BAFTA dresses up Dench, Atkins with 'Cranford' noms

Ch. 4 leads nets with 23 mentions

The BBC1 costume drama "Cranford" led the way with four mentions Tuesday as nominations were announced for the April 20 British Academy Television Awards.

"Cranford," the ensemble costume drama about life in a rural English village, earned best actress nominations for Judi Dench and Eileen Atkins as well as noms for best drama serial and the Sky+ special award, which is voted on by the public. Other Sky+ nominees include the comedy "Gavin and Stacey," "Strictly Come Dancing" and "Britain's Got Talent."

Channel 4 is the most-nominated network with 23 mentions, BBC1 was second with 20 noms, ITV had 12, BBC 2 earned 11 and the Five channel had one. Among the digital nets, arts channel BBC 4 earned five noms, youth channel BBC 3 took two and Channel 4 and E4 each received one.

Four first-time nominees make up the best actor category, including stage and screen star Anthony Sher, who was recognized for "Primo," the biopic of Holocaust survivor and writer Primo Levi. Also nominated are Andrew Garfield for "Boy A," Tom Hardy for "Stuart: A Life Backwards" and Matthew Macfadyen for "Secret Life."

In the actress category, Dench and Atkins will vie alongside newcomer Kierston Wareing for Channel 4's "It's a Free World" and Gina McKee for her role in the BBC1 drama "The Street."

On the entertainment side, ITV1 hit "Britain's Got Talent" goes head-to-head with BBC1's "Strictly Come Dancing," which received its third nomination, as well as comedian Harry Hill for "Harry Hill's TV Burp."

Hill also was named in the performance category alongside first-time nominees Simon Amstell for "Never Mind the Buzzcocks," Alan Carr and Justin Lee Collins for "The Friday Night Project" and four-time performance nominee Stephen Fry for "QI."

In the international category, "Family Guy" takes on "My Name is Earl," "Californication" and "Heroes."

Stephen Merchant and David Mitchell receive individual acclaim this year in the comedy performance category for "Extras Christmas Special" and "Peep Show," respectively. They go up against new nominee James Corden for "Gavin and Stacey" and previous winner Peter Capaldi for "The Thick of It." Both three-time nominee "Peep Show" and "The Thick of It" also are recognized in the situation comedy category alongside "The IT Crowd" and ITV newcomer "Benidorm."

In the comedy category, "The Armstrong and Miller Show" takes on "Russell Brand's Ponderland," "Star Stories" and "Fonejacker."

"Life on Mars" will contest the drama series category alongside E4's hard-hitting teen drama "Skins," the BBC 2/HBO co-production "Rome" and BBC1's "The Street."

In the best single drama category, More4 receives its first nomination this year for "The Trial of Tony Blair," which is up against "The Mark of Cain," "Coming Down the Mountain" and "Boy A."

ITV1 soap "Coronation Street" was a notable no-show in the continuing drama category, which instead will be fought out by ITV1's "The Bill" and "Emmerdale" and BBC1 shows "EastEnders" and "Holby City."

In the drama serial category, the legal drama "Murphy's Law" takes on "Five Days," "Britz" and "Cranford."

The gala ceremony is set for April 20 at the London Palladium and will be broadcast the same evening on BBC1.