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'Downton Abbey,' 'Doctor Who' Among Dramas Nominated for Britain's National Television Awards

Shirley MacLaine in Downton Abbey - H 2012

The public will also vote for the most popular sitcom, with "The Big Bang Theory" among the nominees, while "The Voice," "X Factor" and others compete in the top talent show category.

ITV hit show Downton Abbey and BBC favorites Sherlock, Doctor Who and Merlin will compete for the top drama award at Britain's National Television awards later this month.

Sherlock star Benedict Cumberbatch and Doctor Who star Matt Smith, meanwhile, are among the nominees for the most popular drama actor award, it was announced Tuesday. Their fellow nominees are Merlin's Colin Morgan and Daniel Mays for a role in ITV's Mrs Biggs.

The nominations for the awards, which are decided in a vote by the public, meant a strong outing for Steven Moffat, the showrunner of Doctor Who and co-creator of Sherlock. The awards will be handed out at London's O2 Arena on Jan. 23.

Nominated for most popular sitcom are The Big Bang Theory, which airs in the U.K. on E4, along with BBC hit Absolutely Fabulous and Irish comedy Mrs Brown's Boys, as well as ITV's Benidorm, which is set at an all-inclusive hotel resort in Spain.

In the top talent show category, the BBC's The Voice and Strictly Come Dancing will go up against Simon Cowell's ITV shows Britain's Got Talent and The X Factor and another ITV series, Dancing on Ice.

In the reality and factual entertainment TV award category, BBC shows The Apprentice, Top Gear and The Great British Bake-Off are up against Paul O'Grady: For The Love Of Dogs, in which a comedian looks to find new homes for dogs.

The nominees for best drama actress are Karen Gillan (Doctor Who), Sheridan Smith (Mrs Biggs), Miranda Hart for her role in the BBC's Call The Midwife and Suranne Jones of ITV's Scott & Bailey.

The best entertainment category nominees are Graham Norton talk show The Graham Norton Show, ITV's I'm A Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here! and The Only Way Is Essex, often described as Britain's answer to The Hills and Jersey Shore, as well as Channel 4's Alan Carr: Chatty Man.

Unlike the BAFTAs and other U.K. awards, the National Television Awards, which were first handed out in 1995, allow foreign shows to be nominated as long as they air on a British network. The awards show will air on ITV.

Email: Georg.Szalai@thr.com

Twitter: @georgszalai