The Peabody Board of Jurors revealed today nine entertainment and a children’s winners for programs released in 2018. The honorees include a children’s superhero saga focused on empathy; darkly comic immersions into the male and female killer mind; welcomed reformulations and expansions of standup comedy and political entertainment shows; and expansive creativity in a show that might best be described as Afro-surrealism meets Parliament Funkadelic.
The Peabody Awards are based at the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Georgia.
The board also named “Sesame Street” winner of an Institutional Award for 50 years of educating and entertaining children around the world. Conceived by Joan Ganz Cooney and Lloyd Morrisett, “Sesame Street” premiered in 1969 with wide-eyed optimism and determination to make a difference. Structured on the belief that a children’s TV show could help close an achievement gap in preparation for school, while also teaching about the values of diversity, mutual respect and empathy, it remains one of the 1960s greatest offerings. Its central messages are about appreciating locality, accepting and valuing difference, and learning how to be a massive bird’s friend when you’re a green trash monster. And yet it teaches these lessons, day in and day out, alongside functional lessons about basic math, spelling, logic, patterns, and a love of music, art and dance. “Sesame Street” is also honored for its advocacy role in reminding citizens and politicians why public broadcasting is necessary and valuable, challenging us to make a difference and to be good, caring people while we do so.
Representatives of the company will join fellow Peabody Award winners, including Rita Moreno, recipient of the Peabody Career Achievement Award presented by Mercedes-Benz, at a red-carpet celebration on May 18 at Cipriani Wall Street in New York. Ronan Farrow will serve as host. The presenting sponsor is Mercedes-Benz, the official automobile of the 78th Annual Peabody Awards Ceremony. Variety is the exclusive media partner.
Winners in News/Radio & Podcast/Web/Public Service programming will be announced on April 23, which will round out this year’s Peabody 30.
Entertainment winners, including Children’s & Youth programming, are:
Children’s & Youth
“Steven Universe,” Cartoon Network Studios
On its surface, Rebecca Sugar’s animated series develops a complex mythology centering around the Crystal Gems—“polymorphic sentient rocks” who protect young Steven and his human friends from cosmic threats. But in this earnest fantasy epic and superhero saga, empathy is perhaps the most important superpower, something our real-world human society needs now more than ever. (Cartoon Network)
“Barry,” HBO Entertainment in association with Alec Berg and Hanarply
“Saturday Night Live” alum Bill Hader has built a dark comedy off the unlikely premise of a hitman who really wants to be an actor and earnestly pursues his dream under the guidance of his has-been acting teacher played by Henry Winkler. Even as one of the quirkiest and entertaining series on TV, “Barry” asks serious questions about emotional connection, the nature of violence, and the cost of doing whatever it takes to keep a secret. (HBO)
“Hannah Gadsby: Nanette,” Netflix
Comedian Hannah Gadsby makes a major statement about the social costs of laughing at someone, and about what it means to be the brunt of a joke. She brilliantly finds the tragedy in comedy, in the process breaking apart and reconstructing the standup comedy special format. Throughout, she delivers the thunderous message of the destructive power of heteronormativity, toxic masculinity and male sexual violence, and how easily society tolerates each. (Netflix)
“Killing Eve,” Produced by Sid Gentle Films Ltd. for BBC America
The tense cat-and-mouse spy thriller—serving as a vehicle for amazing performances by Sandra Oh and Jodie Comer—is also a masterful, playful recalibration of the genre, creating room not just for two women at the helm, but also for women’s interests and circumstances in almost every inch of the plot. Like its psychopathic assassin, Villanelle, it is equal parts terrifying, hilarious, slick, playful, and surprisingly soulful. (BBC America)
“Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj,” Netflix
Hasan Minhaj has created the perfect model for engaging his fellow millennials in contemporary politics and public life. With his trademark high-octane energy, the first Indian-American and Muslim late-night host brings a welcome voice to political entertainment television. He’s also bold and fearless, taking on the ruthless Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman just weeks after the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. (Netflix)
“Pose,” Fox 21 Television Studios and FX Productions
Set in 1980s New York, “Pose” follows the ongoing rivalry between the established House of Abundance and the upstart House of Evangelista in an honest telling of trans and gay people of color at a critical time in history. Presided over by Billy Porter’s character Pray Tell, the competition and its delicious melodrama serves as backdrop for the burgeoning LGBTQ community and family, doing important representational work and storytelling both on and off the ballroom floor. (FX Networks)
“Random Acts of Flyness,” HBO Entertainment in association with A24 and MVMT
Breaking the mold of what television is and can be, “Random Acts of Flyness” ponders what it means to be young and black in America and produces a layered, complex experience of wonder, joy and insight. The series brilliantly assembles black sonic, visual, and literary worlds into a 21st century cut ’n’ mix of black aesthetic of absurdity, critique, affirmation, and fun. Most importantly, it does so without a preoccupation with white gaze or desire, centering blackness as a complex, productive historical fact and contemporary lived experience rather than a phobic-obsessed reaction to whiteness. (HBO)
“The Americans,” Fox 21 Television Studios and FX Productions
If a great drama series is judged—at least, in part—by the way its story ends, then “The Americans” can easily be counted among the best TV shows in history. Over six seasons, the 1980s-set thriller centers on two Soviet spies deeply undercover as middle-class American parents in a Virginia suburb. In 2018, creators brought the acclaimed story to a masterful conclusion, forcing spies Elizabeth and Philip Jennings to make impossible choices as their carefully constructed lives imploded on multiple fronts. (FX Networks)
“The End of the F***ing World,” Clerkenwell Films/Dominic Buchanan Productions for Channel 4 Television and Netflix
Teenage angst collides with dark British humor in this series about a self-identified psychopath and a wily high school rebel who seek adventure outside their boring suburban town. Based on a graphic novel by Charles Forsman, the British-American co-production features deeply funny and moving performances by Jessica Barden and Alex Lawther that capture the confusion of adolescence with intelligence and depth. The show is a wonderfully unorthodox coming-of-age story for 21st century realists and hopeless romantics alike. (Netflix)
“The Good Place,” Universal Television, Fremulon and 3 Arts Entertainment
A Peabody nominee last year, Michael Schur’s fantasy-comedy about the afterlife keeps refusing to follow the formulas of broadcast network sitcoms, constantly renegotiating its format as our favorite contemporary morality slay. The energies of Kristin Bell, Ted Danson, Jameela Jamil and D’Arcy Carden, in particular, keep the show moving with virtuosity in every unexpected laboratory from the Good Place to the Bad Place, the afterlife to the Medium Place, and of course, to Earth. (NBC)