Billy Connolly
Billy Connolly received a Special Recognition award at the NTAsReuters

It was an emotional night at the National Television Awards as the stars of TV honoured comedian and actor Billy Connolly. The Scottish comedy legend's friend, and Hollywood star Dustin Hoffman flew into London to personally present Connolly with a special award in recognition of his 50-year career.

In a poignant tribute and a nod to his Scottish heritage the band of the Scots Guard performed the star's favourite song Over The Sea to Skye.

Taking to the stage Hoffman paid tribute to his friend and fellow actor. "I have to tell you that I'm delighted to be here tonight to pay tribute to a man whose work I have always admired and whose company I always enjoy. This man has been entertaining for 50 years. The essence of this man is his capacity to reflect on human behaviour and stand it on his head.

"His humour is directed at the two most important parts of the human body ... And the other one is the brain," he joked.

Receiving a standing ovation, Connolly who is suffering with Parkinson's disease, was on good form. After Peter Kaye dedicated his award to the comedian Connolly joked: " Peter Kaye you should have given me that award. See he dedicated to me and took away. B******. " As Kaye stepped forward to give him his award he added with acerbic wit: "Limelight grabber."

Acknowledging the honour he added: "There are so many people I should thank from my agents, my parents and my daughters and Dustin for putting me in his movie." Paying tribute to the comic acts of the past and present he added: "Thank you. I love you all."

The show kicked off in spectacularly camp style with 70s legend Gloria Gaynor singing a mash-up of her crowd anthem I Will Survive and Destiny's Child's Survivor, supported by 'Britain's Got Talent' soul singers Revelation Avenue . And as 400 of Britain's best loved TV stars gathered for the celebration of British television there were more surprises to come and also some disappointments.

Off the mark it was almost a dead cert that the Great British Bake Off team would bag the prize for the Best Challenge Show. The baking show last year won its highest viewing figures to date, courtesy of the bake off champion Nadiya Hussain, who won the nation's hearts with her witty asides and her baking prowess. Taking to the stage with Mary Berry and Nadiya, Paul Hollywood said: "Second year in a row. Last year was the best year we've had ... and Nadiya became a legend."

The mother-of- three was back onstage to present the award for live magazine show. Beating competition from rival shows Loose Women, The One Show and Lorraine, it was This Morning who took the top prize. Accepting the award Philip Schofield admitted: "We were very nervous this year. That's an amazing category ... We're thrilled and thank you very much indeed."

Co-host Holly Willoughby added: "I really didn't think we'd get it.This is just part of the team. We are a real family at This Morning Thank you. We really do consider you are extended family. This means the world to us."

It was a good night for Eastenders star Danny Dyer, who won praise for his performance as Mick Carter and it was just as well, since the actor admitted earlier he would "have the right hump if he didn't win." Up against co-star Rakhee Thakrar, who has also been widely applauded for her evocative portrayal of Shabnam Masood's struggle to cope after suffering a stillbirth, winning the award Dyer acknowledged his co-star and the other nominees.

"I am so honoured to be a part of such a sublime depressing programme . Rakhee, what you have done is a beautiful thing and its tough subject and you will have a beautiful career."

Former X Factor winner Shayne Ward seems to have found success in his second career as an actor, as he beat the likes of Eastenders star Richard Blackwood and Emmerdale's Gemma Atkinson to bag the prize for Best Newcomer. "Who'd have thought that a singer from The X Factor could be on such an amazing show like Coronation Street as an actor. I want to thank the cast and crew for welcoming me into your family," he said as he accepted the award.

They were no surprises as Downton Abbey was named Best Drama. Heading off competition from Broadchurch, Doctor Who and Casualty Hugh Bonneville joked that he was glad they received the award since it is the "last possible time we could win"

Joanne Froggat thanked viewers for watching and supporting the show, saying: "It's been the most incredible six years and I'll try very hard not to get emotional ... but yes, it's meant so much to us, so thank you for coming with us on the journey." Julian Fellowes added: "You know I love happy endings and this is a happy ending."

Ratings winner Doctor Foster took the prize for Best New Drama. As the cast took to the stage, Bertie Carvel, who plays the cheating Simon Foster said: " This is amazing. I think everyone behind me and the amazing talented cast and crew and production team of Doctor Foster all had one thing in common: we knew Mike Bartlett had written an amazing drama, what we didn't know was whether anyone would agree​."

Suranne Jones had lots of big news to share on the night, confirming she is pregnant with her first child, and that Doctor Foster series 2 will start shooting in September. It was a great night for the actress who bagged the award for Best Performance in a Drama.

Of course all eyes were on Ant and Dec as the Geordie duo scored their fifteenth consecutive award in a category that this year included Mel and Sue and Rylan Clarke for the Best Entertainment presenters. Receiving the award from The Voice judge Boy George Donnelly said: "This is amazing. People said to us does it get boring always getting awards. Of course it doesn't. If anything our gratitude grows. Thanks you to everyone who took the trouble to vote for us."

McPartlin added: "This is mental. 15 years. Thank you to you guys for voting year after year and we'll keep on going as long as you want us to."

The big award of the night of course was the battle of the soaps. The cast of Eastenders who have tackled storylines focusing on still birth, mental health issues, and celebrated their 30th anniversary, took the top prize.

An elated Kellie Bright said: "We had such a big year last year. Everybody works so hard. There's such a huge team of people to thank".

While the NTA's was a welcome night of backslapping and champagne swilling for the TV stars, the award show itself garnered a mixed response on social media, with viewers dubbing the event "dull" and "drawn out".

Jamie Oliver elicited an unexpectedly negative response as he launched into a speech about turkey twizzlers and the sugar tax. His new hairstyle was also a miss with the viewers, while audiences were similarly unenamoured by Dermot O'Leary, who was criticised for a distinct lack of enthusiasm during the night.

And while Ant and Dec were off to celebrate their fifteenth win, the reaction was mixed on Twitter with viewers calling for them to be given a special award and taken out of the category to give others a chance at the prize.

Piers Morgan appeared to sum up the overall mood on the night as he glumly posed for a photo with Ant and Dec. He commented aptly: "Another joyful night at the #NTAs. Jeez."