Alan Titchmarsh

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15.05.2016

Poor old Poldark. Poor old Downton Abbey. The most popular series to hit British television screens in recent years have both been overlooked in the annual TV beano that is the BAFTAs.

Granted, the British Academy of Film and Television Arts did give Downton Abbey and its creator Julian Fellowes an honorary BAFTA at a special evening staged at the Richmond Theatre last year, but it seemed like no more than a sop to the umpteen million strong audience as much as to the cast and crew. "Sorry,
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What is it about these awards ceremonies that rattles us? Well, aside from the self congratulatory back slapping that goes on in all things related to stage and screen (and the interminable acceptance speeches that thank a lot of people whose names mean nothing to the viewer),
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The adaptation of Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall was brilliant and deserving of plaudits, though there were many who caviled at the low level of lighting and the mumbled dialogue. I had a problem with neither sound nor lighting, but I cannot say that I enjoyed it any more than Poldark.

To be honest, if I were to sit and watch either again, it is Poldark that would be my choice. Why? Because it looked beautiful, it carried me along with its storyline, I fell in love with Eleanor Tomlinson playing Demelza, and I escaped into another world for an hour or so.

It cheered up my Sunday evenings, as did Downton Abbey. Series like these should not simply be judged on their intellectual acuity, but on a whole heap of things, not least visual beauty and mood creation, as well as loftier aspirations.

The fact that a series can leave you feeling happy and satisfied is an underrated commodity. Far more plaudits are garnered by Happy Valley and Homeland than would ever come the way of out and out populist productions like Grantchester, Endeavour and Foyle’s War,
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cheap ray bans, these series all have the fatal flaw that they don’t make us feel uncomfortable. They are not gritty. Big mistake.

Huge. When it comes to winning awards anyway. Not to worry, Poldark will be back soon. Until then, content yourself with reading Winston Graham’s elegantly written books. There are twelve of them in the Poldark series and I’ve read them all. They get this year’s AFTA: the Alan Fred Titchmarsh award for pure reading pleasure.

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