The University of Georgia's Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication just revealed the winners of its Peabody Awards for the best electronic media efforts in 2009 -- and, as usual, the Peabody panel has demonstrated a jaw-dropping combination of taste, breadth and depth. Glee made the cut. So did Modern Family, and Craig Ferguson, and a lot, lot more...
I can't tell you how much I'm impressed by, and grateful for, the selections made each year by the Peabody folks. But I'll try -- by pointing out just a few of this year's winners, and what's so wonderful about their being honored.
From its inception, the Peabody panels haven't been afraid to bestow its coveted honor on brand-new TV series, often giving them a major public-relations and audience boost, if not an outright lifeline. This year, Fox's Glee gets such a nod, and so does ABC's equally delightful Modern Family sitcom. Two fabulous, fresh shows.
HBO's In Treatment, a daringly different, intimate drama, won a Peabody, too, recognizing not only superb performances, but the uniqueness of its serialized, conversational, subtle format. All three of these shows made my must-see weekly TiVo record list, and I'm glad they all got Peabodys.
Perhaps the year's most thrilling surprise is the Peabody given to The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson. This CBS talk show has been endlessly creative, reinventing itself constantly and cleverly -- but the installment for which it won the Peabody was a bold left turn even by its own shifting standards. It was Ferguson's one-hour, one-on-one conversation with Archbishop Desmond Tutu, an eloquent, intriguing dialogue that put the talk back into talk show.
But it's also cool that the Peabody panel recognized quality in the most narrowly focused of productions, and gave an award to the PBS Independent Lens installment called Between the Folds -- an hour on the history and practice of origami.
Also, the Peabodys aren't afraid to keep giving awards when veteran broadcasters keep earning them. 60 Minutes grabbed another few Peabodys for CBS, and Frontline and American Masters earned more for PBS. And how great is it that BBC America won one this year for its BBC World News America nightly newscast?
That goes, also, for one of ABC News' few prime-time hours worth honoring (which the Peabodys are doing), a documentary about needy Appalachian children that had echoes of Ed Murrow's Harvest of Shame.
It's not only that the Peabody people know quality when they see it... But they see it to begin with. The winners did great work. Once again, so did the Peabody people.