TV Baftas 2022: Time wins best miniseries as social issues take spotlight

BBC prison drama Time was the big winner at the 2022 television Baftas on Sunday, landing best miniseries and best actor for Sean Bean, in an in-person ceremony where social issues took centre stage.

In another triumph for social realism, Help, about the care home crisis during the Covid-19 pandemic, won two awards. Jodie Comer won best actress for her role as a care worker, taking her second Bafta after winning for her role in Killing Eve in 2019, while best supporting actress went to Cathy Tyson for her portrayal of a resident.

Speaking after she received her award, Comer said the show had enabled her to “realise the power we have in the stories we tell and that we choose to tell, and [the importance of] not shying away from difficult subject matters”.

Jodie Comer accepts the best actress award for Help
Jodie Comer accepts the best actress award for Help. Photograph: James Veysey/Rex/Shutterstock for BAFTA

Collecting the award for Time as best miniseries, Stephen Graham praised “a phenomenal cast of young working-class men”, adding that they had made the show “an absolutely joy to be a part of”. Graham, who played a prison officer in the drama, said that as a child he had dreamed of working on “stories with a social commentary”.

Tyson used her speech to thank Channel 4: “I remember being a teenager when Channel 4 was born and it had so many good things to do with it like diversity and it was a voice for people who were unheard at the time.”

The other big winner was Big Zuu, who collected his two Baftas for best feature and entertainment performance for Big Zuu’s Big Eats with a look of incredulity. “This is mad, this is actually not normal,” he told a press conference.

Big Zuu with his two Baftas for best feature and best entertainment performance for Big Zuu’s Eats
Big Zuu with his two Baftas for best feature and best entertainment performance for Big Zuu’s Eats. Photograph: James Veysey/Rex/Shutterstock for BAFTA

He made the case for representation in a powerful speech. “Mans come from humble beginnings. Representation is so important. Growing up, there weren’t many chefs or people that looked like me on telly. And now there’s young people watching us doing our ting thinking you know what? If these wastemen can win a Bafta, surely we can!”

Sunday’s ceremony in the Royal Festival Hall in London’s South Bank marked the first in-person awards since 2019 as well as the television Baftas’ 75th anniversary. Crowds gathered on nearby Hungerford Bridge as stars of British television gathered on the red carpet.

Setting the tone for the rest of the night, Bafta chair Krishnendu Majumdar opened the show with a political speech in which he made a powerful case for public service broadcasting in a direct challenge to the government’s plans to privatise Channel 4, as well as praising colleagues’ work in Ukraine and calling for more diversity among decision-makers in the industry.

In the international category, Amazon Prime’s The Underground Railroad, an adaptation of Colston Whitehead’s Pulitzer-prize-winning novel about escaping slavery, beat off tough competition from hit shows Succession, Mare of Easttown, Squid Game and Call My Agent.

In a winners’ press conference, actor Sheila Atim praised the counsellors on set for looking after cast members’ wellbeing. “It’s a real testament to the fact you can have really safe and protective work environment while still creating brilliant work.”

In a further echo of this ceremony’s focus on topical social issues, Steve McQueen took home a Bafta in the factual category after missing out on an award for Small Axe last year, for his documentary Uprising, about the New Cross fire of 1981, which foreshadowed future racial injustices including Grenfell.

Steve McQueen won best factual series award for Uprising
Steve McQueen won best factual series award for Uprising. Photograph: James Veysey/Rex/Shutterstock for BAFTA

McQueen told a press conference that for too long “black British history has been swept beneath the carpet”.

He also made an impassioned plea for Channel 4 to help sustain UK creativity. “Other people have more money than us, the Americans, but we have great ideas and that’s what makes us who we are.”

In another signal of the importance of inclusion on television, the reader-voted Virgin Media Must-see Moment went to Strictly Come Dancing for when contestant Rose Ayling-Ellis, who is deaf, danced with partner Giovanni Pernice in silence. She said was thrilled that her dance had led to “better deaf awareness”. “We’ve still got a long way to go but it’s such a great start,” she said.

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However, the 1980s-set Aids drama It’s a Sin, which had six nominations, the most of any show, failed to win any awards.

The creators of lockdown drama Together, starring Sharon Horgan and James McAvoy, which won best drama, used their speech to read a statement from Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice, who said they had been “ignored, lied to and gaslighted by a government seemingly too busy partying”, and called for a Covid inquiry to be launched.

Matthew Macfadyen took home the award for best supporting actor for his role in Succession. Creator Jesse Armstrong accepted the award, telling a press conference that his chemistry with actor Nicholas Braun had been written in the script, but was chiefly due to the fact “the actors like working together and they feed off it and we feed off how they perform it and it’s a happy merry-go-round”.

For scripted feature, Motherland took its first Bafta win for its final series. Gogglebox took home best reality and constructed factual, while best drama series went to teen angst series In My Skin.

The best comedy performances went to Jamie Demetriou in the male category for Channel 4’s Stath Lets Flats, while Sophie Willan accepted her trophy in an expletive-laden speech for her role in BBC Two’s Alma’s Not Normal.

Mo Gilligan, who took home the award for best comedy entertainment programme for The Lateish Show, said he owed his career to Channel 4 taking a chance on him. “I went to lots of meetings and they said: “You’re good but we don’t know what to do with you …” It’s really important we do save Channel 4 and use this platform to say it.”