Why It’s a Sin was snubbed at the BAFTAs

Its a Sin has so much to teach us in the ongoing battle against HIV stigma

It’s not often that a show as significant as It’s a Sin comes along – which is why it was such a sting when it walked away without any wins at the BAFTA TV Awards.

The Channel 4 drama landed on television screens like a bolt of lightning in January 2021, and proved to be exactly what the world was craving. It offered authentic queer characters played by queer actors, but it also interrogated the profound horror of the AIDS epidemic. It felt especially timely when it arrived in the midst of yet another pandemic-related lockdown.

The reaction to It’s a Sin was instant – it became All 4’s biggest ever instant box set, amassing more than 18 million views, helped raise thousands for HIV charities and it prompted newfound discussion about HIV and AIDS. It made LGBTQ+ audiences feel seen and it served as a prescient reminder to the world that anti-queer sentiment has powerful, real-world consequences.

TV pundits were expecting It’s a Sin to sweep the board at the BAFTA TV Awards on Sunday night (8 May) – it had racked up more nominations than any other series, with Olly Alexander, Lydia West, Callum Scott Howells, David Carlyle and Omari Douglas all nominated in acting categories. The show was also nominated in the Best Miniseries category.

This is not just a show for the year, it’s one of the shows that will stand the test of time, so to not see it get the recognition it absolutely deserves is gut-wrenching.

But hope quickly turned to disappointment on Sunday as It’s a Sin missed out on every single award it had been nominated for.

It’s a Sin missing out at the BAFTAs was the main talking point at the ceremony

TV critic Scott Bryan says it was “gut-wrenching” to attend the BAFTAs and see It’s a Sin walk away without any awards.

“This is not just a show for the year, it’s one of the shows that will stand the test of time, so to not see it get the recognition it absolutely deserves is gut-wrenching,” Scott tells PinkNews.

Olly Alexander in It's a Sin, embracing a man

Olly Alexander in It’s a Sin. (Channel 4)

While It’s a Sin did pick up two awards for directing and editing at the BAFTA Craft Awards, Scott says the failure to recognise it in any of the main categories was the main talking point at Sunday night’s event.

“It’s such a shame because this TV show was powerful, overdue, thoughtful, life-affirming, shining a light on LGBTQ+ history in a way that I don’t think any drama has ever done so before. It’s made a profound impact in terms of creating HIV awareness, in educating in regard to our history, and to have that recognition not given out on the stage and letting them have their moment is a real shame.”

So how did It’s a Sin walk away with nothing on Sunday night? It appears as though almost everyone agrees the show deserved to be recognised. There are no clear-cut answers to be had, sadly – but we can make a few guesses about what went on behind the scenes.

Scott says it’s entirely possible BAFTA voters threw their support behind other shows because they believed It’s a Sin didn’t need their votes. Some might have seen it as a sure thing that it would sweep the board, or at least pick up a couple of major awards.

It’s also true that it’s been a big year for television, with plenty of hard-hitting dramas arriving on UK television.

“The competition was huge and if you look at some of the nominations in any other year, it would have been the outright winner,” Scott says.

“TV, particularly in drama, has never been more competitive, but of course the gravity, the love, the absolute adoration that It’s a Sin has, it’s a shame just not to see it get the recognition it deserves.”

That sentiment was broadly echoed on social media on Sunday night as it became clear that It’s a Sin had been shut out of the awards. Author Malorie Blackman was among the first to question how the series walked away without any recognition.

If it’s any consolation, the people who made It’s a Sin what it was didn’t seem too disappointed. Creator and showrunner Russell T Davies shared a picture of the cast on Instagram, writing: “Look at these winners. We had a very happy night. Great shows won and great shows didn’t, and UK TV is wonderful. Long live It’s a Sin.”

It’s a Sin might not have gotten the recognition it deserved at the BAFTAs, but there’s no denying that it’ll go down in history for refusing to avert its gaze from one of the most traumatic moments in LGBTQ+ history.

For that, at least, queer people can be grateful.