In the midst of Emmy FYC season, with a wide range of contenders vying for hundreds of coveted nominations on the ballot, the Television Academy handed out an exclusive number of other prestigious awards at its 12th annual Honors ceremony.
The event took place May 30 at the Beverly Wilshire hotel and recognized seven programs that aired in the past year, selected from more than 250 entries received by the Academy. The programs address difficult subject matter like sexual abuse, discrimination and serious disease with honesty and sometimes even humor.
Taking the Honors were documentary series “Rest in Power: The Trayvon Martin Story” (Paramount Network) and “My Last Days” (The CW), dramas “Pose” (FX) and “A Million Little Things” (ABC), doc specials “RBG” (CNN) and HBO’s “I Am Evidence” and Netflix’s children’s show “Alexa & Katie.”
TV Academy Chairman and CEO Frank Scherma opened the hour-long ceremony with event co-chairs Mitch Waldow and Howard Melzer, who oversaw the judging committee, before handing the hosting duties over to actor Niecy Nash.
Nash ably took over the reins from Dana Delany who has emceed the event a number of times in recent years but was unavailable due to a scheduling conflict.
“These seven honorees carry with them the gravity of each story and power of each singular voice to speak his or her own truth,” Nash told the audience, after advising them to get their Kleenex ready.
Power is key in the title of the six-part docuseries that chronicled the life of Trayvon Martin, a 17-year-old whose 2012 shooting death by George Zimmerman in Sanford, Fla., became the catalyst for the Black Lives Matter movement.
Sybrina Fulton, the mother of the slain teenager, was there to accept the award with director Julia Willoughby Nason.
“You never know what role God is going to lead you in,” Fulton said. “You never know your purpose in life until you’re put in that position. This is for my son, Trayvon Martin, with honor and grace.”
Betsy West and Julie Cohen, the directors of another documentary, “RBG,” emulated Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg when they dropped down on the stage to do a couple of push-ups at the conclusion of their acceptance speech. Several of the most memorable scenes in the documentary involve Ginsburg working out with her personal trainer.
“This year, at age 86, Ginsburg has recovered from her third cancer surgery and is tackling her job on the Supreme Court with the same fierce determination that she holds a plank,” West said.
“Pose,” which begins its second season June 11, was honored for its portrayal of LGBTQ ballroom culture of the 1980s. The series features the largest number of transgender actors ever on a scripted program.
Co-creator Steven Canals, who produces with Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk, said the show was born of a desire to see himself and his people on television.
“‘Pose’ is a love letter to our forebears and ourselves,” said Canals, who took the stage with writer Janet Mock, the first transgender woman of color to write and direct a major TV episode.
“We, the ones who lived it, are the most equipped to tell our stories. LGBTQ people have lived on the margins for far too long. ‘Pose’ is a reminder to the world we are and always have been our own heroes,” Mock said.
“Alexa & Katie” tackles the difficult subject of young people coping with cancer while lacing some of their most challenging moments with humor.
“We have to find humor during these horrible, scary times. Laughter helps us breathe again,” said creator Heather Warden. She also received some laughter when she revealed that when the pilot was at another network, they asked whether the people could have diabetes instead of cancer.
Facing mortality also plays a central role in “My Last Days.” It follows people attempting bucket-list goals as they near the end of their lives.
Creator Justin Baldoni appeared via video and said it was a taboo subject that no one wanted to touch and credited the CW for taking a risk with the documentary series, which has helped raise millions of dollars in research and led to new drug trials for a range of serious diseases.
“A Million Little Things” follows a group of friends in Boston who come together under unexpected circumstances. When one of them commits suicide, the series explores issues of mental health, alcoholism and sexual abuse.
“The biggest surprise to me, while I set out to tell my story, what I realized along the way is we’re telling all our stories,” said creator DJ Nash. “The mental health community has been so supportive of our show.”
“I Am Evidence” explores the alarming trend of rape cases that go unsolved in a flawed law enforcement system that has historically mistreated sexual-assault survivors.
Despite the ability of DNA evidence to solve crimes, the documentary reveals there are hundreds of thousands of untested rape kits that languish in police evidence storage rooms. The program follows survivors’ experiences as they trace the fates of their kits and re-engage in the criminal justice system.
Directors Trish Adlesic and Geeta Gandbhir read off the names of fourteen such people as they accepted their award. “Testing rape kits sends a powerful message that you can get through this and move past it,” said Adlesic. The directors credited Mariska Hargitay’s role as an advocate and her creation of a foundation to support survivors of sexual assault.