Backstage @ The Baftas: Life On Mars

THERE’S no other word for it, I’m afraid.
Life On Mars was, as feared, snubbed by the judges at the Bafta TV Awards in London last night.
But the viewing public sent the Academy a clear message – you got it wrong.
John Simm broke into a huge smile when the hit Manchester show took the Pioneer Audience Award.
Helped in part by devoted fans at The Railway Arms, it was a fully deserved win for Life On Mars.
The prize is the only category voted for by the public and not the judges, but also the only accolade which does not result in the award of a coveted Bafta mask.
It was clear in the press room at the London Palladium just how popular Life On Mars is, as it was in the auditorium.
So there was disappointment when Simm lost out in the Actor category to Longford’s Jim Broadbent.
And even greater surprise as The Street got the nod for the Drama Series gong, ahead of the men from Mars.
You can’t say that both awards were not deserved by their respective recipients.
But they were all too predictable “Bafta choices” and, in my opinion, the wrong ones.

It was wonderful to see the Life On Mars cast getting their moment of glory on stage.
The line up included Simm, Phil Glenister, Liz White, Dean Andrews, Marshall Lancaster and writers Matthew Graham, Ashley Pharoah and Tony Jordan.
Aside from the Audience Award win, Simm looked uncomfortable and unhappy throughout.
As a serious actor who avoids the celebrity circuit, I suspect high profile TV awards are his idea of hell.
He also could have been forgiven if he felt a burning sense of injustice.

There is still hope that Bafta will do the right thing.
Last night’s awards were for programmes screened in 2006, meaning that the second series of Life On Mars will be eligible for nomination next year.
And both John Simm and Philip Glenister must surely be in the running for individual nominations.
Phil was smiling as he came into the press room – otherwise known as the Palladium Stalls Bar – at the end of the evening to talk about the Audience Award win.
In his left hand he was still clutching the gold envelope he’d opened on stage to announce Victoria Wood as Best Actress.
In his right hand was a champagne glass, filled with what looked suspiciously like water.
Switching into character as Manchester’s DCI Gene Hunt, he said: “Well, obviously, I am thrilled. I’m going to go home and have a plate of hoops…with champagne.”
Back as himself, he added: “Everything starts with the writing. It’s a fantastically diverse piece. It’s got a bit of everything – and a marvellous bunch of actors.”
Moving on to Life On Mars spin-off Ashes To Ashes, he said: “I remember the Eighties a bit better. Well, actually no I don’t, for various reasons.
“I’ll have to swot up on that period, I should think. I was probably in the pub most of the time, learning to drink.
“We’re specifically setting it in 1981, so there’s some pretty cracking storylines to be had, just in terms of the social upheaval of the country with two years of Thatcher.
“So I think Gene might find himself having a bit of a crush on Mrs Thatcher at some stage, who knows? That’s purely the character, not me!
“I’m going for the Phil Collins look, probably, in a ‘Hello, I Must Be Going’ period, with the old trainers or plimsoles on and a suit.
“We also thought about Martin Fry from ABC and the silver suits. We’ll see.
“I think I should keep the camel coat, personally. I think it should never go away.”
Glenister also spoke a little more about Tuesday, the new British feature film he’s currently making, which co-stars Simm.
“It’s very low budget: ‘Bring your own clothes, make your own way there.’
“It’s a heist movie and it’s being written and directed by a really talented guy called Sacha Bennett, who is a mate of John and I’s.
“And we’ve agreed to do it because we feel it’s important to support him, more than anything.
“He’s a clever guy and it’s going to be a rather good little piece.
“We’re robbers. We’re on the other side of the law.
“I’m playing a character called Earp, which is quite interesting because I kind of feel that Gene Hunt is a bit of a Wyatt Earp in his small town of Manchester.
“And John plays a character called Silver, who is the getaway driver. Obviously Silver being the getaway horse.
“But we have got a car in this, because he’s a rubbish rider is Simm.”
You can read my full MEN report on last night’s awards, along with a photo gallery, here.
Life On Bafta
Life On Mars: The Blog.
Hello, I Must Be Going
Wyatt Earp
The Railway Arms


Filed under News

3 responses to “Backstage @ The Baftas: Life On Mars

  1. bakednudel

    Thanks for your comments. Could you possibly explain how many people actually vote for the BAFTAs and who they are? Is it like the Academy Awards–actors vote for the actor awards? Because if not then it’s hardly important recognition by one’s peers…
    Also, why do they pit work in one-off series like Longford against a body of work over a long period like Life on Mars?
    Disgusted of Tunbridge Wells.

  2. Ian Wylie

    bakednudel – not sure if it answers your question in full, but the below is taken from the Bafta website:
    “The TV voting constituency of the Academy casts its votes online, for all those programmes entered.
    “Those programmes and performances which have attracted the most votes from the Academy membership are then put up for further scrutiny by category juries specially selected by the Academy Television committee.
    “Each jury, which consists of nine individuals (with a quorum of seven) aims to be balanced in age, sex, experience, ethnicity and in broadcasting allegiances, with a track record of achievement in the genre and with no direct association with a short-listed programme. It must also comprise a mix of related skills such as writers, producers, directors, actors.
    “These juries decide upon the four nominations and the winner within the principal production and performance categories of the Awards.”
    As you point out, there’s no allowance for a body of work over the course of a series as opposed to that in a single drama when it comes to the Actor award – even though this distinction is made in the programme categories themselves re Single Drama / Drama Series / Drama Serial. I don’t know the answer but my guess is that they simply don’t want to further expand beyond the current 22 categories.
    Away from Life On Mars and John Simm, there were other baffling results last night which denied deserved wins for, among others, Liz Smith, Coronation Street and How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria?
    As you may have read, some equally baffled critics are now asking: “Is Bafta the new Eurovision?”

  3. George Sweetnam

    Ian – As you say, the second series of Life On Mars qualifies for next year’s Baftas. I would hope that if John Simm (or Phillip Glennister) makes the short list, that they are not the only actors playing fictional characters in a Drama Series. I get the strong impression that in considering the short list, the judges just found it much easier to devote time to considering a single performance of three of the nominees than to admit they don’t make time for whole series, or take pains to watch a DVD as this might be construed as placing single performance nominees at a disadvantage.
    As to the Best Drama award, to have one judge say that The Street had managed to revive The Single Play within a prime time format – I’d have thought that the Bafta selection process for Best Actor and Best Actress was already doing enough to maintain The Single Play. Someone else said that The Street was honoured because new writing must be encouraged otherwise the future of television drama will wither on the vine. I always thought that encouragement meant giving a new script a green light for production, getting the programme made and seen by an audience. The awards are then supposed to then reflect the best work seen in the last year, each one judged on its merits rather than some hankering from Grey Panthers for yesteryear, specifically in this case for The Wednesday Play or the Midweek Play, or whatever dramatic form it was clinging on as a Sixties Play “Trapped in the Seventies.”
    If the Young Generation / Baby Boomers / Silver Surfers had taken the pat on the head as enough encouragement to go retro TV would still be taking its lead from Theatre and Music Hall. Even Sam Tyler wouldn’t kill himself for better brilliantine.

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