For the first time ever, the Britannia Awards will be broadcast in the United States, on TV Guide Network, and BAFTA Los Angeles Chairman Nigel Lythgoe says viewers are in for a night of off-the-cuff comedy.
Hosted by British comedian Stephen Fry, the ceremony honors those who have made an outstanding contribution to the entertainment industry in the U.S. and Great Britain. Because the honorees already know they're getting an award, the atmosphere is much more relaxed, Lythgoe says.
TVGuide.com: This is the first time the Britannia Awards have aired in the United States. As chairman, are you proud to be able to share this with America?
Nigel Lythgoe: Absolutely. It's been wonderful for a couple of years and very frustrating that it hasn't been on in America. Last year, Ben Stiller's speech was one of the funniest things I've ever seen. The rest of the world got to see it and we didn't here in America. It seemed crazy, so I'm delighted that TV Guide Network is airing it this year.
TVGuide.com: I hear Michael Sheen tore the house down with his speech this year.
Lythgoe: I thought both Michael Sheen and Kevin Spacey were stars [at the show]. When you've got somebody as witty as Stephen Fry to follow them up, it really is hilarious. There will certainly be an edit [Laughs]. Everyone is so relaxed there and they know each other, so Michael Sheen got away with murder with Fry and his references to Wilde [in which the actors shared a sex scene]. And Kevin Spacey, who would've thought he was an impressionist? He presented the award to Jeff Bridges as Morgan Freeman because he said the voice had such weight to it.
TVGuide.com: What sets the Britannia Awards apart?
Lythgoe: It's a celebration of somebody's body of work, it isn't just that one movie or one television show. Everybody who comes there knows they're getting the award. They won't sit there and have a ruined evening because they didn't win. People are a lot more comfortable.
TVGuide.com: How do you feel about this year's batch of honorees?
Lythgoe: Christopher Nolan. You think he's only got a small body of work in comparison [to other directors, but] they are outstanding movies. One of my personal favorites is The Prestige. He's certainly rebooting the entire Batman franchise, and now with Inception, he is just an enormous filmmaker. In his speech, he said he was inspired by Tony and Ridley Scott, "which means I've ripped them off."
There's never been a better career than Betty White's really. I think everyone would love that length of career and to still turn into a sex idol at her age. She was very cheeky with me. She found out I'm newly divorced and said, "We're going to spend some time together." [Laughs]
Michael Sheen has just had some wonderful parts as of late, and is certainly deserving as the British artist of the year [honoree]. No question about that.
Jeff Bridges has done so many parts that you actually forget what he's been in. "Oh, Starman! Goodness sakes!" It suddenly hits you that he's literally had a stunning career, which culminated with Crazy Heart.
Every one of them are so deserving of their awards. Sometimes with the Emmys or Oscars or BAFTAs, you think you wouldn't have given the award to him or her. With this, it's like it's thoroughly deserved.
Check out TV Guide Network's red carpet interviews with honoree Betty White and presenter Jane Lynch:
The Britannia Awards airs Sunday at 8/7c on TV Guide Network.