Peabody Awards Honor FX's 'The Bridge,' Tom Brokaw and Comedy Central's 'Key & Peele'

Bryan Cranston, Betsy Brandt and RJ Mitte at the 2014 Peabody Awards
Bryan Cranston, Betsy Brandt and RJ Mitte at the 2014 Peabody Awards
 AP Images

The 73rd George Foster Peabody Awards on Monday presented 46 statues (of more than 1,100 submissions) to TV, radio and in one case a viral video -- the most yet for the annual awards administered by the University of Georgia's Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communications.

At three-plus hours, the annual luncheon at Manhattan's Waldorf Astoria Hotel may have been long, but it was loaded with content as the awards were bestowed for programming that illuminated issues of race (NPR's The Race Card, PBS' Latino's in America), class (NBC News' In Plain Sight: Poverty in America, Jenji Kohan's women's prison drama Orange Is the New Black) and the forgotten victims of urban crime, corporate malfeasance, disease and war.

The Peabody board honored Tom Brokaw with a personal award for "his ongoing history of thoughtful reporting, enterprise and good humor."

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Brokaw, who is battling multiple myeloma but continues to serve as a special correspondent for NBC News, demonstrated his sense of humor when he noted that one of the "great oxymoron's in American life" is the "humble anchorman." But he pronounced himself humbled to receive the Peabody (technically his third) and added that "if you live long enough, these kinds of awards come to you and you get cancer. It turns out I have both," he said to laughs from the audience, adding that for him journalism has been "the greatest life in the world" because "it's about serving mankind…and helping them make better decisions about their lives."

Charlie Rose, who was recognized for his interview with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, echoed Brokaw's sentiment about the craft. He noted that Brokaw and so many others have "been an inspiration to me." Rose reminded the assembled members of the media that the "story is not complete…people are still dying." He also thanked his colleagues at CBS News and PBS and "all the people who believe in telling stories that somehow engage us in the pursuit of peace."

Multiple programs that examined race were singled out -- documentaries as well as scripted series.

The PBS series The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross, with Henry Louis Gates, Jr., was honored for "sift(ing) through five centuries of artifacts to find stories that inspire, unsettle, surprise and illuminate." Gates singled out PBS for supporting the program. "Who else would put a six-part series about 500 years of African- American history on television." He added that he was particularly proud that the series reached "35 percent of all African-American households." 

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Netflix's House of Cards and ABC's Scandal also were among the recipients. "The best thing about playing a president is that I have a really pretty girlfriend," Scandal's Tony Goldwyn joked after the show's award was presented. "It's also fun when we go to the White House and all the staffers say: 'There's the president,' " added co-star Jeff Perry.

Meanwhile, FX's The Bridge was honored for examining "border issues that are rarely seen on U.S. television."

Executive producer Elwood Reid revealed that the network wanted to set the show --which is based on a Danish format -- in Canada, but "I thought Canada wasn't the most riveting political place to put a show in." Star Demian Bichir ended with a call -- in Spanish and English -- to President Obama to "stop the deportations." (More than two million people have been deported during the Obama administration.)

The Bridge's other lead star, Diane Kruger, told The Hollywood Reporter that one of her own favorite shows is House of Cards.

"I like it because it's a show that shines a light on the dark part of our nation's politics that may or may not be inspired by real-life events," she explained. "I find it fascinating."

Bryan Cranston, fresh off of a Tony nomination for his portrayal of President Lyndon Johnson in the Broadway play All the Way, attended the Peabodys. His recently concluded AMC drama, Breaking Bad, was among the honorees.

Comedy Central's Key & Peele was singled out for its biting racial satire, especially its groundbreaking and wildly popular "Obama Anger Translator" skits. Jordan Peele explained, "We start with the simple desire to get laughs and somewhere in that journey to find the funny, we end up uncovering little pieces of truth almost by accident."

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Keegan-Michael Key added that their partnership began with just "sitting in rooms trying to crack each other up."

The pair admitted that they don't watch much TV comedy themselves. "We do comedy all day, so to go home and watch it is like work," Peele told THR. "I watch a whole lot of reality TV, it's my new comedy. My favorite is Big Brother," he revealed.

David McMahon, executive producer and director of Florentine Films and WETA's Central Park Five, which examined the racial implications of five wrongly incarcerated African-American and Latino teens for the 1989 rape and beating of a Central Park jogger, thanked the men for being "so generous in sharing their stories." He accepted the Peabody flanked by three of the subjects: Kevin Richardson, Raymond Santana and Yusef Salaam. They received a standing ovation.  

Christy Smith-Sloman contributed to this report.

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