A clerical error by a BBC administrator had almost put paid to his hopes of winning this year, but on a rain-lashed evening in London, Ricky Gervais picked up his third television Bafta for best comedy performer.error by a BBC administrator had almost put paid to his hopes of winning this year, but, on a rain-lashed evening in London, Ricky Gervais picked up his third television Bafta for best comedy performer.
The extraordinary dominance of The Office in the field of comedy was further underlined when the show itself also received a third award in as many years for best situation comedy. Gervais beat his co-star, Martin Freeman, and the "Little Britain" actors, Matt Lucas and David Walliams, for the accolade for his performance as David Brent, the world's worst manager, in The Office Christmas Special.
It adds to an already remarkable year for the star who became the first British actor to win a comedy award at America's Golden Globes in January. But his achievement was only just possible after the programme missed the deadline for nominations due to a clerical oversight. Bafta only allowed an exception after lobbying from BBC executives.
Gervais said: "I've got six Baftas now. I don't know if that's a record, but if it is I want to go on Record Breakers.It's probably the last time I'll be up here for a while so this is the end of a chapter... well, apart from the DVD." Picking up his second award, he quipped: "This is fantastic. Especially as I just found out the first one was a clerical error."
The elite of British television arrived in pouring rain for the annual ceremony at the Grosvenor House hotel in Park Lane. The deluge had turned the red carpet into a soapy froth, by the time female stars in diaphanous dresses braved the elements and risked collateral damage to their Jimmy Choo shoes to pose for the small army of photographers.
After more than three decades as an actor, Bill Nighy continued to ride the crest of his wave picking up the best actor award for his role in the BBC1 political thriller State of Play.
Julie Walters, winner of the best actress award in 2001 and 2002, was again recognised with her hard-hitting portrayal of "The Wife of Bath" in BBC1's controversial Canterbury Tales, a modern interpretation of Chaucer's classic. Walters beat Helen Mirren for her performance in the ITV drama Prime Suspect, Gina McKee and Miranda Richardson in the BBC1 production The Lost Prince.
The Best Entertainment Performance award went to Jonathan Ross for his hosting of Friday Night with Jonathan Ross, which also won the Lew Grade award for entertainment programme.
BBC programmes and performers had dominated the shortlist for this year's Baftas, grabbing 39 out of the 68 nominations. The corporation's big guns came through even more strongly on the night, winning 11 out of the 17 awards. ITV1 claimed only two Baftas and Channel 4 picked up four.
Paul Abbot, writer of BBC shows like Clocking Off and State of Play, told the audience that Greg Dyke, the former director-general who was forced to resign in January in the wake of the Hutton Inquiry, had been "one in a million". He said: "I still can't believe that we as the audience, as investors, have allowed such a 'guvnor', in the truest sense of the word, to get ousted by a handful of the least qualified people in the industry. There are pictures of the BBC Board of Governors on the website. They are all small faces, no chins."
Mr Dyke, who received a standing ovation when presenting an award, said: "It's a shame more of you weren't around in January ... I would like to say thank you very much to Paul Abbot for those few kind words said about me and in particular those few words he said about the governors, because I tend to agree."
The winner of the best continuing drama series was Coronation Street, which beat off competition from ITV's The Bill, BBC1's Casualty and BBC1's Holby City.
BBC1's ambition in staging the epic historical drama Charles II: The Power and the Passion was rewarded with the award for best drama. And in an important recognition for corporation's nascent digital channels, BBC4's documentary The National Trust won the Huw Wheldon award for factual series while BBC3's comedy series Little Britain won the best comedy programme prize.
Best actor: Bill Nighy - State of Play (BBC1)
Best actress: Julie Walters - The Wife of Bath (BBC1)
Best entertainment performance: Jonathan Ross - Friday Night with Jonathan Ross (BBC1)
Best comedy performance: Ricky Gervais - The Office Christmas special (BBC1)
Best single drama: The Deal (Channel 4)
Best drama series: Buried (Channel 4)
Best drama serial: Charles II: The Power and the Passion (BBC1)
Best continuing drama: Coronation Street (ITV1)
Best factual series: The National Trust (BBC4; BBC2)
Best documentary: Lager, Mum and Me (One Life; BBC1)
Best feature: Wife Swap (Channel 4)
Best sport: Rugby World Cup Final (ITV1)
Best news coverage: Channel 4 News - "Fall of Saddam" (ITN for Channel 4)
Best current affairs: The Secret Policeman (BBC1)
Best entertainment programme or series: Friday Night with Jonathan Ross (BBC1)
Best sitcom: The Office Christmas special (BBC1)
Best comedy programme or series: Little Britain (BBC3; BBC2)Reuse content