Norman Lear to Get Peabody’s Individual Award

The Peabody Awards Board of Jurors has selected Norman Lear to receive an Individual Award and the Independent Television Service (ITVS) for an Institutional Award for their contributions to storytelling in television. These honors are reserved for individuals and institutions whose commitment to broadcast media define and transform the field.

Lear is being celebrated for revolutionizing an overwhelmingly white-bread medium with his series. From All in the Family and Sanford and Son to Maude, Good Times and The Jeffersons, all the Lear shows shared a grounding in the real America. 

Virtually no topic was off limits on his shows—not racial discrimination, sexism, homosexuality, abortion, not even rape. 

As the Peabody folks put it, Lear’s work “politicized the personal, personalized the political, and showed us ourselves in all our ridiculousness and nobility.”

Institutional winner ITVS was conceived by independent filmmakers who saw a paucity of diversity in public media and was formed by Congress in 1988. With more than 1,400 films funded and a whopping 32 Peabody Awards to its credit, ITVS’ output represents a highly accomplished range of work. Landmark films within the Peabody canon include: How to Survive a Plague by David France; Marco Williams’ and Whitney Dow’s Two Towns of Jasper; Leslee Udwin’s India’s Daughter and The Invisible War by Kirby Dick and Amy Zeiring. 

With public media constantly under political attack, the Peabody officials say “there is no better time to recognize the vital contributions to public discourse and knowledge than that provided by ITVS.”

Peabody Award winners and finalists will be celebrated Saturday, May 20 at Cipriani in New York. The event will be taped for a television special to air on both PBS and Fusion on Friday, June 2 (9 p.m. ET/PT). Rashida Jones, a Peabody Award winner for Parks and Recreation and star of Angie Tribeca, will host.

The Peabody Board of Jurors last week selected 60 finalists for the most compelling and empowering stories released in electronic media during 2016. The finalists came out of 1,200 entries from television, radio and the web. The Peabody Awards are based at the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Georgia.

The winning 30 programs will be revealed in a succession by category: Individual/Institutional on April 12; Documentary on April 18; Entertainment on April 20; and News/Radio/Public Service/Web/Education programming on April 25.

Among children’s programs, JibJab Bros. Studios made the list for Ask the Storybots, which airs on Netflix. Amazon’s Tumble Leaf, from Amazon Studios and Bix Pix Entertainment, is a finalist too.

Documentaries in the hunt are HBO’s A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness, from HBO Documentary Films and SOC Films; Audrie & Daisy, from AfterImage Public Media in association with Actual Films and airing on Netflix; a trio from Frontline (PBS/WGBH) in Chasing Heroin, Confronting ISIS and Exodus; 4.1 Miles from The New York Times Op-Docs and airing on; Great Performances: Hamilton’s America, from A RadicalMedia Production in association with Thirteenth Productions LLC for WNET and airing on PBS; Hip-Hop Evolution from Banger Films and airing on Netflix and HBO Canada; Independent Lens: The Armor of Light, from Purple Mickey Productions, in association with Fork Films and airing on PBS; Independent Lens: The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution, from Firelight Films, Inc. and the Independent Television Service and airing on ITVS and PBS; Independent Lens: Trapped, from Trilogy Films LLC Bigmouth Productions, Cedar Creek Productions and the Independent Television Service and airing on ITVS and PBS; Islamic State’s Most Wanted, from BBC World Service and airing on BBC News Online; Last Chance U, from Netflix in association with Conde Nast Entertainment, Endgame Entertainment and One Potato Productions, and airing on Netflix; Marathon: The Patriots Day Bombing, from HBO Documentary Films and Break Thru Films in association with The Boston Globe and airing on HBO; MAVIS! from Film First and HBO Documentary Films and airing on HBO; O.J.: Made in America from ESPN Films and Laylow Films and airing on ESPN. 

There were four documentaries from POV/American Documentary that ran on PBS: POV: Hooligan Sparrow; POV: The Look of Silence; POV: The Return and POV: What Tomorrow Brings

Also in the running is Southwest of Salem: The Story of the San Antonio Four from Deborah S. Esquenazi Productions, LLC and airing on Investigation Discovery; The Forger from The New York Times; The Secret Life of Muslims from Seftel Productions and airing on Vox, The USA Today Network, PRI’s The World and CBS Sunday Morning; 13th from Forward Movement LLC and Kandoo Films and airing on Netflix; and Zero Days from Magnolia Pictures and Participant Media, in association with Showtime Documentary Films, Global Produce/Jigsaw Productions. That aired on Showtime. 

Under the Entertainment banner is American Crime from ABC Studios and airing on ABC; Atlanta and Better Things, from FX Productions and airing on FX; Cleverman from Goalpost Pictures and Pukeko Pictures for ABC-TV Australia in co-production with SundanceTV and Red Arrow International, with the assistance of Screen Australia, Screen NSW and The New Zealand Screen Production Grant, and airing on SundanceTV; Happy Valley from BBC One and airing on BBC One and Netflix; Horace and Pete from Pig Newton, Inc. and airing on; Lemonade from HBO Entertainment in association with Parkwood Entertainment and airing on HBO; Marvel’s Luke Cage from Marvel Television in association with ABC Studios and airing on Netflix; National Treasure from The Forge and airing on Channel 4; Stranger Things from 21 Laps and airing on Netflix; This Is Us from Rhode Island Ave. Productions, Zaftig Films, 20th Century Fox Television and airing on NBC; The Night Of from HBO Entertainment in association with BBC, Bad Wolf Productions and Film Rites and airing on HBO; and HBO’s own Veep

In the News category is “Arrested at School: Criminalizing Classroom Misbehavior” from KNTV Bay Area; “Battle for Mosul” from CNN; “Big Buses, Bigger Problems: Investigating DCS” from KXAS Dallas-Fort Worth; CBS News’ 60 Minutes feature “The White Helmets”;“Charity Caught on Camera” and “Dangerous Exposure” from WTHR Indianapolis; “Heart of an Epidemic, West Virginia’s Opioid Addiction” from The CBS Evening News with Scott Pelley; “ISIS in Iraq and Syria” from CNN; “Student Debt” from HBO, VICE and Bill Maher; and “Undercover in Syria” from CNN. 

The Public Service category features “#MoreThanMean-Women in Sports ‘Face’ Harassment” from Just Not Sports & One Tree Forest Films and airing on YouTube/Twitter/Facebook; and “100 Women” from BBC World Service and airing on BBC World Network. 

In the Radio/Podcast group is “A Life Sentence: Victims, Offenders, Justice, and My Mother” from; “Homecoming” from Gimlet Media; “How to Be a Girl” from Marlo Mack, in partnership with KUOW Seattle; “In The Dark” from APM Reports; “The Heart: Silent Evidence Series” from The Heart; “This American Life: Anatomy of Doubt” from This American Life, PBC in collaboration with The Marshall Project and ProPublica; “The Unexplainable Disappearance of Mars Patel” from Panoply; “Unprisoned” from WWNO and AIR; and “Wells Fargo Hurts Whistleblowers” from NPR. 

In the Web category is “Hell and High Water” from ProPublica and The Texas Tribune.

Michael Malone

Michael Malone, senior content producer at B+C/Multichannel News, covers network programming, including entertainment, news and sports on broadcast, cable and streaming; and local broadcast television. He hosts the podcasts Busted Pilot, about what’s new in television, and Series Business, a chat with the creator of a new program, and writes the column “The Watchman.” He joined B+C in 2005. His journalism has also appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Playboy and New York magazine.