh Meat, but his stand-up is limp and his BBC3 self-penned sitcom Bad Education was sub-par. It was a massive hit for the channel, naturally.

One of the night's biggest delights was seeing Morgana Robinson win BEST COMEDY BREAKTHROUGH ARTIST, because she's such a great example of that category. Nobody knew who she was a year ago, but thanks to VIP she's now one of the country's top impressionists in many people's eyes. She's great and a genuinely funny woman, so I was very pleased with her success here.

BEST MALE TV COMIC went to Lee Mack, and I was reminded of how well he straddles the old and new traditions of comedy. His stuff is very indebted to the classic era of British stand-up comedy, but he retains enough of a modern bite to please both camps.

The night's biggest disappointment was seeing Jo Brand get BEST FEMALE TV COMIC, because I just don't understand her appeal. She just pops up on QI and Have I Got News For You? occasionally, and wins a big award for that? Does anyone care about her stand-up, which hasn't evolved since the late-'80s? I understand she's gained some credibility with hospital sitcom Getting On, but she's far from the funniest female comic.

E4's Cardinal Burns won BEST SKETCH SHOW, which was a nice surprise. It's been a little embarrassing that children's show Horrible Histories has been winning this category for a few years, so about time an adult show upped its game in response. That said, I don't think Cardinal Burns was as brilliant as many people say. It was very good in places, but about half its first series left me cold.

The evening's best moment was saved for last, with Sacha Baron Cohen being given the OUTSTANDING ACHIEVEMENT IN COMEDY. A global success thanks to his Ali G, Bruno and Borat characters, I didn't have any misgivings about him being given this award. Even better, he came on-stage as Ali G (video embedded above) for the first time in 10 years (amazingly!) and performed a six-minute acceptance speech that was absolutely hilarious. A great way to end the show and celebrate a genuinely talented and ground-breaking comedian we should be proud of.

Those are my thoughts on the outcome of the BCAs this year. Some surprises, some upsets. Why wasn't Friday Night Dinner nominated for Best Sitcom? Shouldn't it have replaced the quirky-beyond-belief Moone Boy? It was also a crime that Fresh Meat wasn't a nominee anywhere, seeing as it's easily one of the five funniest things on UK TV right now. The absence of Dead Boss was also pretty odd, seeing as it was so popular this year.

The show itself wasn't too memorable. Ross's opening monologue was pretty good and Ali G's closing acceptance speech was the major highlight, but there weren't many memorable moments in-between. When Leigh Francis as Keith Lemon crashing the stage is the only sign of anarchy, there's a problem. (It was also rather gutless for the BCAs to resist a few opportunities to slam Lemon's abysmal movie from the summer, I thought.) I quite liked Steve Coogan's peripheral cheekiness (like making a vinegary face next to a bottle of Fosters, who sponsored his Alan Partridge webseries), and it was intriguing to see Alan Carr looking either disgruntled or drunk every so often. He also laughed at a joke made at the expense of his erstwhile collaborator Justin Lee Collins (who was found guilty of domestic abuse this year), whom I'm guessing isn't such a close friend now?

What do you think? Were you happy with most of the BCAs winners? Were there some other injustices I haven't mentioned? What other shows were totally overlooked? Did the BCAs entertain you overall, or was it a massive waste of time?

12 December 2012 / Channel 4