The Best Stories of 2017
Text by Margaret Blanchard, Video by Paige Marogil - 4/25/2018
2017 Peabody Award Winners
The Peabody Awards Board of Jurors have selected Carol Burnett to receive the first-ever Peabody Career Achievement, presented by Mercedes-Benz. The honor is reserved for individuals whose work and commitment to broadcast media has left an indelible mark on the field.
Institutional Award goes to “60 Minutes,” one of the nation’s most enduring media institutions now celebrating 50 years on the air. Since its debut, the CBS News “magazine for television” has become nothing less than a touchstone in American life, regularly pursuing investigations that lead to legal action, catalyze social change, and illuminate dark government secrets. A previous recipient of more than 20 Peabody Awards, “60 Minutes” consistently delivers hard-hitting, exclusive, thoroughly reported stories.
An Institutional Award goes to The Fred Rogers Company in recognition for carrying on the legacy of its eponymous founder, whose iconic children’s program debuted 50 years ago. In the history of American TV personalities, few have been as universally loved as Fred McFeely Rogers. He died in 2003, but his spirit lives on through The Fred Rogers Company. With its partners, the company continues to produce high-quality, thoughtful educational television, including “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood,” “Peg + Cat,” and “The Odd Squad,” that cares not only about the children who watch it, but the adults they will become.
Lemony Snicket’s “A Series of Unfortunate Events” follows the tragic but brilliant Baudelaire orphans as they investigate their parents’ deaths while surviving their wicked uncle’s machinations to deprive them of their inheritance. Both darkly gothic in style and drolly hilarious, the televised version visually realizes the melancholy-yet-beautiful essence of the beloved children’s book series on which it is based.
A bold step forward in inclusive filmmaking that allows David James (Deej) Savares, a nonspeaking young man with autism, to tell his own story, focusing on accomplishment and possibility, not limits and barriers.
A vivid portrait of Maya Angelou, who, while best known as one of America’s leading writers, also blazed a brave and original life as a performer, actress, and activist integral to the civil rights movement and the celebration of African-American experience.
A surprisingly insightful rumination on contemporary life, “American Vandal” slowly shifts focus from a high school student accused of a sophomoric prank/crime to the consequences of solving the mystery. Wickedly funny, the show also offers a look at how the ethical questions of the true crime genre intersect with the harsh realities of being a teenager in the age of social media.
Mixing legal drama, crime thriller, and dark comedy, this “Breaking Bad” prequel of the earnest Jimmy McGill’s transformation into Saul Goodman captures the professional and personal struggles he navigates in an unfair moral universe. A compelling narrative of pathos and character drama, the show’s innovative style and commanding performances reach the creative heights of its origin series.
In this impressive series from NBC5/KXAS’s investigative news team, reporters unravel shady real estate deals by the Dallas County Schools (DCS) after a school bus camera-system investment goes bust. The reporting uncovered a wide web of corruption and staggering financial mismanagement, which led to swift action by the Texas government and voters.
In August 2017, horrified Americans watched as neo-Nazi supporters occupied Charlottesville’s Emancipation Park to protest the removal of Confederate monuments. VICE reporter Elle Reeve and her crew documented the unfiltered declarations and threats of violence by white supremacists with fearless reporting and unprecedented access. Her portrait of Christopher Cantwell and fellow white supremacists offered a sharp contrast to White House claims that there were “very fine people on both sides” of the conflict.
This surprisingly emotional film expertly documents, through time-lapse underwater photographs, the effects of climate change on the rapid decimation of the world’s coral reefs, events known as coral bleaching that affected 29 percent of the shallow-water coral in the Great Barrier Reef in 2016 alone.
CNN’s war reporters revealed many sides of the fall of ISIS, and the devastation left in its wake. In addition to courageous correspondents, this notable set of dramatic reports provided fresh angles and the creative use of technology, including stunning drone footage that captured the size and scope of ruined neighborhoods. The network’s continued investment and dedication to the story is especially significant as global conflicts simmer.
Hasan Minhaj delivers much more than a hilarious stand-up comedy special. “Homecoming King” is a deeply personal memoir—part Richard Pryor, part Spalding Gray—that covers the struggles of the immigrant experience, encounters with stereotypes and raced expectations, and intergenerational acceptance, while using comedy to invite empathy, caring, and understanding.
Testimonials from survivors of the deadliest mass shooting of schoolchildren in American history document a traumatized community fractured by grief but driven toward a sense of purpose.
An urgent, intimate portrait of heartbreak and determination, disappointment and victory as three young Dreamers navigate confusing immigration policy, bad faith on the part of politicians, and the emotional trauma of family separation.
Issa Rae delivers a groundbreaking series that captures the lives of everyday young black people in Los Angeles with a fresh and authentic take. Breaking away from tired and familiar representations of “diversity” on television, this series offers a fun and intimate portrayal of work, relationships, and the ordinary experiences of the two young black women at its center.
Special correspondent Nick Schifrin and producer Zach Fannin spent seven weeks in Russia, traveling to more than 12 cities to provide viewers context for thinking about President Vladimir Putin’s global impact. In addition to background on how this KGB veteran rose to power, we learn how he has shaped public opinion through appeals to nationalism and manufacturing consent via “fake news.” Each segment takes us deeper into understanding the mechanisms of power Putin has at his disposal.
Masterful storytelling by civilian filmmakers at the heart of the Syrian crisis as they follow the volunteer group the White Helmets, who provide emergency services to traumatized residents in the rebel-occupied areas of the city of Aleppo.
Each week, John Oliver and his team offer something completely new in the merger of comedy and reporting. While scathing in its political critique, the show is also smart and insightful in producing long-form journalism, breaking stories that others have overlooked with precision, clarity, and hilarity.
This collaborative series examines a crisis rarely talked about: Why does the U.S., which spends more per capita on health care than any other country, carry the highest rate of women dying as a consequence of pregnancy and childbirth in the developed world? Even more troubling is the revelation that black women are three times more likely to die in childbirth due to inherent discrimination. “Lost Mothers” is vital public service reporting that pushes the standard for vigilance, prevention, and equity in women’s health care.
Essential viewing that draws a line from armed standoffs at Ruby Ridge and Waco to the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995, to tell the story of both the worst act of domestic terrorism in U.S. history and the rise of anti-government hatred and white militancy.
With their media access restricted, BBC correspondents worked to pursue reports of entire villages destroyed and people being slaughtered as more than half a million Muslims fled persecution in the northern Rakhine province of Myanmar for neighboring Bangladesh. The series of measured reports, in particular, details the inhumane toll borne by children in an ethnic cleansing.
Building on the strength of its election year parodies, “SNL” doubled-down this year with wicked satiric portrayals of President Trump and a clownish coterie of administration apparatchiks. Kate McKinnon and special guests Alec Baldwin and Melissa McCarthy, in particular, produced performances that helped the American public come to terms with an unprecedented presidential administration and its daily political absurdities.
On July 6, 2016, police pulled over Philando Castile for a broken taillight. Seventy-four seconds later, officer Jeronimo Yanez fired seven shots into Castile’s car, killing him as his girlfriend Diamond Reynolds streamed what was happening over Facebook and her four-year-old daughter wept in fear. This remarkable podcast series puts a human face on the tragedy, providing context for the legal and political struggles that followed with excellent on-the-spot reporting and a balanced approach to understanding both men involved in the event.
From the opening moment of “S-Town,” when the compelling voice of John B. McLemore crackles through the phone line peddling his dark suspicion of an unreported murder in Bibb County, Alabama, the listener is hooked. “S-Town” breaks new ground for the medium by creating the first audio novel, a non-fiction biography constructed in the style and form of a 7-chapter novel. Three years in the making, reporter Brian Reed and producer Julie Snyder started down the road of the procedural and wound up creating true audio art.
Fatma Naib’s personal journey to explore the traditions and controversies inherent to female genital mutilation (FGM), is a nuanced, culturally aware film. Naib travels to Africa to understand why FGM is still practiced legally in some countries despite causing long-term serious pain and health issues for girls and women who have been cut. Clinical rather than gruesome, the film provides an education with sensitivity to cultural and community identity.
“The Handmaid’s Tale” offers a timely warning of a fascist, misogynist near future. Equal parts drama, horror, and science fiction, “The Handmaid’s Tale” is captivating, harrowing, and crackling with contemporary political relevance—a cautionary tale about the ramifications of the regulations of women’s bodies and reproductive rights, as well as the specter of theocratic rule.
An exquisitely photographed documentary that explores the inextricable links between oceans poisoned by coal burning power plants and the direct impact they have on people of the remote Faroe Islands in the North Atlantic Ocean, who struggle between maintaining their traditional way of life and the long-term health repercussions of mercury poisoning.
A period drama and feminist comedy, Amy Sherman-Palladino’s story of “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” centers on the emergence of a 1950s female comedian who runs afoul of New York decency laws. In the process, the colorful and imaginative story also reflects on the “place” of women in public spaces, Jewishness, familial relations, classed expectations, and the importance of a woman not being “ripped right out of a catalogue” that is both impressively weighty and effortlessly light.
This incredible podcast about a local politician known as “the Pope” demonstrates the importance of checks and balances—and of dogged local journalism. Reporters R.G. Dunlop, Jacob Ryan, and Laura Ellis worked for seven months to investigate the extravagant claims of church leader and state representative Dan Johnson whose glorified past was akin to Forrest Gump.
Sophisticated business reporting from “60 Minutes” and The Washington Post resulted in a far-reaching investigation into how the Drug Enforcement Administration was hobbled in its attempts to hold Big Pharma accountable in the opioid epidemic. The explosive story features damning testimony from whistleblower Joe Rannazzisi, a former DEA investigator, uncovering a truly bipartisan problem that continues to receive massive amounts of funding even while the scourge of addiction continues to grow.
Powerful miniseries illuminating the greatest flaws of our criminal justice system through the tragic events and death of a young African-American who spent three years on Rikers Island without being convicted of a crime.
Public history and family stories intertwine for an imaginative retelling of the pivotal role played by 250 newly escaped slaves struggling for freedom during the Civil War in South Carolina. Drawing on community memories and the stories of descendants who participated in the raid, the podcast beautifully tells the engaging but little acknowledged story of the planning and execution (behind Confederate troop lines) of the event, which led to the freeing of 750 enslaved men, women, and children.
- Tuesday, April 10: List of Nominees for 2017.
- Thursday, April 12: Career Achievement Award press release.
- Tuesday, April 17: Documentary winners press release.
- Thursday, April 19: Entertainment winners press release.
- Tuesday, April 24: News, Radio, Podcast & Public Service winners press release.