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One Peabodys Element Remains Constant: Great Taste
April 18, 2015  | By David Bianculli  | 4 comments
 

The Peabody Awards are doing a lot of things differently this year – but one constant is the impressive, almost amazing, tastefulness with which it doles out its annual honors…

The 74th Peabody Awards, emanating from the University of Georgia, are no strangers to change, of course. They began with the intent to honor the best work done in the medium of radio, and quickly added broadcast television to its mandate. Since then, it’s added cable, streaming sites, podcasts, and anything else that delivers the best entertainment and information in some sort of electronic delivery system.

The changes implemented this year, under the guidance of Peabody Awards director Jeffrey Jones, include splitting up the awards announcement into several chunks, dealt out separately, and remounting the awards presentation as a pumped-up, pomped-up evening affair on May 31, hosted by Fred Armisen and produced as a TV special for Pivot.

The entertainment winners of the 2015 Peabodys were announced earlier this week – and we’ll get to them in a moment. Winners in news and radio will be announced Monday, April 20, with the remaining honorees, including documentaries and children’s programming, announced April 23.

[Update, Apr. 20: News and radio winners were indeed announced today, and among the big winners, notable for their delivery systems as well as content, are Serial, the podcast from This American Life that explored a cold-case murder, and Last Chance High, a series of web reports and podcasts from VICE News.]

What astounds me about the Peabodys, year in and year out, is how they manage to weed through all the stuff that’s out there and emerge with the cream of the crop – including some productions that, for all but the most fervent and discerning media consumers, are below the radar. Of this year’s winners, FX’s Fargo might seem an obvious choice, because its profile was as high as its quality. But Black Mirror, whose only presence in the United States has been as an imported offering on Netflix and DirecTV? Cinemax’s The Knick? Sundance’s Rectify?

Wow.

TV Worth Watching, I’m proud to report, has positively reviewed every show awarded a Peabody this year except for Black Mirror – and that one escaped notice only because we came to last year’s Christmas episode a week late. (But if it counts, I’ve since shown Black Mirror in one of my TV courses at Rowan University.)

Look at what won a Peabody this year in the entertainment category, and treat it as a check-off list. “Got it, got it, need it, got it…” Anything you haven’t seen, you should. And the Peabody judges and organization, once again, emerge as the most discerning, and often prescient, awards organization out there. They get it right – and quite often, they notice things early.

Take, for example, this year’s Peabody entertainment winners:

 The Americans, FX. Keri Russell, Matthew Rhys. This show’s season finale is televised this Wednesday, and while there’s lots of international intrigue about this family of sleeper Soviet agents living within the U.S., the current season has turned the secrets and secrecy inward. The husband and wife have just told their teen daughter of their real origins – and there’s real uncertainty about how she’ll react once she gets over the initial shock that her parents are spies from another country.

 

 

Black Mirror, Channel 4. Charlie Brooker’s dark, high-tech answer to The Twilight Zone is an anthology show that you can’t judge fully, or fairly, until you’ve seen a few episodes. But once you have, you should be hooked, because each episode addresses at least one thought-provoking technological issue – and usually several at once. “White Christmas,” shown last December by DirecTV, starred Jon Hamm in his best role yet outside of Mad Men. Fabulous, eerie and unforgettable – just like Rod Serling’s classic Twilight Zone episodes.           

 

Fargo, FX.  Billy Bob Thornton, Martin Freeman and Allison Tolman starred in this clever, creepy single-season crime story, which stayed true to the spirit of the Coen Brothers movie while concocting its own characters and plots. Worthy of a Peabody? You betcha.

 

 

 

 

 

The Honorable Woman, Sundance Channel. This miniseries dramatized the ongoing Israeli/Palestinian conflict as seen through eyes of an opportunistic yet idealistic media mogul, played perfectly by Maggie Gyllenhaal. It’s a perfect example of the kind of rich roles TV is providing with increasing frequency, especially to women, as opposed to today’s movie roster.

 

 

 

 

Inside Amy Schumer, Comedy Central. Season 3 of this bold comic’s TV series premieres Tuesday, and I expect it to be just like the previous seasons: A buffet of off-center insights, interviews and comic bits from the person who comes closest to being the female Louis C.K. Or maybe, before too long, he’ll be thought of as the male Amy Schumer.

 

 

 

 

Jane the Virgin, CW. Gina Rodriguez, who headlines this show, was one of the early, and few, breakout TV stars of the fall. As both actress and character, her Jane is so fresh and vibrant, it’s helped propel this witty, frothy adaptation of a Venezuelan telenovela into one of the year’s freshest and most successful TV experiments.

 




The Knick, Cinemax.  Starring Clive Owen as a New York turn-of-the-century doctor (but early 1900s, not early 2000s), this drama series was directed by Steven Soderbergh with an almost gothic feel. Addictions ran deep among the hospital staff – and this Cinemax series became addictive, too, giving that network its most impressive original production to date.

 

 

 

 

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, HBO. This show is well into Season 2 now, but it didn’t take this Daily Show alumnus long to establish its unique hallmark in Season 1: the ability, as well as the desire, to present an extended, involved piece on the topic of the week. I learn something almost every week – and I laugh out loud almost every week, too.

 

 

 

 

 Rectify, Sundance. Aden Young stars in this grim character study as a Death Row inmate released after a long incarneration, and unsure about what to do next, or where or how to fit in. I think he may be the most passive protagonist in TV history – he seldom makes a decision on his own, but just gets buffeted from one person and confrontation to the next. But that’s not a complaint. In the hands of this series, it’s a quiet, amazing wonder.



 
 
 
 
 
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4 Comments
 
 
Drew
Couldn't agree more. The Peabodys have become the great checklist for TV worth watching. They catch all of those shows you might watch and love but wonder if anyone else is appreciating. Look at the winners lists from previous years. The Bridge, Rectify, Les Revenants.
May 9, 2015   |  Reply
 
 
J Know
God I'm tired of being greeted every morning with a line of women's butts at the top of your website. Get rid of it, please!
Apr 26, 2015   |  Reply
 
 
Very thorough. Inquiring minds want to know - what show is the photo at the top of the article from?
Apr 23, 2015   |  Reply
 
Downloadbob
The top photo is from Inside Amy Schumer - don't you recognize her from the other photo in the article?
May 12, 2015
 
 
 
Rita Davis
Sorry to see Justified end, but more sorry it received no awards!
Apr 22, 2015   |  Reply
 
 
 
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