It’s the night of telly gongs and award speeches

The viewers have spoken. The votes are in and Britain’s best-loved programmes and performers await to see if they have been gifted a National Television Award.

The NTAs make their return to The O2 London after a longer than usual 20-month wait when TV has never been so central to our lives. The star-studded ceremony will be broadcast live tonight on ITV (STV and UTV) from 7.30 pm- with new NTA host Joel Dommett leading the celebrations.

Five famous faces who showcased their personal plights are competing for the inaugural Au-thored Documentary award. The powerful state-of-the-nation shows are the Covid-focused Kate Garraway: Finding Derek, Katie Price: Harvey and Me, Rob Burrow: My Year with MND, Roman Kemp: Our Silent Emergency, plus a programme by a man whose campaigning made political waves: Marcus Rashford Feeding Britain’s Children.

TV was very much a unifying force as we lived our lives behind closed doors and the four New Drama contenders each became huge word-of-mouth hits. Des offered a glimpse into the mind of a murderous narcissist while Normal People had us rooting for an intense young romance. Regency-era Bridgerton provided welcome escapism and It’s a Sin moved us to tears.

The hidden-identity hilarity of The Masked Singer faces stiff competition from current award-holder Strictly Come Dancing, entertainment powerhouse Britain’s Got Talent and cult favour-ite RuPaul’s Drag Race UK in the Talent Show category. Which show will rank highest in the affections of viewers?

Can anything beat the ratings juggernaut that is Line of Duty? That’s the big question when it comes to Returning Drama, where the latest run of the anti-corruption thriller is up against the shocking and emotional Unforgotten, the tenth anniversary series of Call the Midwife, as well as the acclaimed Charles-and-Diana-focused episodes of The Crown.

Ant and Dec are aiming to bag their 20th award in a row for TV Presenter, but it’s Piers Morgan who’s undeniably grabbed the most headlines in the past year. This Morning queens Holly Willoughby and first-time nominee Alison Hammond are in contention too, with Bradley Walsh also in the chase for the prize.

AC-12’s finest have all been rewarded for their service to anti-corruption policing, with Adrian Dunbar, Martin Compston and Vicky McClure up for Drama Performance. They’re up against It’s a Sin’s breakout star Olly Alexander and David Tennant, who chilled audiences playing a serial killer in Des.

The Bruce Forsyth Entertainment Award honours four shows that didn’t let social distancing prevent them from entertaining millions: Ant and Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway unveiled its virtual wall, I’m a Celebrity…Get Me Out of Here! decamped to Wales, Taskmaster was a big success in its new home on Channel 4 while The Graham Norton Show continued to bring us guests from the celebrity A-list.

The Gogglebox stars now feel like part of our own families and their competition for the Factual award are two hit series – Gordon, Gino and Fred: American Road Trip and previous winner Paul O’Grady: For the Love of Dogs – as well as a tragic exploration of the darker side of fame, Caroline Flack: Her Life and Death.

Our soaps innovated and adapted on an unprecedented scale, with Coronation Street, Emmerdale, EastEnders and Hollyoaks becoming pioneers for the industry at large as they re-entered production following lockdown. All four are up for Serial Drama, with Emmerdale hoping to retain the trophy it won in 2020.

A quartet of stand-out actors who tackled gritty social issues are up for Serial Drama Performance. There’s a strong showing for Coronation Street’s hate-crime storyline, with Mollie Gal-lagher and Sally Carman both nominated. Competition comes from Danny Dyer, who tackled historic sexual abuse on EastEnders, while Billy Price is singled out for his work on Hollyoaks’s County Lines plotline.

Fresh formats and old favourites vie for supremacy in our new Quiz Game Show category. Instant rating success Michael McIntyre’s The Wheel goes up against some familiar teatime faces who were sent into primetime as Beat the Chasers turned out to be a big hit. They’re up against two hugely entertaining Stephen Mulhern-fronted series: Celebrity Catchphrase and In for a Penny.

The Newcomer category honours the stars of soapland whose arrivals have made a big impres-sion. The terrific debut performers are ten-year-old Jude Riordan (the adorable Sam Blakeman on Coronation Street), Emile John (aka new Emmerdale legal eagle Ethan Anderson), Olivia D’Lima (forthright paramedic Fenisha on Casualty), Rose Ayling-Ellis (the Carter clan’s newest addition Frankie Lewis on EastEnders) and Rhiannon Clements (who plays Hollyoaks schemer Summer Ranger).

The Repair Shop has earned recognition in the category of Daytime after cheering the nation with many much-needed feel-good moments. But can it triumph against three well-established staples of the schedules: Loose Women, This Morning and The Chase?

TV’s sizzling summer dating show Love Island put contestants through their paces – while also earning plenty of press headlines – how will the series fair in Challenge Show against Celebrity SAS: Who Dares Wins and Great British contests Sewing Bee and The Great British Bake Off.

The old guard takes on the new for the Comedy award, with Dawn French returning to her par-ish for some special sermons as The Vicar of Dibley, while Ricky Gervais provided tears of laughter and pain in After Life. Sex Education continued to push boundaries on Netflix and a decade of Friday Night Dinner became a poignant celebration following the sad death of one of its stars, the much-missed Paul Ritter.

The National Television Awards, ITV, 7. 30 pm

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