Ali G v Parkinson and Paxman v Johnny: Meet the Bafta odd couples

Polite, elderly gentleman chat-show host is pitted against irreverent, spoof interviewer who specialises in dubious street slang.

The sometimes ludicrously eclectic nature of awards has led to a battle between Michael Parkinson and Ali G for the best entertainment performance title, in the British Academy Television Awards nominations announced yesterday.

It is probably the most incongruous head-to-head since the Olivier Awards for theatre made Jason Donovan compete against Alan Bennett, also for"best entertainment".

Parkinson and Ali G are up for the award with the Channel 4 comedy host Graham Norton and comedy duo John Bird and John Fortune. Ali G has a second nomination, for best comedy programme, for his The Best of Ali G show.

Just as bizarre is the pitting of the Big Breakfast presenter Johnny Vaughan against heavyweights Jeremy Paxman and Kirsty Wark of Newsnight and David Attenborough of Wildlife Special for the best presenter, factual, features and news. But another expected head-to-head did not materialise. Last autumn the BBC's Wives and Daughters and ITV's Oliver Twist were both screened at the same time on Sunday nights. But yesterday the acclaimed Wives and Daughters was nominated for best drama serial. Oliver Twist did not figure in a principal category and was named only in the craft categories for costume design and hair and make-up.

The Royle Family dominates the comedy performance category list with three nominations. Caroline Aherne, Ricky Tomlinson and Sue Johnston all figure in the shortlist, joined by Dawn French for her work on The Vicar of Dibley.

The Royle Family has a fourth nomination for best sitcom - a new award - against The Vicar of Dibley, dinnerladies and Spaced.

The nominations were announced by the ITV sports presenter Des Lynam, who is also hosting the awards ceremony at the Grosvenor House Hotel in London on 14 May.

The ITV drama Lost for Words sees stars Dame Thora Hird and Pete Postlethwaite in the best actress and actor categories. Two other shows do the double in the acting categories, with Lindsay Duncan and Timothy Spall nominated for Shooting the Past and Francesca Annis and Michael Gambon for Wives and Daughters. Dame Maggie Smith makes up the best actress section, while Aidan Gillen is shortlisted for Queer as Folk. Lost for Words is also nominated for best single drama, as is ITV's The Murder of Stephen Lawrence.

Unsurprisingly, EastEnders, Coronation Street, Brookside and Emmerdale fight it out for the top soap title.

Viewers will be able to choose their favourite with the Lew Grade Audience Award. Radio Times readers can choose from Walking With Dinosaurs, Ground Force, A Touch Of Frost, The Vicar Of Dibley and dinnerladies.

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