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David Walliams namechecks Laurence Fox and Nicholas Parsons as he kicks off NTAs

David Walliams during rehearsals for the 25th anniversary opening sequence (Ian West/PA)
David Walliams during rehearsals for the 25th anniversary opening sequence (Ian West/PA)

David Walliams made his debut as host of the 25th National Television Awards by paying tribute to the late Nicholas Parsons.

Walliams was hosting the awards at London’s O2 Arena for the first time after taking over from Dermot O’Leary.

Kicking off the event, the Britain’s Got Talent judge took aim at former Lewis actor Laurence Fox.

David Walliams comments
David Walliams (Matt Crossick/PA)

Fox sparked controversy during an appearance on Question Time when he questioned whether the Duchess of Sussex had faced discrimination.

Walliams told the audience: “You guys are the real stars by which I mean you are miles away from earth. Without you, us lot down here would be nothing. I mean, I would be fine – I have got my best-selling children’s books. But these people, their diaries would be emptier than Laurence Fox’s.

“Someone we would have liked to have welcomed here tonight is Nicholas Parsons but sadly he passed away today and I know everyone here wants to send our love to his family at this time.”

The veteran broadcaster died on Tuesday morning aged 96.

National Television Awards 2020 – Arrivals – London
Anthony McPartlin and Declan Donnelly (Ian West/PA)

Walliams kicked off the night with a flurry of wise-cracks.

Introducing the show, he quipped: “Tonight we celebrate all the time and money that has gone into Simon Cowell’s new face.”

He joked that Ant and Dec were in the front row not because they were important but because they had “forgotten their booster seats”. The pair were in the running for their 19th consecutive best presenters award.

Little Mix star Jesy Nelson and Peaky Blinders were among the early winners on the night.

Nelson won the best factual entertainment award for her Odd One Out documentary, about the abuse which drove her to attempt suicide.

She thanked the BBC and her boyfriend, former Love Island contestant Chris Hughes.

National Television Awards 2020 – Arrivals – London
Chris Hughes and Jesy Nelson (Isabel Infantes/PA)

Accepting the award, a tearful Nelson said: “This is so overwhelming. I’m such a baby. Thank you so much. I want to start by thanking the BBC for being the most incredible team to work with.

“I want to thank every single person who was in the documentary for being so brave and courageous and for telling their story to the world. I want to thank my mum for being the most inspirational person in my life.

“I want to thank Chris, my boyfriend, for bringing me up every day and making me feel confident. And last but not least I want to thank every person who voted. We never expected this to have the success it did.”

The Great British Bake Off won the prize for best challenge show, beating Love Island and The Apprentice.

Judge Paul Hollywood said the award was “testament to the team”, before paying tribute to last year’s contestants.

Peaky Blinders won the best drama award. The show’s creator Steven Knight paid tribute to the BBC, saying the show “could not have happened anywhere else”.

Walliams himself is up against his Britain’s Got Talent boss and co-star Simon Cowell for best TV judge, as well as The Voice’s Sir Tom Jones and Will.i.am, and Drag Race star RuPaul.

The ceremony continues on ITV.

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