ATAS honors television with a cause


UPDATED 7:27 p.m. PT March 20, 2008

ABC's "Boston Legal," HBO's "Alive Day Memories: Home From Iraq" and Discovery Channel's "Planet Earth" are among the recipients of the inaugural Television Academy Honors, which recognize "television with a conscience."

Rounding out the list of nine honorees are Lifetime's movie "Girl, Positive" and its recently canceled series "Side Order of Life," the CNN documentary "God's Warriers," the "Harm" episode of NBC's "Law & Order: SVU," CBS' Hallmark Hall of Fame movie "Pictures of Hollis Woods" and the Showtime documentary "Shame."

The Television Academy Honors, an outgrowth of the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences' Television Cares Committee, are set to be presented May 1 at the Beverly Hills Hotel at a ceremony produced by Phil Gurin (NBC's "The Singing Bee").

ATAS chairman and CEO John Shaffner said nearly 200 submissions were received following the call for entries in December.

"It was very difficult to narrow them down to a final group of honorees," he said. "However, we felt the shows and movies we selected best represent what this honor stands for -- programming that enlightens, educates, creates awareness and instigates positive change regarding a wide range of social and health issues."

Shaffner noted that the nine honorees also represent a range of genres, subject material and networks.

"The real challenge was we didn't want to box ourselves in by ceating a series of categories that we then have to fill," he said. "This way, we're able to put our arms around all of the industry."

Asked about a common theme among the finalists, Shaffner pointed out that a majority of them tend to focus more on social rather than health issues, with three -- "Alive Day," "SVU" and "God's Warriors" -- addressing the war in Iraq.

The honorees won't receive an Emmy trophy; instead, ATAS has commissioned a separate, "beautiful sculpture" made out of crystal and various metals, Shaffner said.

The final honorees were chosen by the Television Cares Committee, which consists of about 20 people. Eligible programs were those airing from Jan. 1-Dec. 31, 2007, and were submitted for fiction/nonfiction as a whole series, a single episode or for a story arc up to three episodes. Made-for-TV movies, miniseries and fiction/nonfiction specials also were eligible.