The Peabody Awards

The Peabody Awards

Peabody Winners Recap: Netflix, BBC America, FX and more


Matt Shedd - 5/8/2014
Peabody Winners Recap: Netflix, BBC America, FX and more

For other awards, several shows that are all part of the same genre are usually forced to compete against one another for a single award. In such cases, judges are often forced into unnecessary either/or decisions, such as should we award this hour-long drama or that one? or which one of these documentaries is outstanding?

But what if multiple programs deserve to recognized but happen to fall into the same category? That is why the Peabody Awards takes a different approach.

Since the Peabody Awards intentionally avoid using categories, programs from the same genre can be recognized alongside of each other for telling “stories that matter” in their own unique way. This is particularly important feature of the award. Shows that on the surface seem to be similar often explore their subject matter in very different ways.

Although Borgen and House of Cards are both political dramas, the intimate setting of Denmark’s government and the compromised idealism of Birgitte Nyborg explores politics from a much different angle than Frank Underwood’s scheming and devilish machinations in that story’s evocation of Washington D.C. that is fueled by nearly every character’s relentless thirst for power. But both stories are important, and give us a glimpse into power from very different angles.

Similarly, the murder investigation that takes place on both sides of the Mexico-U.S. border in The Bridge brings to light very different issues than what we see in Broadchurch, where a rural town on England’s Dorset coast is ripped apart by the murder of an eleven-year-old boy. Although they make use of similar storytelling conventions, these shows tackle very different issues.

The ultimate standard for the Peabody Award is: Does this tell a story that matters, regardless of the genre or category? Here are six of the entertainment programs that the judges decided to recognize for the excellence, and we think you will find that each of them has something very unique to offer.

Borgen

This astute, pitch-perfect Danish series earned its occasional optimism at every realistic turn. There are no Machiavellian masters at the center of its plot. The intrigue, schemes and actions flow naturally and believably from a story arc that has comfortably spanned three seasons. Borgen (a Danish colloquialism for “government”) weaves insightful views of parliamentary politics and governance with the daily lives of its exceptional cast of central characters, from politicians to newscasters.

The Bridge

A murder that leaves a bisected corpse sitting neatly on the border between El Paso, Texas, and Juarez, Mexico, kicks off an inspired drama. The storylines here range from the struggles of law enforcement in a Mexico controlled by ruthless drug cartels to the grief of an American homicide detective with Asperger’s syndrome who lost her sister. Based on a Danish/Swedish series with the same name, this series is a powerful translation for American audiences, spotlighting issues along the border that are rarely seen on mainstream U.S. television.

Broadchurch

From the flawless, marvelously cinematic opening sequence to the final revelatory climax, the series takes the viewer on an immersive journey, never overstepping its bounds nor sounding a false note. A troubled police detective, played to perfection by David Tennant, is brought in over the top-ranking local female cop (Olivia Colman) to uncover the perpetrator. Their prickly interaction as they upturn, then discard, one suspect after another becomes just one of several multi-dimensional relationships that deepen the viewer’s enjoyment of this taut whodunnit.

House of Cards

The American adaptation of a British miniseries, House of Cards tells the tale of Frank Underwood, a Southern politician and House Majority Whip whose thirst for political revenge and machinations for power are boundless. Kevin Spacey plays the perfect antihero, ruthless yet charming, amoral yet seemingly in-line with the norms and practices of cut-throat politics. House of Cards popularized the Netflix model for original content by releasing all 13 episodes at once, inviting audiences to binge-watch the story as one cinematic whole.

Orange Is the New Black

Orange began as the tale of a white woman whose life went sideways, and viewers may have assumed that Piper Chapman’s (Taylor Schilling) discomfort at her prison life would be the show’s central thread. But creator Jenji Kohan had some tricks up her sleeve. She and her writers deftly wove the sagas of incarcerated women of all races, beliefs and personality types into a rich tapestry of humor, satire, poignant regret and unexpected heartbreak.

Orphan Black

Orphan Black is a clone cyclone, a whirling dervish of a series that ponders identity, humanity, nature-versus-nurture, bioethics and genetic research – when it occasionally pauses for breath. Yet it can also be deeply humane, thanks to a poignant subplot about Sarah’s efforts to regain custody of her child. Humor also plays a part: Tatiana Maslany great comic moments with Jordan Gavaris, who plays her acerbic adopted brother, and with her alter egos, who include a soccer mom and a religious fanatic.