DAVID BIANCULLI

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Peabody Awards 2011 Winners: Once Again, Great Stuff, and Great Taste
March 31, 2011  | By David Bianculli
 
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The 70th annual Peabody Awards have just been announced -- and once again, the winners are a heady reminder of how great TV can be when it tries. And, once again, the Peabodys arrives just in time to support some high-quality media efforts that can use the help and acclaim. This year, that would include such worthy recipients as FX's Justified, TNT's Men of Certain Age, and three documentaries from currently beleaguered National Public Radio...

The University of Georgia, through its Henry W. Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication, began casting its discerning eye on the best in media when that meant radio. Then came television, and now even websites and other alternative forms of disseminating information and art get their due. But only when it's due, because the Peabodys have proven themselves, over the decades, as ahead-of-the-curve standard bearers of the best, the boldest, and the most brilliant.

(For a complete list of this year's winners, and for more general information on the Peabody Awards, click HERE.)

But my, oh my, even a partial tour through the list of winners proves that the critics, professor and industry experts on the 16-member Peabody Board remain on their game. Some selections are safe and even obvious -- HBO's The Pacific miniseries and Temple Grandin telemovie, for example -- but to also give one to PBS's Masterpiece Mystery! modern take on the Sir Arthur Conan Doyle characters in Sherlock, well, that's just damned impressive.

It shows the folks down in Georgia aren't just tasteful. They're watching, too.

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It's great that Justified got a Peabody -- the writing and acting and directing on that FX series are so good, the award is, indeed, justified. And CBS's The Good Wife? Another great call, coming at just the right time. Whenever anyone wants to count the broadcast TV drams dead and buried, The Good Wife is a perfect, potent counter-argument.

TNT's Men of a Certain Age certainly can use the positive buzz -- and if ever public broadcasting needed an objective judge to point out the excellence of its reporting, now's the perfect moment. And wow, what breadth and depth is evident in that portion of the winners' list.

NPR, targeted currently by some who would like to erase its federal funding, won Peabodys for investigative stories on Pakistan, the U.S. bail bond system, and rape on college campuses. And other places won Peabodys for documentaries, too, in both radio and TV. HBO won for Spike Lee's If God Is Willing and Da Creek Don't Rise follow-up reaction to Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath, among other HBO nonfiction winners, and ESPN won for its 30 for 30 sports documentaries.

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PBS's American Masters added new two Peabodys to its stash, for programs on John Lennon and Elia Kazan. American Experience, P.O.V., Frontline and Independent Lens all won Peabodys this year, too -- for programs, respectively, on My Lai; Daniel Ellsberg; psychological traumas inflicted by soldiers serving in Iraq and Afghanistan; and the portrayals of Native Americans in film and TV.

There are 39 new winners in all, from a C-SPAN archive website to PBS's Great Performances production of Macbeth, with Patrick Stewart.

Great stuff.

And, direct from Athens, great taste.

 
 
 
 
 
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