It’s the biggest night in the soap calendar. Marking 20 years since the very first ceremony, The British Soap Awards 2018 were broadcast live to the nation for the first time. It was a welcome and necessary change.
By Matthew Gormley @MatthewPGormley
It’s the biggest night in the soap calendar. Marking 20 years since the very first ceremony, The British Soap Awards 2018 were broadcast live to the nation for the first time. It was a welcome and necessary change. In recent years, the leaking of the results to the press and social media has been unavoidable, wiping the shine off the ceremony before the broadcast has made the light of day.
Back in 1999, Richard and Judy, the then-golden partnership of daytime television, hosted the first event which saw the three bigwigs, Coronation Street, Emmerdale and EastEnders clean up across the board. With several hundred fewer channels, viewing figures for our favourite soap operas were astronomical and the casts of now-defunct soaps Brookside and Night and Day sat alongside our surviving favourites at this brand new ceremony honouring the stars of the small screen which we allow into our living rooms on an almost nightly basis.
It’s since become an annual fixture and the most hotly-anticipated night in soap land, not only for the stars but for the fans who spend their lives glued to the box. Sadly, in its 20th anniversary year, it seems that the event has had to bow to the demands of the political correctness brigade.
At school, sports days are no longer about competitiveness. Rather than awarding prizes for the runners who finish in first, second and third place, teachers are instead encouraged to reward all kids for taking part, so as to avoid leaving anybody feeling upset and left out. Yawn.
And it seems the organisers of the Soap Awards were just as determined to ensure the accolades were dished out as equally as the sweets in the playground, keeping everything fair and square. It was the biggest mixed bag of awards in recent years.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that one soap should clean up, leaving the rest of the big five clapping and smiling sweetly to the camera through their gritted teeth. Sitting through the best part of two hours with the same people winning again and again is boring for everybody involved. However, watching Saturday night’s ceremony from the comfort of my own home (I was lucky enough to attend in person in 2017), I got the impression that the crowning of the winners was more about keeping tally than the acting involved.
Let’s break it down. 13 out of the 16 gongs given away last night were voted for by a panel of judges. Exactly who sits on this panel has remained a mystery throughout the whole of the last 20 years. Anyway, these executives awarded two gongs to Coronation Street, two to EastEnders, two to Doctors and four to Hollyoaks. Emmerdale gained just one, having cleaned up in 2017 following Ashley’s heartbreaking dementia demise.
So whilst Lucy Fallon (Coronation Street’s Bethany Platt) was a worthy winner of Best Female Dramatic Performance for her portrayal of the naive teenager during the grooming storyline, and Emmerdale’s Isobel Steele (Liv Flaherty) deservedly claimed the Best Young Actor gong, you have to question the credibility of this year’s judging when Phelan’s Reign of Terror, which finally came to a climatic crescendo this week in a special post-watershed run of episodes, was overlooked for Best Storyline in favour of a self-harming plot in Hollyoaks, the like of which we have already seen.
I predict this award wasn’t actually about which of the nominated storylines was the best at all. It was, more likely, due to the fact that Connor McIntyre had already scooped up the award for Villain Of The Year. In years gone by, he’d have easily chased off competition in all three of his categories (he was also nominated for Best Male Dramatic Performance), but, this is 2018, and in the name of all that’s fair, it has to go to a different actor and a different soap.
My fears of the PC brigade masquerading this year’s awards were confirmed with the award for ‘Scene Of The Year’. In what was, not only, a first for the Soap Awards, but a first for an awards bash in general, there was a ‘joint winner’, as both Doctors and EastEnders took home the gong; Doctors for their Bollywood proposal and ‘Enders for Lauren and Abi’s rooftop fall.
Apparently, the two scenes scored equally on all levels and the judges couldn’t decide. How very farcical. It’s a tough decision choosing a winner, so let’s not bother. Let’s make two soaps winners to avoid upsetting the defeated party. Let’s just make everybody winners. Just give all the nominees a gong and have done with it.
Can you imagine if, at the Academy Awards, they simply couldn’t decide which big screen blockbuster should be awarded Best Picture, so instead gave the one Oscar to two different films?
I have no doubt that one of the major factors playing a part in this ludicrous decision was the fact that it helped to level out the playing field when it came to the total number of awards handed out to both soaps. Up until this point, they both had just one piece of silver in their cabinet. Lorraine Stanley from EastEnders had won the Best Newcomer award, whilst Ian Midlane of Doctors won Best Comedy Performance. Now, suddenly, both soaps had doubled their number of gongs in one award. It was certainly no coincidence.
It speaks volumes that the three biggest trophies, Best Actor, Best Actress and Best British Soap, all of which were voted for by the public, were the only awards of the evening which featured more than one nominee from the same show. Coronation Street deservedly swept up the trio. It was a long time coming for Jack P Shepherd, who, as the former teenage tearaway David Platt, has had the whole country on his side following his horrific rape ordeal. He has the ability to convey his feelings of torment with a single look, his hollow eyes crying out for help. Lucy Fallon’s performances have been equally as stellar as David’s niece, Bethany, and helped her do the double as she picked up Best Actress.
What a shame that Coronation Street’s biggest moment of glory was snatched away from them by the deeply irritating stars of Cagney and Lacey. Sharon Gless and Tyne Daly put in a cringe-making performance, rambling on and on with self-indulgent, lame anecdotes with very tenuous connections to soap operas. When they finally announced the winner, by the time the deserved cast and crew were up on the stage, mainstay Helen Worth had just thirty seconds to utter a brief thanks before the live broadcast was forced off the air.
It was a thoroughly embarrassing end and a pretty disgraceful way to treat the hard-working team who should have been allowed to bask in their moment of glory. If only host Phillip Schofield had nudged Gless and Daly, telling them to stick to a 30-second time slot and reminding them that the evening wasn’t about them, Corrie may have actually had time to make their acknowledgements and take a bow.
The British Soap Awards have always had a reputation for being a more relaxed and jovial awards ceremony. They lack the seriousness of the BAFTAs and instead act as a glorious celebration of the hard graft that goes into our most popular shows, both in front of and behind the cameras.
So, please, I beg the powers that be not to conform to political correctness and fairness overload. It’s not about making sure the soaps all win an equal number of awards. It’s simply about who was the best.