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The Peabody Awards

Prestigious Honors Laud Cross-Section of TV Fare, From ‘Lost’ to Olympics to ‘SNL’

The George Foster Peabody Award is considered by many to be the most prestigious honor in electronic media, akin to the Pulitzer Prize for print journalism. For 2008, the Peabody judges have honored a wide variety of entertainment, news and information media.

Among this round of Peabody honorees, HBO won five awards, including one each for comedy series “Entourage” and miniseries “John Adams,” based on David McCullough’s bestselling biography of America’s second president, produced by Tom Hanks’ Playtone Films.

In addition, three HBO documentary films were awarded Peabodys: “Hear and Now,” about a 60-something couple, deaf since birth, who underwent cochlear implant surgeries; “The Gates,” which focused on the artists Christo and Jeanne-Claude and their 24-year odyssey of bureaucratic hoop-jumping to create their living art; and “Nanking,” which brought to light the history of a small group of Westerners who saved thousands of Chinese people during the 1937 “Rape of Nanking” by Japanese invaders.

CNN, PBS and the network news divisions were honored by the Peabodys for their work in 2008 as well. ABC News won for the medical drama “Hopkins,” in which the news department went into Johns Hopkins’ operating rooms to reveal the human drama of real-life medical crises, while CNN’s coverage of 2008 presidential primary campaigns and debates was recognized for its use of state-of-the-art technology as well as the small army of reporters, producers and analysts it employed.

PBS’ Gwen Ifill won a Peabody for her work on “Washington Week,” the D.C.-based political talk show that supplemented its contribution to the national discourse in 2008 with a series of live events held outside the Beltway. NBC war correspondent Richard Engel was recognized for “Tip of the Spear,” his reportage from the war in Afghanistan.

From the sports angle, the Peabody judges were impressed with NBC’s larger-than-life coverage of the 2008 Beijing Olympics’ Opening Ceremony. ESPN Films was honored for its documentary “Black Magic,” a look at the lives of African American basketball players and their coaches at historically black colleges and universities during the civil rights era.

For the second time in 34 years, NBC’s popular “Saturday Night Live” earned a Peabody, this time for its 2008 political satire. AMC followed up last year’s Peabody Award for “Mad Men” by winning one for its drama series “Breaking Bad.” ABC also snared an award for its mystical drama “Lost.”

The Peabody Awards also recognized alternate media in 2009, including YouTube.com and the New York Times Web site, NYTimes.com, while at the same time singling out the innovation behind the “Metropolitan Opera: Live in HD” series, which was broadcast live via satellite to movie theaters around the world.

These winners and others will be presented with their awards tonight at the Waldorf-Astoria hotel in New York.

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