Dame Eileen, 73, beats on-screen sister to Bafta
Eileen Atkins beat her on-screen sister Judi Dench to be named best actress in the battle of the dames at the Bafta television awards last night.
Dame Eileen had to wait until the age of 73 for her first Bafta, winning best actress for her role in BBC1 costume drama Cranford, in which she played an elderly spinster, Miss Deborah Jenkyns. It is 39 years since she was last nominated.
In the series, adapted from the works of Elizabeth Gaskell about a northern town on the brink of radical social change, Dame Judi played Miss Jenkyns's sister, Miss Matty.
Interviewed on the way into the ceremony at the London Palladium, Dame Judi joked: "I've got my money on [Dame Eileen]," adding mischievously that there would be "a huge catfight" later.
Known for co-creating Upstairs, Downstairs, Dame Eileen also recently starred in BBC1's adaptation of Noel Streatfield's Ballet Shoes.
But Cranford, which had also been nominated for best drama serial, lost out to Britz, Peter Kosminsky's provocative Channel 4 double bill about young British Muslims in a post 7/7 world.
The BBC3 comedy Gavin and Stacey about a boy from Essex who falls in love with a girl from Barry Island, South Wales, claimed a double victory.
James Corden, who co-wrote the show with his co-star Ruth Jones, won best comedy performance for his role as Smithy, Gavin's best friend. Speaking before the ceremony, however, Corden said: "It's great to be recognised, but then you can't take these things too seriously. The show isn't even up for best sitcom, so then you think they're a bunch of pricks."
Harry Hill claimed two Baftas for his ITV1 show Harry Hill's TV Burp, for best entertainment programme and best entertainment performance.
Paul Watson, who is often described as the father of the fly-on-the-wall documentary, was given this year's special award by John Hurt. But Malcolm & Barbara, his film charting the final days of an Alzheimer's sufferer, failed to pick up the award for best single documentary.
Youth beat age in the best actor category, won by 24-year-old Andrew Garfield, for his part in Boy A, Channel 4's coming-of-age drama about a young man who has spent most of his childhood in institutions after committing a terrible crime. Garfield beat Sir Anthony Sher and Matthew Macfadyen to the accolade.
Channel 4's Iraq war drama The Mark of Cain, about the abuse of Iraqi prisoners by British troops, which was postponed during the crisis over Iran's seizure of British sailors and marines, was best single drama.
*Best actor: Andrew Garfield, Boy A.
*Best actress: Eileen Atkins, Cranford
*Best entertainment performance: Harry Hill, Harry Hill's TV Burp
*Best comedy performance: James Corden, Gavin and Stacey
*Best single drama: The Mark of Cain
*Best drama series: The Street
*Best international series: Heroes
*Best current affairs programme: China's Stolen Children – A Dispatches Special
*Best news coverage: Sky News, Glasgow airport attack
*Best sport coverage: ITV, F1 Canadian Grand Prix Live