Television, in its finer moments, seeks to entertain, inform and educate. But when programs also serve to inspire, they reach an entirely new level of audience engagement.
Those are exactly the kinds of shows that the Television Academy — recently rebranded from its previous and lengthier moniker, the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences — awards in its Honors ceremony, the seventh annual edition of which was held June 1.
The event, at the SLS Hotel, recognized seven programs that aired in the past year, culled from more than 150 entries received by the Academy. The programs address difficult subject matter with honesty and clarity, and oftentimes, humor.
This year’s honorees represented shows on broadcast, cable and, for the first time, digital, with subject matter ranging from alcoholism to cancer to child sexual abuse and disability.
Showtime’s “The Big C: Hereafter” and “Comedy Warriors: Healing Through Humor,” ABC Family’s “The Fosters” (Pilot), HBO’s “Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God,” CBS’s “Mom” (“Zombies and Cobb Salad”), Condé Nast Entertainment/GLAMOUR’s “Screw You Cancer” and HBO’s “Vice” received accolades at the ceremony.
Its format was pivoted a bit from years past, when it was a traditional gala, with a cocktail reception and dinner. Last year, it was held at the Beverly Hills Hotel, which many in the industry are currently boycotting due to hotel ownership’s stance on opposing gay rights and implementing sharia law, so a return to that venue was not an option.
This year, the event was a more casual one, where cocktails still flowed and the cuisine the SLS is known for was served on its sun-dappled terrace, but people stood gathered around the podium during the presentations or grabbed a seat at one of the patio tables.
What remained consistent from previous years was the host, Emmy Award-winning actress Dana Delany — who has emceed for each but the first year of Honors — and the high quality of the recipients.
“These are programs that raise awareness, raise questions and might even raise a few people’s blood pressure. But they motivate positive change,” said Bruce Rosenblum, the Academy’s chairman and CEO. “They make us laugh and they make us cry. They make us brim with joy and boil with rage. Even when they break our hearts, they never fail to bolster our hopes.”
Delany presented the Honors trophy to Chuck Lorre, the executive producer of “Mom,” which examines the challenges of alcoholics staying sober and stars Allison Janney and Anna Faris. “I want to thank the Academy very much for this terrific honor. It’s wonderful to be singled out in our first year which, as you all know, the only thing we hope for in a first-year sitcom … is a second year,” he said. “To do a show about people trying to redeem their lives, and to salvage and repair the damage they’ve done, for me, that’s an opportunity to apologize for ‘Two and a Half Men.’”
The night’s closing trophy presentation went to “Comedy Warriors.”
The cast — seriously injured veterans of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan who have endured long, painful recoveries — and producers got an extended and heartfelt round of applause as they took the stage. After producers John Wager and Ray Reo officially accepted and talked about how they had created not just a film, but a family, veteran Bobby Henline took the mic.
“I would like to thank the Academy,” he said. “I think all of us were more shocked that we got this award than when we woke up in the hospital.”