The Peabody Awards are given out each year to what is deemed the best in electronic media as chosen by the Peabody board, a conglomerate of smart, educated, distinguished media folk.
Well I guess my ballot got lost in the mail. No one asked my opinion on squat.
To make up for it, here is a quick rundown of some Peabody Award winners that I also give a thumbs up to. There are 36 winners this year. I'm not going to touch on them all, as we all know about the Opening Ceremonies, the presidential election coverage, and "SNL's" political sketches. I'm going to quickly mention a few lesser known that I think you should check out. There is a lot on this list of winners that I am not familiar with, so if you have a recommendation, I'd love to hear it:
This American Life: The Giant Pool of Money
This episode of the "This American Life" radio program from May of 2008 deals with the housing and financial crisis. Normally this topic is not something I want to listen to for an hour, but this kept my attention because it was the first news program that explained everything that was happening in a way that made sense and provided clarity. It helped me better understand exactly how we ended up in this mess. I highly recommend you give it a listen. The episode was a collaborative effort of "This American Life" and NPR News. It was so successful, that it spawned a follow up program last fall, and a daily NPR program, Planet Money, dedicated to covering all things financial crisis in a user-friendly way.
All the awards and accolades that this HBO miniseries has received over the past year are well deserved. I'm normally not a fan of historical period pieces, and I watched this whole thing over a weekend last summer. It's a 7-part miniseries with each episode ranging from 60-90 min. Not all of the episodes are winners, particularly in the middle, but the boring parts are few and far between. The DVD of the series is available pretty much everywhere you would care to look.
This is AMC's second original scripted drama ("Mad Men" being the first), and I dare say it is the better of the two. I'm new to the show; I just started watching a few weeks ago. It premiered to critical fanfare last winter with an abbreviated 7 episode first season (thanks to the WGA strike), and went on to win an Emmy for lead actor Bryan Cranston (the dad Hal from "Malcolm in the Middle"; Tim Whatly the dentist from "Seinfeld"). Created by a former writer/producer of "The X-Files," "Breaking Bad" is about a chemistry teacher named Walt who finds out he has terminal cancer. In order to secure the financial future of his pregnant wife and teenage son, mild mannered Walt teams up with a drop out former student of his, Jesse, to make and sell crystal meth. Being a skilled chemist, Walt is REALLY good at cooking meth. They make a lot of money, and then get in over their heads.
I know, it sounds weird, and it is. It's also funny, suspenseful, creepy, emotional, quiet, sometimes tough to watch, and addicting. I could go on and on, but it's better just to see for yourself. It's not a show for everybody; if you don't like the first 3 episodes, you won't like the rest. The first season is available on DVD now, and the second season is currently airing on AMC on Sunday nights. Usually towards the end of the season's run, AMC will run a marathon of all the episodes allowing viewers to catch up. If I remember, I'll try to find out when that is.
36 Years in Solitary: Murder, Death and Justice on Angola
This is one of those NPR stories that you end up listening to while sitting in your driveway, because you don't want to get out of your car until the story is over. Told in three 10 minute segments, reporter Laura Sullivan tells the tale of two Louisiana prison farm inmates who have been kept in solitary confinement for more than three decades for a murder that people are just now realizing, maybe they didn't commit. There is more to it than that, but I don't want to give away too much. Without leaning one way or another, the story does a good job of laying out the facts of the case and interviewing as many people involved as they can.
You can listen to part 1 here. Links to parts 2 and 3 can be found below the pictures in the left hand column of the story.
OK, I'm cheating here a little bit. ABC's "Lost" is not exactly a lesser known pick. But seriously, if you haven't started watching it yet, what are you waiting for? It really is as good as everyone who obsesses over it says it is. And now it's Peabody Award winning (and JD Recommended). Next season (#6) will be its last. Start watching the DVDs now. You will easily finish seasons 1-4 before season 5 is released on DVD in December. Then, you will be all caught up for the final season when it starts in late January of 2010. Get to it!
The Onion News Network
For years The Onion has been known to produce some of the best news, media, and political satire around in the form of "newspaper journalism." Now they've expanded into video. This has provided The Onion with a whole new genre to satirize, and they do it well. All forms of television "news" are covered, including morning talk shows, CNN Headline News, ESPN, "Crossfire"-like arguelism, CSPAN, financial news, and more. Each week three or four short news stories are released on their website (or can be downloaded as a podcast through iTunes). As is the case with The Onion, the content is not always suitable for work. Their latest clip, which I've included below, is clean. It's a segment of the ONN morning show "Today Now!":
That's all I got. That should be enough to keep you busy. Do you have any recommendations you'd like to share (Peabody winning or not)?