This Year's Peabody Winners, and the Unawarded Shows That Paved the Way

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The Peabody Awards annually honor clumps of accomplished TV series, news specials, and radio programs, but "no more than 36" per year, claims the official site. That's a lot of plaques! While the Peabody Board can boast an accolade that traces back over 60 years (predating the Emmys), they've also ignored a fair amount of top-notch programming, even in the face of this year's just-announced winners. Here, then, are three of the 2009 award winners in television and the under-honored shows that came before them.

Peabody Winner: The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson

Official Rationale: "The Scottish-born Ferguson has made late-night television safe again for ideas."

Peabody Whiffer: Late Night with Conan O'Brien

Craig Ferguson is a jocular, eminently likable presence, but in terms of "making late-night television safe again for ideas," the kingpin of kook was and always will be Conan. Ferguson may strike an unpretentious rapport with guests, but O'Brien mastered that brand of self-deprecation, freewheeling badinage, and vaudevillian energy a full decade before Ferguson took to the air.

Peabody Winner: Modern Family

Officional Rationale: "This wily, witty comedy puts quirky, contemporary twists in family ties but maintains an old-fashioned heart."

Peabody Whiffer: Gilmore Girls

Modern Family and Gilmore Girls both explore family strife with offbeat comic timing, but Gilmore Girls added a baroque conversational voice that remains a singular quality. Modern Family, while refreshing, could still use a stronger individual tone.

Peabody Winner: Glee

Reasoning: "The musical dramedy that revolves around the motley members of a high-school choral club hit especially high notes with episodes such as 'Wheels,' about the daily struggles of a wheelchair-bound singer."

Peabody Whiffers: Freaks and Geeks, Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Glee's format alone marks it as a television anomaly, but two of its unconventional ancestors were overlooked by the Peabodys. Freaks and Geeks's one-season glory also captured the wonder and weariness within a typical high school's outer margins, while Buffy the Vampire Slayer's legendary "Once More, With Feeling" episode riffed on high school strife and melodrama with the flair of a Busby Berkeley classic.

Complete List of Recipients for the 69th Annual Peabody Awards [Peabody]


  • Samantha says:

    I totally disagree about Craig Ferguson and Conan.
    The point is that Craig has done things with his show that are off the beaten path of Late Night Television.
    Conan was successful and funny...but far from "unique"
    In the past 5 years Craig has done a show without an audience, had a heartbreaking monologue/eulogies devoted to his father and mother at their passings, done an episode with only puppets, placed the monologue midway through the show
    He has done more to deconstruct the late-night format since he has been on the air than Conan did in his 15 years. Which is actually quite sad for Conan...
    Conan was good @ what he did...but he played within the parameters already set out by people like Leno and Letterman. A show that begins with a monologue, followed by a segment of skits/chatting with the band, interview, musical act.
    Perhaps his material was @ times a bit more risque than either Letterman or Leno (Masterbating Panda, etc.) but hardly something that had rarely been seen on television.
    However Craig eulogy to his father is something that gives me shivers just thinking about it. Something that I have never seen on television before. His interview with Desmond Tutu (for which he won the Peabody) was laugh-out-loud hilarious, heartwarming, and detachedly analytical in turns showing how superb an interviewer Craig is.
    He has a unique method of communication with the audience (both in studio and @ home) and unique interviewing style that scorns the practice of shameless plugging or scripted/outlined conversation. There was nothing about Conans show that was fundamentally different than anyone else. I know Conan was intelligent...but I don't think that I have ever seen him be intellectual with any of his guests.
    Conan was a clown. Frankly I would vote for Craig before any of them, and Letterman before Conan.
    What you have is personal preference. You think that Conan is funnier..

  • Samantha says:

    I would just encourage you to watch the Desmond Tutu interview that this Peabody was awarded for and you'll see it. March 4, 2009 posted by Malinky2Stoatir on YouTube
    monologue here
    And after his fathers eulogy
    Watch those and you'll see a taste of what make Craig so worthy.