Comedienne Victoria Wood scooped two prizes at last night's Bafta television awards as she was recognised by the academy for her performance in a serious role for the first time.

The 54-year-old star went home with both the best actress award and the prize for best single drama for Housewife, 49.

Wood both wrote and starred in the wartime drama, for which she was pitted against Longford star Samantha Morton in the best actress category.

The entertainer also saw off competition from Anne-Marie Duff for The Virgin Queen and first time nominee and Jane Eyre star Ruth Wilson to snatch the title.

Wood now has a total of seven Baftas to decorate her mantlepiece with - the same accrued by funnyman Ricky Gervais who last night beat his long-time comedy partner and Extras co-star Stephen Merchant to the award for best comedy performance.

But Gervais, who like his writing pal was nominated for his role in Extras, was unable to claim his prize in person due to filming commitments in the US and Merchant was forced to accept the award on his behalf.

Merchant joked that standing in for Gervais was like "rubbing salt into the wound".

It was certainly a night of surprises at the London Palladium, the scene for the awards bash which was overseen by talk show host Graham Norton.

Hospital drama Casualty left established soaps Coronation Street, Eastenders and Emmerdale trailing to scoop its first Bafta for best continuing drama.

Meanwhile the popular the 1970s cop drama Life On Mars was overlooked by Bafta judges, losing out in both the category for best drama series and the prize for best actor.

John Simm, who starred as time travelling detective Sam Tyler in the show had been widely tipped to scoop the best actor accolade but was pipped to the post by veteran star Jim Broadbent for his role as a prison reform campaigner who befriended moors murderer Myra Hindley in Longford.

But despite being snubbed by the academy, Life on Mars picked up the Bafta's audience award  the only prize to be voted for by the public.

21/05/2007 07:10:32