National Television Awards 2020: Mrs Brown beats Ricky Gervais and Fleabag

By Paul Glynn
Entertainment & arts reporter

Image source, Getty Images

Mrs Brown's Boys has beaten Fleabag and After Life to win a fifth comedy prize at the National Television Awards.

The awards, voted for by the British public, saw Jesy Nelson, Peaky Blinders and Sir Michael Palin all collect prizes.

Ant and Dec, meanwhile, enjoyed their 19th straight NTA success as best presenters.

New awards host David Walliams also won one, which he went up to collect in his underpants.

There were wins for the usual suspects Strictly Come Dancing, This Morning and Emmerdale too during the event at London's O2 Arena.

'One of the best things I've ever seen'

Phoebe Waller-Bridge's dark comedy, Fleabag, won big at the recent Emmys, Golden Globes and Critics Choice Awards, but the show was overlooked on Tuesday night in favour of Brendan O'Carroll's Saturday night sitcom, Mrs Brown's Boys.

Ricky Gervais' After Life - a similarly dark comedy about a suicidal journalist who has just lost his wife to cancer - also missed out. But after thanking his family, O'Carroll was quick to praise the Netflix-produced show as "one of the best things I've ever seen", drawing a wave of gratitude and a smile from Gervais in the crowd.

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Image caption,
Ricky Gervais and the cast of After Life
Image caption,
Fleabag star Phoebe Waller-Bridge was not in attendance at the NTAs

Gervais previously poked fun at popular sitcoms with laughter tracks, innuendo and catchphrases in his show Extras, yet after nine years Mrs Brown's Boys continues to be a huge draw. In 2018 its Christmas special brought in 6.8 million viewers, making it the most-watched programme of the day.

"Comedy is hard, it's not easy," declared the Irish writer, actor and comedian.

Derry Girls and Sex Education found that to their cost, missing out in the comedy stakes at this year's awards, where Ant and Dec won their 19th successive presenting award despite having not hosted their own show, Saturday Night Takeaway, in 2019.

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The nation's favourite double act admitted the ceremony was getting more tense for them as the years went by.

"We had our chat on the way in about this being the year we don't win it - then you go and do this again," joked Ant.

The pair enjoyed a second win of the night with best entertainment programme I'm a Celebrity..., which they present, and dedicated the award to those affected by the bushfires in Australia, where the programme is filmed.

David Walliams - who took over proceedings from usual host Dermot O'Leary - made his opening speech from raised up high on a wire.

Image source, PA
Image caption,
David Walliams is lifted off the ground in rehearsal

The show began with a VT of him playing a strange version of himself, appearing before even stranger versions of The X Factor judges, who were also played by the host himself.

Later on, sitting bare-legged on Dec's lap, he leapt up to receive his own award for best TV Judge, for his work on Britain's Got Talent.

"When I die, which I will, they will show this clip on the news - me in my pants," quipped Walliams.

'Brave and courageous'

An emotional Jesy Nelson won the award for best factual programme for Odd One Out, her documentary about cyber bullying.

"I'm so sorry, this is so overwhelming. I'm such a baby," declared the Little Mix star.

The feature was inspired by her experiences of online trolling when she first rose to fame as a youngster with the band on The X Factor.

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"I want to thank every single person that was in the documentary for being so brave and courageous to tell their own story to the world," she added.

"I don't think we ever expected for this to have such an impact and I'm just so grateful that such a negative experience in my life turned into such a positive one."

Sir Michael Palin received a special recognition award and used the platform to pay tribute to "someone who taught me more about television than anyone else" - his fellow Monty Python star Terry Jones, who died last week aged 77.

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"He had a skill in being very ruthless but also being charming at the same time" said Sir Michael.

National Television Awards 2020 winners in full

Best challenge show - Great British Bake Off

Best factual programme - Odd One Out, Jesy Nelson

Best drama - Peaky Blinders

Best comedy - Mrs Brown's Boys

Best serial drama performance - Katie McGlynn, Coronation Street

Impact award - Gavin & Stacey

Best live magazine show - This Morning

Best TV judge - David Walliams

Best new drama - Chernobyl

Best TV presenter - Ant & Dec

Best Newcomer - Peter Ash, Coronation Street

Special recognition award - Sir Michael Palin

Best drama performance - Cillian Murphy, Peaky Blinders

Best serial drama - Emmerdale

Best talent show- Strictly Come Dancing

The Bruce Forsyth entertainment award - I'm A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here

In the best challenge show category, Love Island lost out to The Great British Bake Off.

Earlier on Tuesday, Caroline Flack, who stepped down from the ITV2 show following an assault charge, made a return to social media to wish the cast and crew of the dating show the best of luck.

Host Walliams brought weary groans from the crowd with jokes about Flack, and actor Lawrence Fox.

Good Morning Britain show host Piers Morgan boycotted the awards this year because, he said, "the same people always win" and (like a stopped clock twice a day) he wasn't wrong; Emmerdale won best soap for a fourth straight year, and This Morning and Strictly Come Dancing won awards for a 10th and fifth year in a row respectively.

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Holly Willoughby praised her co-host Phillip Schofield - "this silver haired man with a heart of gold". Strictly host Tess Daly, meanwhile, paid tribute to her late former showbiz colleague Bruce Forsyth, whose name now adorns one of the awards.

"Bruce was show business and his memory lives on," she said.

Claudia Winkleman, who replaced him as her on-screen partner said they would celebrate the win with "crisps and tequila".


In between the awards, The Pet Shop Boys debuted a new song called Monkey Business, backed by a cast of colourfully dressed dancers.

Peaky Blinders picked up two gongs; best drama again and best drama performance for Cillian Murphy - though you might know him better as the gangster Thomas Shelby.

The popular historical drama miniseries Chernobyl gained the plaudits for best new drama.

And the award for best serial drama performance went to Katie McGlynn for her portrayal of Sinead Tinker in Coronation Street.

"That was nerve-wrecking trying to get up them steps in this dress," McGlynn laughed.

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She thanked the soap's bosses for "trusting me with this huge story line" and dedicated the award to her late granddad, who had encouraged her to put herself forward for it. He died just a month before her first audition on the show.

Fellow fictional Weatherfield resident Peter Ash won the trophy for best newcomer.

Finally, Gavin and Stacey was given a special "Impact" award and writer/actor Ruth Jones said it "wasn't easy bringing the show" back after a decade for the recent Christmas special.

The episode became the UK's most-watched scripted TV programme of the entire 2010s, with days to spare.

Jones admitted that she wished co-writer and now US-dweller James Corden "was here to share this".

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"He and I have been on a journey that has lasted over 15 years."

Slipping into character and a thick Welsh accent for a second, Jones, or Nessa rather, delivered a pointed message to audience member and alleged former flame Sir Tom Jones.

"I don't know what you're laughing at Tom, you never writes, you never phones...

"There's still a lot of electricity between me and Tom and don't you knows it," she added.

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