If there was one British TV show that looked certain to have had the Bafta TV Awards jury hooked, it was The Night Manager – the BBC’s glossy globetrotting spy drama that has already won Golden Globes and Emmys.
But bafflingly, it was largely shut out when the Bafta TV nominations were announced on Tuesday. There was nothing for its stars Tom Hiddleston, Hugh Laurie and Olivia Colman – all of whom won Golden Globes in January.
The only sniff in the main categories was for Tom Hollander, who is up for best supporting actor and, to be fair, did steal the scenes in which his menacing henchman Corky appeared.
It’s not the only TV show that viewers are complaining about being excluded, with little joy for the likes of Line of Duty and The Missing. So what’s going on?
Bafta rules have changed this year, meaning shows can be nominated for the main categories if they have mainly British talent – even if they haven’t been made by a British broadcaster.
In other words, The Crown (British creators and actors but made by Netflix) is now in the mix and leads the field with five nominations.
Bafta chair Jane Lush says the contest is even more competitive than before. “There is so much investment in drama now that the competition is incredibly fierce,” she told the BBC.
Bafta juries have more big shows to consider when deciding the shortlists, she said. “Whereas a few years ago people were choosing four [nominees] out of six contenders for drama series, they’re now probably looking at 10 or even more.”
Not British enough
Yes, The Night Manager was made by the BBC and The Crown was made by Netflix – but perhaps The Crown is more quintessentially British. There is tradition, there are costumes, there are palaces and butlers.
A look at the best drama series category suggests Bafta prefers period shows – as well as The Crown, there are The Durrells and War & Peace. Happy Valley is the only contemporary show on the shortlist.
Meanwhile, The Night Manager jets from Cairo to The Alps to war zones and exotic islands.
“You could say we have this love affair with nostalgia and maybe that’s why The Crown has edged [The Night Manager] out,” says Tufayel Ahmed, a London-based culture reporter for Newsweek.
“British audiences love a good period drama and The Crown seems to fit that Downton Abbey gap, whereas something like The Night Manager might be a bit too modern.”
A push for diversity
Jane Lush says Bafta has been “trying to heed the clamour for it to be more diverse”, and it’s clear Bafta has been making an effort.
Adeel Akhtar, who played spook Rob Singhal in The Night Manager, is nominated – but not for that role. He’s up for best leading actor for Murdered By My Father, while Babou Ceesay, who appeared in Damilola, Our Loved Boy, is in the same category.
Tufayel Ahmed says: “It’s quite rare that you see brown faces or whatever leading dramas here, so the fact that they’re being recognised is a good sign and hopefully it will mean that more of those programmes get made.”
The Night Manager’s cast was a bit diverse – but not in the lead roles.
Too much Tom
Perhaps Bafta just didn’t want Tom Hiddleston to repeat his Golden Globes acceptance speech, in which he told a story about a trip to South Sudan, and which attracted criticism and ridicule.
He later conceded that the speech was “inelegantly expressed”, explaining he was “very nervous and my words just came out wrong”.
Bafta audition failed.
Add that to his inelegant break-up with Taylor Swift after three months together amid accusations their relationship was a publicity stunt.
It’s more than a year since the finale of The Night Manager was shown in the UK – although it was within Bafta’s eligibility period.
But has it faded in the memories of the Bafta juries?
Maybe – but then again, Tom Hollander was memorable enough, and it has six nominations in the Bafta TV Craft Awards, including best director (fiction), sound (fiction), production design and visual effects.
It wasn’t any good
Maybe the juries for the main Bafta categories just weren’t that keen on it.
The reviews at the time were good, but not universally so.
The Spectator’s critic James Walton said it was “so respectful of its chosen genre as to occasionally verge on parody”, while Sight & Sound’s Theo Tait wrote: “There are so many implausibilities in the plot that one hardly knows where to start”.
We had to look quite hard to find those negative quotes, mind you.
Only four nominees per category
The Golden Globes and the Oscars have five nominations for most categories. The Emmys have six or seven. The Baftas have four.
In this golden age of television, perhaps it’s time for the Baftas to spread the love a little wider.
The Night Manager is not alone in missing out
“I think the main omission is Line of Duty as best drama,” says Tufayel Ahmed. “Series three was British drama at its best – it’s good, gripping television but it’s also smart, and that’s what British drama is well known for.”
As Jane Lush said, the Bafta jury might have considered 10 shows for the best drama series shortlist – so here’s an alternative list with six programmes that could have made the cut:
- The A Word
- Line of Duty
- The Missing
- The Night Manager
- Peaky Blinders