Awards never go to the worthy. Believe not in awards, friends, for you will never not be disappointed. Given the opportunity to champion what is daring, surprising or strange, awards have a way of doing just the opposite.
This is the way 99 percent of the time. But not today! Rejoice, lovers of quality television, at the announcement of the 74th Peabody Entertainment Awards.
All the shows that are worth shouting about from the rooftops — the gutsy, weird, wonderful shows that tend to get passed over in favor of the eighteenth season of Modern Family — are receiving this year’s honors. The list of winners reads like the coolest kid in town’s DVR, starting with the uniformly outstanding Inside Amy Schumer all the way to The CW’s rookie of the year, Jane the Virgin.
Among the recipients is the best show on television, The Americans, which has been virtually ignored by all other major award-granting bodies. The only nominations the Emmys have seen fit to dole out to the greatest drama going are to the “Main Title Music” (it’s great and all but, come on) and the phenomenal Margo Martindale for her guest role. The Golden Globes are meaningless — this cannot be stressed enough — and yet, it is still irksome to know the Hollywood Foreign Press, whoever they are, has not bestowed its dubious recognition upon the best Cold War kids in Washington. The Peabody Awards are here to right this unfathomable wrong, describing the series as an “ingenious, addictive cliffhanger” that “contemplates duty, honor, parental responsibility, fidelity, both nationalistic and marital, and what it means to be an American.” Most importantly, the write-up acknowledges perhaps the finest part of the drama: the spies’ “seemingly endless supply of wigs.”
If there’s a theme in the diverse offerings recognized by the Peabody Awards, its just that: the diversity of voices, characters and worlds explored within these programs. Ladies first: Inside Amy Schumer is an unabashed feminist hilarity-factory, which the Peabodys celebrate for its “distinctly female yet gender-inclusive” point of view; Jane the Virgin revolves around three generations of Latina women and is a bilingual, romantic riff on telenovelas; The Honorable Woman explores the Israeli-Palestine conflict with nuance and complexity and is anchored by, as the Peabodys announcement describes it, the “towering lead performance by Maggie Gyllenhaal.”
When it comes to comedy, it appears the Peabody Board of Judges appreciate, along with everyone on the internet, the sharp eye of John Oliver. Trevor Noah’s already-controversial appointment be damned, Last Week Tonight With John Oliver is the rightful heir to Jon Stewart’s Daily Show throne, equal parts satirical send-up and investigative journalism. Fargo, deeply strange and deadpan, also gets a well-earned nod.
England’s Black Mirror is hailed as “cinematically arresting” and “brilliantly written” and if you are not already skeptical and/or terrified of our relationship with technology, well, a few episodes of the series will change your mind. The Knick is a gory-as-all-get-out drama based on a real early 20th-century hospital in New York City. Rounding out the pack is Rectify, SundanceTV’s first original series, about a man jailed as a teenager for rape and murder who is exculpated by new DNA evidence. It’s a lot of messy ruminations on guilt and death and violence and forgiveness.
The winners will scoop up their statuettes on May 31 at the first Peabody ceremony to boast a red carpet. Peabody winner Fred Armisen — of Portlandia, Saturday Night Live, and Late Night With Seth Meyers fame — will host the gala, which airs as part of a Peabody special on June 21.