Big queer wins and big queer losses at TV BAFTAs as Drag Race, Heartstopper and Big Boys snubbed

BAFTA TV awards queer losses and wins

The biggest night in British TV delivered triumphant highs and disappointing lows for LGBTQ+ representation. Here are all the key moments from the 2023 TV BAFTA Awards.

The 2023 TV BAFTA Awards saw some of the biggest names in the UK’s LGBTQ+ landscape come together to celebrate exceptional TV and battle it out for a coveted trophy, including Drag Race legend Michelle Visage, Heartstopper‘s Alice Oseman, The Traitors‘ camp icon Claudia Winkleman and trans comedian Jordan Gray.

British gay acting legend Ben Whishaw, who starred in the BBC adaptation of Adam Kay’s candid medical memoir This Is Going To Hurt, beat Peaky Blinders‘ Cillian Murphy, The Responder‘s Martin Freeman and Slow Horses‘ Gary Oldman to land best leading actor in a scripted comedy.

During his acceptance speech, Whishaw, who is best known for his role as Q in James Bond films Skyfall, Spectre and No Time To Die, said he was “overwhelmed” and “honoured” by his win.

“Thank you, Adam Kay, for writing this wonderful role. I’m very humbled and very blessed,” he added.

The LGBTQ+ community’s winning streak didn’t end there.

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Over in the features category, Birmingham-based comedian Joe Lycett won big with his Channel 4 special Joe Lycett vs Beckham: Got Your Back, which memorably held David Beckham to account for his support of the FIFA World Cup in Qatar, a country notorious for its LGBTQ+ human rights abuses.

Although Lycett wasn’t there to accept the award, colleagues read out his acceptance speech on his behalf, which recognised LGBTQ+ people “that are still being oppressed in Qatar”.

Elsewhere in the night, Channel 4 also won best comedy entertainment programme for Friday Night Live, which went viral last year after trans comedian Jordan Gray stripped naked during a performance on the show.

Derry Girls, which stars Nicola Coughlan as fiery wee lesbian Clare Devlin, also won best scripted comedy, while RuPaul’s Drag Race UK faced off against the campest reality show of 2022, The Traitors in the reality and constructed factual category – with The Traitors clinching the trophy.

Claudia Winkleman also landed a double win for The Traitors after securing best entertainment performance for her stellar presenting. In a hilarious acceptance speech, she asked her husband Kris Thykier if they could get a dog, sending the audience into hysterics.

In the international category, Ryan Murphy’s controversial Netflix series Dahmer (Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story) starring Evan Peters as the notorious serial killer who targeted LGBTQ+ men, triumphed against hit Netflix show Wednesday and HBO’s The White Lotus. The win garnered a mixed response online.

In a repeat of the BAFTA TV Craft Awards, both Netflix’ hugely popular queer coming-of-age series Heartstopper and Jack Rooke’s hit Channel 4 comedy series Big Boys lost out in their respective categories.

Based on the bestselling novels by Alice Oseman, Heartstopper was up for the most memorable moment for Nick (Kit Connor) and Charlie’s (Joe Locke) first kiss, but lost in a public vote to the popular Platinum Jubilee clip of the Queen meeting Paddington Bear.

The Stranger Things scene of Max escaping Vecna through the power of Kate Bush’s “Runnin’ Up The Hill” and the emotional Derry Girls‘ finale also lost out.

Oseman gracefully accepted defeat on her Instagram, writing: “We may not have triumphed over Paddington and the Queen … but we still had a fun time at the BAFTAs.”

Meanwhile, Rooke’s poignant biographical comedy Big Boys, which stars Dylan Llewellyn as a young gay man about navigating his first year of university, lost in the scripted comedy category. Llewllyn’s co-star Jon Pointing also lost to Lenny Rush for Am I Being Unreasonable? in the male performance in a comedy programme category.

Although he may not have won, Rooke maintained a positive spirit on social media, sharing his Marge Simpson-inspired look, adding: “Thank you BAFTA & my Big Boys gang for one of the best nights of my life. I haven’t been to bed really yet.”

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