Educating Ray Romano: Nothing Like a Peabody Award to Put Things in Perspective

May 27, 2011

Ray Romano definitely knows what a George Foster Peabody Award is now. The co-executive producer and co-star of TNT’s "Men of a Certain Age" is the new owner of one of the prestigious golden statuettes, awarded Monday in New York at the 70th annual Peabody Awards presentation.

Earlier this month, at the technically troubled TNT/TBS upfront at the Hammerstein Ballroom, Romano was one of the network’s talent–along with Conan O’Brien, George Lopez and even network prexy Steve Koonin–called upon to vamp while audio and video outages caused by a power surge were repaired.

At that point, Romano mentioned that he and the drama about three middle-aged men were winning a Peabody Award–and that he had to Google it to find out what it was. The actor was nothing if not honest in telling the crowd at the Waldorf-Astoria hotel the same thing when he accepted the honor.

For those who don’t know, the Peabody Awards recognize distinguished achievement and meritorious public service on television, radio, and now online in the areas of the arts, culture and journalism. Every year, more than 1,000 entries from around the world compete to win one of the prizes, which are administered by the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Georgia and are chosen by a distinguished board of media experts.

This year’s 70th edition was hosted by Larry King, himself the winner of two Peabody Awards. As it was a luncheon event with clips shown for each of 2010’s 38 winning entries along with acceptance speeches from the honorees, King didn’t have much time to make jokes, but did an estimable job of moving things along–especially when some of the speeches got long-winded.

Robert King got straight to the point in accepting the Peabody for "The Good Wife " by thanking Dominique Strauss-Kahn and Arnold Schwarzenegger for providing truth-is-not-only-stranger-but-more-entertaining-than-fiction storylines for next season, garnering appreciative laughter from the audience for the acclaimed CBS drama he co-writes and EPs.

Another quality TV series, FX’s "Justified," drew Peabody love this year, perhaps making up for some of the snub it received from the Emmys in not getting noticed.

HBO will need a whole new awards shelf to accommodate its legion of winners, seven this year, including the much-lauded "Temple Grandin" and "The Pacific," "Magic & Bird: A Courtship of Rivals," "For Neda," "If God Is Willing and Da Creek Don’t Rise," "12th & Delaware" and "Burma VJ: Reporting From a Closed Country."

Films about John Lennon’s time in New York, controversial film director Elia Kazan, Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers and ESPN’s “30 for 30” series of documentaries about sports figures were also honored with the Peabody.

But the vast majority of the Peabody awardees are in the news and current events realm, focusing on war, injustice, disaster and intolerance, and although many of them might not be widely seen on television or heard, mainly on public radio, there is one word that comes to mind when you see the clips: inspirational.

From CNN’s multifaceted coverage of the Gulf oil spill to a series of reports on war veterans coping with traumatic brain injuries suffered in combat to an investigation into fraudulent job creation through a state agency to seeking justice for campus rapes and dissecting social issues in Pakistan, one thing was made very clear by nearly everyone responsible for such reporting: It has an extremely important place in our society and must be allowed to thrive–regardless of politics.

The George Foster Peabody Awards remain at the forefront of promoting such excellence–even if some of its recipients have to do some research on what the awards really mean.

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