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Peabody Award Winners Include 'Justified,' 'The Good Wife,' Spike Lee and More

by Maureen Ryan, posted Mar 31st 2011 10:30AM
The winners of the George Foster Peabody awards were announced this morning, and among the entertainment winners are 'Justified,' 'Men of a Certain Age,' 'Sherlock,' 'Temple Grandin' and 'The Good Wife.'

In the television news and documentary categories, Spike Lee's 'If God Is Willing and Da Creek Don't Rise,' Frontline's 'The Wounded Platoon,' CNN's Gulf oil spill coverage and ESPN's '30 for 30' series were among the recipients of awards.

The Peabody Awards honor excellence in all electronic media, and in the program's 70th year, a record number of awards were handed out -- 39 in total. That's three more than the Peabodys have ever awarded in the past. A full list of winners is below.

I am fortunate enough to be one of the 16 Peabody board members, and it's been an honor and a great pleasure to spend much of the last two months reviewing submissions and meeting with the rest of the board to discuss and debate the merits of the hundreds of worthy television programs, radio shows and Web sites.

As explained on the Peabody site, judging for the awards is especially rigorous, and each winner must receive a unanimous vote from the entire board. And as you can see from the list below, entertainment programs are just one of the categories that the Peabody board considers. I think the fact that 16 people with disparate tastes and interests found all these programs worthy of commendation speaks to the extraordinary quality of all 39 winners.

I can't speak for the rest of the board, but I am very pleased with the final list of winners, and I'm extremely happy to note that, if you're not familiar with some of these fine programs, you can find many of them online.

Without further ado, here is the complete list of Peabody Award winners and where to find them. (I've appended a few personal comments about some of the winners.)

Television (Non-News Winners)

Winners with a * before have at least one episode available online. Most are also available on DVD as well.

'The Pacific'
Aired on HBO
Peabody writeup: The Pacific theater of World War II proves to be gripping theater indeed in this richly detailed miniseries.
Mo comments: A harrowing, deeply empathic examination of World War 2 as experienced by the men who fought in the Pacific Theater. It managed to mix epic filmmaking with thought-provoking individual stories, and its battle scenes were among the best ever captured on film.

'Temple Grandin'
Aired on HBO
Peabody writeup: Claire Danes is remarkable as the autistic animal-expert and author, and the biography is further enriched by visual creativity that lets viewer occasionally glimpse the world as Grandin experiences it.
Mo comments: A visually innovative biography of Grandin, one that helped me understand what it's like to be autistic. A moving, intelligent, exceptionally well-made film.

* 'Great Performances: Macbeth'
Aired on PBS
Peabody writeup: Director Rupert Goold takes Shakespeare's bloody tragedy on location to the countryside and the trenches to riveting effect.
Mo comments: Plays that are filmed for television tend to have a static, stilted quality, especially those that are filmed inside a theater. Rupert Goold, who'd directed an acclaimed stage 'Macbeth' starring Patrick Stewart, reinvented his innovative theatrical production for film by reimagining it aesthetically, and the results speak for themselves. The film, which is set in and around a forbidding country house, has a formidable energy and intensity, as well as sensational production design, direction and lighting.

* 'Justified'
Airs on FX
Peabody writeup: Part morality play, part character study, this engrossing modern-day Western drama sets its showdowns in the wild, wild east of Appalachian Kentucky.
Mo comments: Anyone who's read my work knows what a fan I am of this drama, which just keeps getting better. It doesn't just offer shaggy characterizations, great dialogue, intelligent plotting and a quietly tenacious sense of morality; it makes mixing all those things together look easy.

Aired on PBS
Peabody writeup: The venerable Victorian sleuth is audaciously updated for our high-tech times, and the game is afoot all the quicker.
Mo comments: Writers Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss, who reinvented Holmes for the smartphone age, clearly had a great deal of respect for Baker Street detective's formidable intelligence, but they also had a lot of irreverent fun with the franchise, as did stars Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman.

* 'Men of a Certain Age'
Airs on TNT
Peabody writeup: A series about three longtime pals, "regular" guys, navigating middle age, it's comical, poignant and harrowing, sometimes all at once.
Mo comments: It's grown into one of the most rewarding and well-acted dramas on television, but thanks to the fact that it's an unassuming hybrid of subtle comedy and effectively low-key drama, 'Men' has percolated under the radar while splashier shows grab the media spotlight. But anyone who isn't watching this fine drama, which stars Scott Bakula, Andre Braugher and Ray Romano, is missing out. It's a gem.

* 'The Good Wife'
Airs on CBS
Peabody writeup: In this densely layered dramatic series, the dutiful wife of a disgraced politician resumes her legal career and finds satisfaction, self-worth and moral quandaries of her own.
Mo comments: As far as I'm concerned, this is the smartest show on broadcast network television, hands down. It's smart, sexy and provocative without being pat or melodramatic. As is the case with 'Justified' and 'Men of a Certain Age,' 'The Good Wife' can be serious but the show doesn't take itself too seriously.

'Wonders of the Solar System with Brian Cox'
Aired on Science Channel (repeats airing now)
Peabody writeup: In this amazing, simulated travelogue, the boyish physicist flies us to the moon and lets us play among the stars. And gawk.

* 'Degrassi'
Airs in the U.S. on TeenNick
Peabody writeup: [The show won for a two-part episode called 'My Body Is a Cage'] True to its history, the durable high-school serial's two-parter about a transgender teen neither trivializes nor overdramatizes its subject.
Mo comments: In a media landscape full of smarmy and simplistic shows aimed at teens and tweens, I appreciate 'Degrassi's' sincerity and heart now more than ever.

Television (News Winners)

Report on the Next Generation of Migrant Workers in China
Phoenix Satellite Television, Hong Kong
Peabody writeup: The report by Hong Kong's Phoenix Satellite Television poses hard questions about the ramifications of China's continuing urban migration.

Reality Check: Where are the jobs?
WTHR-TV, Indianapolis, IN
Peabody writeup: The Indianapolis station's digging revealed the Indiana Economic Development Corporation's job-creation claims were grossly overstated and that companies given tax-incentive to create employment had actually axed workers by the hundreds.

Who Killed Doc?
KSTP-TV, St. Paul, MN
Peabody writeup: The St. Paul-Minneapolis station's investigation of a Minnesota sailor's ill-explained death in Iraq has the Armed Forces reexamining everything from shower safety to how families of the fallen are notified.

Bitter Lessons
WFAA-TV, Dallas, TX
Peabody writeup: The Dallas station's investigation exposed abuses by government-funded "career" schools that provide poor training and sometimes leave desperate students deeper in debt than they started.

Coverage of the Gulf Oil Spill
Peabody writeup: The science, the economics, the politics, the toll on human livelihoods and animal lives – CNN's coverage of the Deepwater Horizon disaster defined comprehensive.

Television (Documentary Winners)

Winners with a * before them are available in full online. Most are also available on DVD as well.

* 'My Lai'
American Experience
Aired on PBS
Peabody writeup: The worst atrocity in American military history is given new meaning and significance in the documentary enriched by fresh interviews and never-before-heard audio made by the original Pentagon investigators.
Mo comments: A transfixing chronicle of one of the darkest chapters in American military history, told, in large part, by the men who were there and the villagers who survived.

'For Neda'
Aired on HBO
Peabody writeup: A powerful portrait of Neda Agha-Soltan, martyr, and the larger Iranian struggle for freedom, this documentary was filmed on the sly and at great risk in Tehran.
Mo comments: Heartbreaking videos of the death of Neda Agha-Soltan circulated widely online during the 2009 Iranian uprising, but this film offers a much-needed look at the young woman's brave life. This documentary, which was shot in great secrecy, given the dangers the filmmaker faced from Iranian authorities, features illuminating interviews with Neda's friends and family and sheds light the day she died.

'12th & Delaware'
Aired on HBO
Peabody writeup: A street corner in Ft. Pierce, Florida, where an abortion clinic and a pro-life center face each other, embodies the ongoing clash over reproductive rights in this thoughtful, fair documentary.

'Burma VJ'
Aired on HBO
Peabody writeup: The documentary chronicles the heroic ingenuity of underground video journalists (VJs) who captured the 2007 Burmese human-rights protests -- and the brutal government retaliation -- on handycams and smuggled the video out to the web and the world.

'Elia Kazan: A Letter to Elia'
American Masters
Aired on PBS
Peabody writeup: Director Martin Scorsese reflects on the nature of art's influence on artists and how the brilliant but controversial Kazan continues to inspire him.

American Masters: 'LennoNYC'
Aired on PBS
Peabody writeup: A portrait of John Lennon's life and work, after he chose to make New York his home, it's beautifully composed and lovingly rendered but not blind to his imperfections.

'If God is Willing and Da Creek Don't Rise'
Aired on HBO
Peabody writeup: Spike Lee's team checks up on New Orleans five years after Katrina hit and the levees broke, and documents the city's successes and failures in a video patchwork by turns beautiful, depressing and optimistic.

'The Lord Is Not on Trial Here Today'
Jay Rosenstein Productions, WILL-TV
(This film is set to air on PBS in May. Check local listings for dates and times.)
Peabody writeup: A beautifully researched documentary by a Champaign, Illinois, station, it examines a First Amendment case critical to the establishment of separation of church and state in public schools.

'Zimbabwe's Forgotten Children'
Aired on BBC 4 in the UK
Peabody writeup: Filming undercover with great ingenuity and courage, Xoliswa Sithole and Jezza Newman documented the horrible conditions, especially for the young, in Zimbabwe.
Mo comments: The makers of this film put themselves in exceptional danger to chronicle the everyday lives of three children whose families had descended into poverty and despair, thanks to the policies of the current regime in Zimbabwe. Unforgettable and deeply moving.

'Magic & Bird: A Courtship of Rivals'
Aired on HBO
Peabody writeup: Not your average sports biography by a long jump shot, it examines the different cultures from whence these NBA legends sprang, their unusually long rivalry and their unlikely friendship.

* 'William Kentridge: Anything is Possible'
Aired on PBS
Peabody writeup: The multi-faceted Kentridge is creativity personified, a one-man seminar, and he gave filmmakers from ART21 a veritable all-access pass to his mind and work process.
Mo comments: This sprightly and unassuming documentary offers a fascinating window into the creative process of artist William Kentridge, whose drawings, animated films and operas reflect an unquenchable curiosity and the artist's fascination with his South African heritage.

'Reel Injun: On the Trail of the Hollywood Indian'
Independent Lens
Aired on PBS
Peabody writeup: A Cree filmmaker takes an affectionate but nonetheless pointed look at how movies have portrayed and misrepresented Native Americans over many decades.

* 'The Wounded Platoon'
Aired on PBS
Peabody writeup: The documentary is a dark, troubling tale of a military health system overwhelmed by psychiatric casualties and of one platoon's post-traumatic nightmare.
Mo comments: There have been many outstanding documentaries that have chronicled the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, but this thorough and sobering film follows one troubled group of soldiers upon their return to the United States.

'30 for 30'
Aired on ESPN
Peabody writeup: Commissioned for the sports channel's 30th anniversary, these 30 diverse documentaries about sports in America, well, they shoot, they score.
Mo comments: I'm generally indifferent to sports, but at their best, these documentaries told deeply human, affecting stories about how sports, society and personal relationships intersect. I can particularly recommend 'The Two Escobars' and 'Once Brothers,' two of the best installments in this acclaimed documentary series.

'The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers'

Aired on PBS
Peabody writeup: A fascinating true-life political thriller, Ellsberg's remembrance of his historic actions is made even more compelling by the inventive presentation.


Most of these winners have multiple episodes online, or are available in full online.


WNYC, New York
Peabody writeup: Immersive and boundlessly imaginative, the series uses pithy prose and state-of-the-art sound to illuminate complicated scientific and philosophical subjects.

Lucia's Letter
WGCU Public Radio, Fort Myers, FL
Peabody writeup: A literal cautionary tale, the harrowing "letter" is a composite of several young Guatemalan women's enslavement by "coyotes" hired to smuggle them into the United States.

Behind the Bail Bond System
Aired on NPR
Peabody writeup: Changes in the bail bond system are already underway as a result of this three-part expose of inequities and conflicts that penalize its poorest clients.
Mo comments: If you think you know how the bond system generally works (and my only exposure to it came from years of watching 'Law & Order'), this thorough series of reports exposed the ways in which bond is denied to poor inmates and why, in a break from past practices, taxpayers are footing the bill for the incarcerations of non-violent offenders.

The Moth Radio Hour
Airs on many public radio stations
Peabody writeup: Storytelling, likely the oldest art, is revered and reinvigorated by this weekly hour for everyday raconteurs.

Trafficked: A Youth Radio Investigation
Aired on NPR's 'All Things Considered'
Peabody writeup: A wide-ranging expose of America's child-sex trade, it was made especially powerful by first-person accounts by teen victims.

The Promised Land with Host Majora Carter
Airs on many public radio stations
Peabody writeup: If there's such a thing as eye-opening radio, Carter's series, devoted to helping her audience envision a more just, sustainable world, is it.

Covering Pakistan: War, Flood and Social Issues
Aired on NPR
Peabody writeup: Islamabad-based correspondent Julie McCarthy goes beyond the headline disasters, making the country vividly individual with reports on topics like child labor, blasphemy laws and the plight of war widows.

Seeking Justice for Campus Rapes
Aired on NPR
Peabody writeup: With first-person interviews and computer-assisted records checks, an NPR investigative unit documented how perpetrators of sexual assaults on college campuses often face few or no consequences.
Mo comments: A thorough, balanced and eye-opening series of reports on how rapes are dealt with (or rather, not dealt with) on most college campuses.


C-Span Video Library
Peabody writeup: Every program C-SPAN has shown since 1987, from State of the Union addresses to budget hearings, is now available and searchable online – for free.
Mo comments: It's quite possible to lose yourself for hours in C-Span's video library. It's a treasure.

The Cost of War: Traumatic Brain Injury, Coming Home a Different Person
The Washington Post
Peabody writeup: A fascinating, poignant multimedia report, it details the experiences of five different wounded soldiers and the science behind their medical treatment.

The Peabody Awards on Facebook and Twitter.

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Mo -

I always wondered about the Peabody process. Thanks for sharing with us. My favorite on the list is the contemporary Sherlock. I have watched the DVD a dozen times and cannot wait for the new season.

April 02 2011 at 9:36 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

While I believe that SoA is the best show on TV, slightly ahead of Justified, there is no way the Peabody committee will all agree to give SoA the award. Just like the Emmy voters, they will not reward SoA because it is too easy to ignore it and say it is all about sex and violence.

March 31 2011 at 7:09 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Where is Spartacus GOA or B&S? its excellent but is Peabody too stuffy for the heavy sex/violence?

March 31 2011 at 1:46 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Jim Nelson

A 3rd season renewal, a Peabody, and a really excellent episode last night. Justified is really on a roll this week. Congrats!

March 31 2011 at 12:35 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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March 31 2011 at 11:04 AM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
Lou Sytsma

Good list.

The omissions will generate a lot of discussion I wager ie no Breaking Bad, Fringe, Mad Men, Sons Of Anarchy for starters.

March 31 2011 at 10:40 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Lou Sytsma's comment

i believe Breaking Bad and Mad Men have already won before

March 31 2011 at 2:22 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
3 replies to Freddy's comment

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