Zhang Yimou wins Peabody for Olympics
Coverage of Sichuan earthquake also honoredABC's "Lost," AMC's "Breaking Bad," Nickelodeon's "Avatar" and -- in a nod to the influence of the Web -- YouTube are among the winners of 2008 Peabody Awards unveiled Wednesday.
Also among the winners is the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics, an award shared by Zhang Yimou, who staged the spectacle, and NBC, which broadcast the event.
Others among the 36 television and radio programs or media institutions that garnered accolades for their excellence were NPR's radio reports from China on the earthquake in Chengdu, the Metropolitan Opera's performances in high-definition, CNN's presidential primary and debates coverage and "Saturday Night Live's" political satire.
For the first time, several Web-related entities received nods, including the New York Times' Web site and the Onion's news network as well as the recognition to YouTube for its impact on the media landscape. The latter was lauded for being "an ever-expanding archive-cum-bulletin board that both embodies and promotes democracy."
Although there were numerous radio and TV entries devoted to the financial meltdown of the past year, only one -- NPR's hourlong analysis in "The Giant Pool of Money" -- convinced voters for its depth and clarity.
On the news front, the Big Three TV network news operations all scored, the Peacock bringing home a citation for its war dispatch "Richard Engel Reports: Tip of the Spear," CBS News for a "60 Minutes" segment on the crisis in health care called "Lifeline," and ABC News for a six-part reality doc set in a major hospital ("Hopkins").
Entries from HBO did especially well, with nods to comedy series "Entourage" and to miniseries "John Adams" as well as to docs "Nanking," a reconstruction of the 1937 invasion of the Chinese city by the Japanese; "Hear and Now," about a deaf couple who regain their hearing but lose something in the process; and "The Gates," about the artist Christo and his efforts to get his Central Park installation on display.
While there were fewer than usual nods to entertainment shows, the strength and variety of nonfiction was notable, with a dozen wins for documentaries scored. These ranged from an expose of Chinese child gymnasts from Shanghai Media called "The Red Race" to ESPN's look at the early years of black college basketball ("Black Magic") to a scientifically eye-opening account of how far monkeys have come (PBS' "Ape Genius").
Turner Classic Movies was also honored for its round-the-clock screening of movies on basic cable and its ongoing commitment to film restoration.
The George Foster Peabody Awards, an independent nonprofit based at the University of Georgia in Athens, have been honoring the electronic media since 1940. This year, there were more than 900 entries, which were short-listed by students and faculty at the university and then discussed and voted on by the 16-member Peabody board. All final decisions must be unanimous and are irrespective of genre.
Horace Newcomb and Sully Clark, the director of the Peabodys and the dean of the university's Grady College of Journalism, respectively, announced the winners in Athens. THR editor Elizabeth Guider is among those on the board.
An awards ceremony, to be emceed by NBC anchor Brian Williams, is set for May 18 at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York.
A complete list of Peabody winners follows:
Beijing Olympics Opening Ceremony (NBC and Zhang Yimou), NBC Olympics
An exponential magnification of what was once known in television as a "spectacular," the Beijing opening ceremony was crafted and choreographed by creative director Zhang Yimou, executive produced by Dick Ebersol and directed by Bucky Gunts.
This American Life: The Giant Pool of Money (Public Radio International)
Chicago Public Radio's This American Life, National Public Radio, News Division
The first-ever collaboration of "This American Life" and NPR's news division, this report was impressive for the arresting clarity of its explanation of the financial crisis we're in, and even more so for its having aired so early - May 2008.
Coverage of 2008 presidential primary campaigns and debates (CNN)
With state-of-the-art technology and a small army of reporters, producers and analysts, CNN gave viewers unparalleled coverage of a historic presidential election process.
Leverage and Closest to the Hole Productions in association with HBO Entertainment
Hollywood gets an affectionately merciless tweaking in this picaresque about an ambitious male starlet, his posse of pals, and his multi-faced agent.
Depression: Out of the Shadows (PBS)
Twin Cities Public Television and WGBH Boston
The documentary explored the many forms of depression and an expanding range of treatment strategies as it dispelled the stigma that often inhibits action and fostered hope.
The New York Times Web site
Aggressively and imaginatively adding sound and moving images to the news that's fit to print, the "Gray Lady" became a leader in the emergence of new journalistic forms.
Black Magic (ESPN)
ESPN Films in association with Shoot the Moon Productions
This unusually penetrating sports documentary illuminated the lives of African-American basketball players and their coaches at historically black colleges and universities during the civil rights era.
Jungle Fish (KBS 2TV)
Korean Broadcasting System
Interactive blogging was integral to the plot of this handsome film, a stylized slice of life among students at a ruthlessly competitive South Korean high school.
China: The Earthquake of Chengdu (National Public Radio)
On assignment in China when earthquakes devastated Sichuan province, members of an NPR team were on the air in Chengdu when the tremors began, and they provided riveting, first-hand accounts from around the region for days.
NOAH Housing Program Investigation (WWL-TV, New Orleans)
Dogged inquiry by anchor/reporter Lee Zurik embarrassed the New Orleans Authority Housing Program, a non-profit agency intended to help poor and elderly victims of Hurricane Katrina, and prompted a federal investigation of its misuse of funds.
Hopkins (ABC), ABC News
All-access filmmaking in the corridors and operating rooms of a fabled teaching hospital produced human drama of open-heart intensity.
Saturday Night Live political satire, 2008 (NBC)
SNL Studios in association with NBC Universal Studios
The late-night legend stole the election-year thunder from its satirical competition on cable and may have swayed the race itself.
John Adams (HBO)
Playtone in association with HBO Films
The American Revolution was made flesh and blood in this richly detailed miniseries focused on the political evolution of colonial lawyer John Adams and his wife, Abigail.
Hear and Now (HBO)
HBO Documentary Films in association with Vermillion Films, Inc.
This moving documentary explored the consequences -- positive, negative, unforeseen -- of the decision by a 60-something couple, deaf since birth, to undergo cochlear implant surgeries.
Washington Week with Gwen Ifill (PBS & pbs.org/weta/washingtonweek), WETA-TV, Washington, D.C.
Thoughtful, informed and timely, the political talk show that sets the standard for the genre supplemented its contribution to the national discourse in 2008 with a series of live events far outside the Beltway.
Independent Lens: King Corn (PBS) Mosaic Films, Independent Television Service (ITVS), Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB)
Starting off like a post-grad goof -- two college buddies plant one acre of corn and follow it to market -- the documentary ended up raising questions about everything from crop subsidies to animal cruelty to our obesity epidemic: What's in YOUR gullet?
Breaking Bad (AMC)
AMC, Sony Pictures Television, High Bridge Productions, Gran Via Productions
Bleak, harrowing, sometimes improbably funny, the series chronicled the consequences of a mild-mannered, dying science teacher's decision to secure his family's future by cooking methamphetamine.
The Gates (HBO)
Maysles Films in association with HBO Documentary Films and CVJ
Filmmakers explored how the now-celebrated Central Park installation by artists Christo and Jeanne-Claude came to be in this memoir of a creative process that survived a 24-year odyssey of bureaucratic hoop-jumping.
The Red Race (Shanghai TV Station), NDR Fernsehen, Shanghai Media Group
Without narration or judgment, this documentary, riveting from its first frame, depicted the rigorous training of China's potential gymnastic stars, age 6.
36 Years in Solitary: Murder, Death and Justice on Angola (NPR/All Things Considered)
Laura Sullivan's gripping three-part report raised questions about the guilt of two Louisiana prison farm inmates who have been kept in solitary confinement for more than three decades.
Avatar: The Last Airbender (Nickelodeon)
Unusually complex characters and healthy respect for the consequences of warfare enhanced this American-made, anime-influenced martial-arts adventure.
Crossfire: Water, Power and Politics (KLAS-TV, Las Vegas)
This network-quality documentary by Las Vegas' CBS affiliate was a brave, meticulous examination of a plan to pipe massive amounts of water from rural Nevada to booming Sin City and the potential consequences for ranchers, farmers, Native Americans and the environment.
Ape Genius (PBS) NOVA, National Geographic Television, John Rubin Productions, Inc.
A synthesis of the latest research on the intelligence and creative capacity of gorillas and other great apes, this stimulating documentary also explored what it means to be human.
CBS News 60 Minutes: Lifeline (CBS)
The world of the uninsured and underinsured in America was unforgettably illuminated by this report about a free-clinic mission, designed for Third World communities, that set up shop in Tennessee for a weekend and treated hundreds of patients.
Lost (ABC) ABC Studios
Breezily mixing metaphysics, quantum physics, romance and cliffhanger action, the genre-bending series about a group of air-crash survivors on a mysterious island has rewritten the rules of television fiction.
Sichuan Earthquake Coverage (Sichuan Television)
When a massive earthquake devastated its province, Chengdu-based Sichuan Television dispatched its camera crews and for several days was the only source of images for TV news organizations around the world.
Independent Lens: Mapping Stem Cell Research -- Terra Incognita (PBS)
Kartemquin Educational Films, Independent Television Service (ITVS)
Neither scientific facts nor ethical complexity nor emotional drama was sacrificed in this documentary about a neurologist who took up stem-cell research after his beloved daughter suffered a spinal injury.
P.O.V.: Campaign (PBS)
Laboratory X Inc., American Documentary Inc., P.O.V., Center for Asian American Media
Soda Kazuhiro's revealing, sometimes painfully funny documentary observed the ragged political campaign of a naif handpicked and backed by Japan's ruling Liberal Democratic Party.
Failing the Children: Deadly Mistakes (KMGH-TV KMGH-TV, Denver)
Motivated by the starvation death of a 7-year-old boy, the station's persistent investigation turned up systemic incompetence in Denver's Department of Human Services, and then broadened into a state-wide story.
Richard Engel Reports: Tip of the Spear (NBC), NBC Nightly News
Under fire at times, the war correspondent and his team produced an extraordinary series of reports from remote outposts in Afghanistan, making vivid and visceral the hardships and danger faced by American soldiers.
The Metropolitan Opera: Live in HD Series, the Metropolitan Opera Assn.
With vividly designed, smartly annotated productions of "Hansel and Gretel," "Dr. Atomic," "Peter Grimes" and other operas, the Met used state-of-the-art digital technology to reinvent presentation of a classic art form.
Nanking (HBO), A Ted Leonsis production in association with HBO Documentary Films
Human decency rises to confront human atrocity in this powerful, newly documented remembrance of a small group of Westerners who saved thousands of Chinese during the 1937 "rape of Nanking" by Japanese invaders.
Hearst-Argyle Television: Commitment 2008 (Hearst-Argyle Stations)
Exemplars of public-service broadcasting, 25 Hearst-Argyle stations fulfilled a company mandate with extensive reporting on candidates and issues in their respective communities and supplemented on-air reports with online forums, profiles and debate coverage.
Onion News Network, the Onion
The satirical tabloid's online send-up of 24-hour cable-TV news was hilarious, trenchant and not infrequently hard to distinguish from the real thing.
Turner Classic Movies (Turner Broadcasting System Inc.)
It's a wonderful network, this dedicated presenter and preserver of vintage films, and after 15 years, no other in the cable spectrum has stayed truer to its original mission.
The video-sharing Web site, a "Speakers' Corner," where Internet users can upload, view and share clips, is an ever-expanding archive-cum-bulletin board that both embodies and promotes democracy.