'The Normal Heart,' 'Black-ish,' 'Virunga' Receive Television Academy Honors

Normal Heart TV Still - H 2014

Normal Heart TV Still - H 2014

The Television Academy is recognizing TV's power to shift cultural acceptance.

The organization has announced this year's honorees for its eighth annual Television Academy Honors, a distinction that celebrates programs that exemplify what it means to use the medium of television to inspire, educate and inform as well as entertain.

The Academy's selection committee, chaired by Lucia Gervino, has chosen six programs: ABC's Black-ish episode "Crime and Punishment"; ESPN's E:60 "Dream On: Stories of Boston's Strongest"; HBO's The Normal Heart and Paycheck to Paycheck: The Life & Times of Katrina Gilbert; Amazon's Transparent; and Netflix's Virunga.

Together, the 2014 honorees feature themes and storylines that wrestle with family values, HIV awareness, health care, gender transition, the struggle to protect endangered species and the impact of a terrorist attack. The academy will celebrate the showrunners and producers of the winning programs during a special presentation and reception hosted by Dana Delany (The Comedians) at the Montage Hotel in Beverly Hills on May 27.

"These winning programs have made such a positive impact on society, and everyone involved deserves to be commended on their significant contributions," said academy chairman and CEO Bruce Rosenblum. "These programs have enlightened viewers, prompted discussion, raised social awareness and are sparking change."

Here are descriptions of the recipients of the honors:

Black-ish "Crime and Punishment" (ABC) — Although Dre (Anthony Anderson) and Rainbow (Tracee Ellis Ross) agreed they would no longer spank their kids, all bets might be off when Jack disobeys. Now Zoey, Junior, Diane and a nervous Jack are afraid that their parents will go back on their word. Media controversy over the fine line between punishment and abuse has spotlighted America's cultural divide between races, regions and religions and again raises the question, when does discipline become child abuse? This episode offers a comedic look at an American family determined to resolve their issues with disciplining their children. Produced by ABC Studios.

E:60 "Dream On: Stories of Boston's Strongest" (ESPN) — At 2:49 p.m. on April 15, 2013, as scores of spectators cheered on Boston Marathon runners approaching the finish line, two handmade bombs exploded. In a split second, the lives of hundreds of people were forever changed. One year later, ESPN's investigative newsmagazine presents a special program remembering the lives lost and pays tribute to those who survived, focusing on their journeys of perseverance, courage, strength and love in the past 12 months. Produced by ESPN.

The Normal Heart (HBO) — The award-winning TV movie tells the story of the onset of the HIV-AIDS crisis in New York City in the early 1980s, taking an unflinching look at the nation's sexual politics as gay activists and their allies in the medical community fight to expose the truth about the burgeoning epidemic to a city and nation in denial. Produced by HBO Films in association with Plan B Entertainment, Blumhouse and Ryan Murphy Productions.

Paycheck to Paycheck: The Life & Times of Katrina Gilbert (HBO) — The documentary offers the personal, unvarnished story of Katrina Gilbert, a single mom of three working as a certified nursing assistant in an extended-care facility while striving to look after her family and address her own health-care issues. Overworked, underpaid, uninsured and lacking support, she must choose daily between purchasing her own medication and paying for the needs of her three children and is left struggling to make ends meet. Produced by HBO Documentary Films in association with The Shriver Report and Mackerel Sky Films.

Transparent (Amazon) — When Maura, who has spent her life as Pfefferman family patriarch Mort, reintroduces herself to her family, everyone's secrets finally start to come out. Her children — meandering Ali, record producer Josh, and sexually conflicted Sarah — start to spin in different directions as they begin to figure out who they are. Produced by Amazon Studios.

Virunga (Netflix) A powerful combination of investigative journalism and nature documentary, Virunga is the incredible true story of a group of courageous people risking their lives to build a better future in a part of Africa the world has forgotten. It is a gripping exposé of the realities of life in the Congo. From director Orlando von Einsiedel and executive producer Leonardo DiCaprio, Virunga was produced by Grain Media.

To be eligible for this year's honors, the programs are required to have aired during the 2014 calendar year and had to be submitted in the fiction and nonfiction categories as whole series, single episodes or story arcs up to three episodes. Made-for-television movies, limited series and fiction and nonfiction specials were also eligible.