The excellent, diverse list of Peabody winners puts other entertainment awards to shame

Idris Elba in Netflix’s “Beasts of No Nation.”
Idris Elba in Netflix’s “Beasts of No Nation.”
Image: Netflix
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If you’re looking to fill your summer binge-watching schedule, the Peabody Awards have you covered.

Most entertainment award shows are founded on a premise of vacuity. Often, they are self-congratulatory—friends rewarding friends. More often, they are marketing competitions, with the awards revealing the public relations teams who campaigned the hardest and, conceivably, wined and dined the deciders. They are entertaining, and they are meaningless.

The Peabody Awards are different. Established in 1940 as the “Pulitzer Prize for Radio,” the Peabodys eventually expanded to incorporate other forms of electronic media, including television. They typically honor media that “can teach, expand our horizons, defend the public interest, or encourage empathy with others.” In other words, Peabody Winners are interesting and important.

The judging process is intense. Thousands of entries are screened by committees, who recommend a few hundred to a board of 16 jurors who then make the final decisions. Jurors can serve a maximum of two three-year terms, ensuring each year’s panel is unique. This year’s board, made up of academics, critics, and industry leaders, includes seven women and five non-white people.

There are no convoluted rules or categories that pigeonhole entries. The only mandate is that winners must be selected via unanimous vote. The bar is high, but it’s not restrictive—past winners in TV include everything from Breaking Bad to Black Mirror and Justified to Jane the Virgin.

This year’s slate of entertainment winners encompasses just how diverse TV is in 2016—not only in terms of culture, but also style, format, and genre:

  • Beasts of No Nation (Netflix)
  • black-ish (ABC)
  • Deutschland 83 (SundanceTV)
  • Marvel’s Jessica Jones (Netflix)
  • Master of None (Netflix)
  • Mr. Robot (USA Network)
  • The Leftovers (HBO)
  • Transparent (Amazon Video)
  • UnREAL (Lifetime)
  • Wolf Hall (PBS)
  • Katie Morag (Cbeebies)

This isn’t an exhaustive list of quality TV shows, but it’s not meant to be. Each winner is a singular work that services some compelling sector of entertainment. Whether it’s a network sitcom featuring a black family or a prestige drama about the rapture, these Peabody winners, as a whole, do an excellent job of showing off the wonderful miscellany of TV.

Beasts of No Nation was the only film to be honored. ”A superbly acted, strikingly photographed film about an African warlord training an orphan child to join his guerrilla army,” the jurors said, “it never loses sight of their humanity, brutal acts notwithstanding.” The film, along with actor Idris Elba, was shut out of the Oscars earlier this year.

The two lesser known honorees are Deutschland 83, a German spy drama, and Katie Morag, a Scottish children’s series.

So, if you’re looking for stuff to watch, start here. You won’t find a more diverse list of quality programming than the Peabodys.