First things first, this wasn't a traditional BAFTA Award that TOWIE took home last night, it was the 'YouTube Audience' gong. So if anyone wants to get snooty about a lowering of standards, they've got the British public to answer to. In fact, when you consider the demographics for the shows up for the accolade (The Killing, Downton Abbey), it would probably have been more of a surprise if TOWIE had left empty-handed. The show's target audience is a generation of viewers who have grown up interacting with TV, whether it be with phone votes or Twitter banter, so I suspect the victory margin last night was a big one.
If you can look past the tabloid headlines, vajazzles and gigantic boobs for a brief moment, TOWIE is now recognised as a groundbreaking TV format. When it first arrived it looked like a tacky knock-off of The Hills and Big Brother, and while it does owe a debt to both shows, Essex has developed its own identity that is now being milked dry elsewhere (Made In Chelsea, Geordie Shore). Structured reality is the new reality. Big Brother always relied on an element of good fortune in the casting and an incredible amount of creative talent behind the scenes to make it click. If it didn't have that, the results were often dull. The staging and plotted nature of TOWIE means that there are no such worries, because the producers always know that they can finish off the series with a pool party and a mega fight between Mark & Lauren. Anything else entertaining that happens along the way is a bonus.
Fair enough, give TOWIE a BAFTA, but why stop there? Keith Lemon and Stacey Solomon could bag a BAFTA Fellowship for their services to forgotten Z-list celebs on Sing If You Can. Let's put a bet on Gaz from Geordie Shore winning the 'Best Actor' gong in 2012. Of course we jest, but after last night's TOWIE triumph, it is surely a case of anything goes for next year's ceremony. If we're awarding TV shows gongs based on tabloid headlines and Twitter reactions, then it's only a matter of time before Louis Walsh is given a lifetime achievement accolade.
Of course, it was undeniably funny to see a few noses put out of joint by the TOWIE crew winning. Watching the 'real actors' gawp and looking thoroughly miffed about the shrieking reality TV stars was a highlight of the evening. However, beyond the initial snigger, was it right that a legend such as Jim Broadbent was forced into polite clapping for anyone as inane and vapid as Joey Essex? A man, lest we forget, who's highlight reel from series two consisted of him combing his hair, repeating his own invented word "reem" and an in-depth discussion about why he buys shoes that are too small for him.
> In Pictures: 'TOWIE' at the BAFTAs
> 'TOWIE', 'EastEnders', 'Sherlock' win BAFTAs
> BAFTA TV Awards 2011: The winners in pictures
> BAFTA TV Awards 2011: The winners in full
> BAFTA TV Awards 2011: Reaction
> BAFTA TV Awards 2011: Red carpet pictures
> Read our full coverage of the BAFTAs
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