The Peabody Awards will honor Norman Lear and the Independent Television Service (ITVS) at a New York gala in May for its 76th edition. Lear and ITVS were selected due to their contributions for storytelling in television, said Peabody spokesperson Margaret Blanchard in a statement.
The television writer and producer will be receiving the Individual Award for his role in changing how we view sitcoms. They were a typically “white-bread medium” before Lear came along, Blanchard said, and he introduced diverse characters into shows such as “All in the Family,” “Sanford and Son,” “Good Times,” and “The Jeffersons.”
As producer on some groundbreaking shows, Lear was known for creating scenarios that reflected a larger scope of human life than was typical at the time. Many of his most famous shows starred African-American characters, working class families, or other non-traditional family structures. For example, “One Day at a Time” starred a divorced single mother.
“In Lear’s watershed shows of the ’70s, no topic was too touchy to tackle–not racial discrimination, not sexism, not homosexuality, not abortion, not even rape,” Blanchard said. “Better than anyone working in television, Lear has created an influential body of work that politicized the personal, personalized the political, and showed us ourselves in all our ridiculousness and nobility.”
ITVS will be receiving an Institutional Award for its service in creating documentary films. It was formed by Congress in 1988 and since then has funded more than 1,400 films such as “How to Survive a Plague” and “The Invisible War.”
The Peabody Awards noted that it’s important to recognize ITVS this year, out of all years, because of a political climate that could result in the defunding of public media.
“At a time when public media is under political attack, there is no better time to recognize the vital contributions to public discourse and knowledge than that provided by ITVS,” Blanchard said.
Lear and ITVS will be honored at a gala on May 20. The event will be taped and broadcast on June 2 at 9 p.m. ET/PT on PBS and Fusion networks. Rashida Jones, who won a Peabody for her work on “Parks and Recreation,” will be hosting.
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