IT WAS a night of absences and excuses at the O2 Arena on Wednesday.

Simon Cowell “wouldn’t give Ant and Dec the night off” to be there.

Bruce Forsyth was “sunning himself on the beach in Puerto Rico”.

David Attenborough was in China filming yet another series on his bucket list.

Miranda Hart was apparently being checked out by Hugh Jackman, on Bondi Beach. Jeremy Kyle was poorly. Stephen Fry had “some awful virus”.

And EastEnder Charlie Brooks was “birthing partner to her best friend who’s in labour”, and frankly got the best end of the deal by witnessing untold physical pain and agony in the delivery room and missed all two-and-a-half hours of the National Television Awards, a largely uneventful, dour, and predictably shambolic occasion which did, nonetheless, throw up some surprises.

The usual Doctor Who block vote was missing presumed reading scifi comics as the show left emptyhanded.

Merlin turned out to be Irish (who knew?). Patrick Macnee is still alive and 91 next month.

Paul O’Grady, when he was 18, was a founding member of ELO, judging by the massive hair.

And Richard Osman is an actual giant who, I assume, must sit behind that Pointless desk in the lotus position, in a 4ft pit beneath the floor.

As for the accolades, all voted for by the public, it was a real mixed bag.

Phillip Schofield, minus his alleged paedophile list, accepted This Morning’s eighth NTA gong, for Best Daytime Programme, by saying it was the show’s fourth, beating among others Come Dine With Me, which surely should be in the “Daytime, Nighttime, Any Ruddy Time” category.

Strictly Come Dancing thoroughly deserved its Talent Show victory, breaking The X Factor’s five-year stranglehold, as did Frozen Planet for Best Documentary Series ahead of its BBC1 stablemate Planet Earth Live with Richard Hammond on thermal camera pink-blob watch at night in Kenya’s Masai Mara quiet season.

I was slightly disappointed The Graham Norton Show missed out in Entertainment Programme to I’m A Celebrity, more so that Mrs Biggs’ superb Daniel Mays and Sheridan Smith unjustly lost out for Male/Female Drama Performance, and in a disgraceful snub Pudsey the Dog wasn’t even nominated in Newcomer.

But you only have to look at the five million viewers who watch ITV’s Splash! every Saturday to realise that just because something is popular doesn’t make it any good.

It’s one of television’s great constants, along with Simon Cowell getting everyone’s name wrong (it’s Nicole Scherzinger, Simon, not Nicola) and Ant and Dec winning the Ant and Dec award for the 12th year running.

The best I can say about host Dermot O’Leary is he had a better night than last year when he introduced as the “potential X Factor winner” and this time exercised great self-restraint not to twirl on the spot and announce: “Your weekend starts right here!” or ask the nominees when their new album was out.

His dance with Darcey Bussell wasn’t actually too bad, at least compared with his MC Hammer silver incontinence pants routine on X Factor of which we were needlessly reminded, right up until the point he tripped over his own feet escorting her to the microphone.

Dermot’s truth settings, on the other hand, were all over the shop: “Please welcome the incredibly talented Jack Whitehall.”

“British drama has never been healthier.”

“One thing we are united on – everyone, but everyone, loves a soap opera.”

In fact some of his claims were almost as ridiculous as Seb Coe elevating Clare Balding to “national treasure” status, right after Dermot had introduced her as: “The unflappable, unbeatable Clare Balding.”

And unwatchable, on Britain’s Brightest.

But it was Ruby Wax, paying tribute to Special Recognition winner Joanna Lumley, who topped the lot: “There is no greater god of television comedy.”

There is. With hilarious statements like that, it’s Ruby Wax.

Spudulike awards

● Graham Bell’s breathtaking downhill course runs on Ski Sunday.

● Watch channel repeating the best ever episode of Who Do You Think You Are? with Kim Cattrall.

● The most heartening TV ratings in years: a BBC2 Dad’s Army repeat on Saturday night trouncing Richard Hammond’s Secret Service on BBC1, which with any luck will kill off lousy hidden camera prank shows once and for all.

● The Great Comic Relief Bake Off, a land where the sun always shines, producing four nights of brilliance and a scene of utter carnage in the form of 32 mangled custard slices on Monday.

● The One Show’s travel expert Simon Calder: “I was stuck at Milton Keynes yesterday because trains were cancelled because it had fallen below freezing, and I thought what latitude are we on? 52 degrees, the same as Irkutsk, the capital of eastern Siberia, where it is current - 29C.

“That is unfit for human habitation.”

You’re right, Simon. It is. But what about Irkutsk?

Spuduhate awards

● This Morning’s on-screen caption writer continuing to misspell “dissect” as “disect”.

● Clare Balding announcing on Britain’s Brightest: “We are testing intelligence in completely new ways,” before stealing the intelligence round from Krypton Factor.

● Gabby Logan claiming the rise in the number of people taking up diving is because of Splash! and not that little-known sporting event that took place in London last summer.

● Celebrity Big Brother completely forgetting the point of Celebrity Big Brother by letting Rylan Clark out of the house for X Factor tour rehearsals.

● Loose Women adopting Rylan Clark’s meaningless, effected “drop me out” catchphrase.

● The One Show’s Lucy Siegle, in the snow in Huddersfield on Monday evening: “Without wanting to state the obvious, it’s blummin’ freezing out here. We are straddling an amber and a yellow weather warning, an amber is the most severe warning from the Met Office.”

Without wanting to state the obvious, Lucy: it’s not.