Legendary television writer/producer and Emerson alumnus Norman Lear ’44 will receive a Peabody Award Saturday, May 20, for creating sitcoms that tackled tough issues and brought racial, gender, and socioeconomic diversity to TV screens at a time when shows were overwhelmingly white and middle class.
Lear will get an Individual Award at a ceremony in New York hosted by actress and previous Peabody winner Rashida Jones, according to a press release from the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Georgia, which founded the Peabody Awards.
Throughout the 1970s, Lear “changed the face of television—and the faces,” according to the Peabody Awards, with hits such as All in the Family, Sanford and Son, Maude, Good Times, and The Jeffersons.
“In Lear’s watershed shows of the ’70s,” the release said, “no topic was too touchy to tackle—not racial discrimination, not sexism, not homosexuality, not abortion, not even rape. Better than anyone working in television, Lear has created an influential body of work that politicized the personal, personalized the political, and showed us ourselves in all our ridiculousness and nobility.”
This year’s Institutional winner is Independent Television Service (ITVS), conceived by independent filmmakers and created by Congress in 1988 to fund and present documentary films for public television.
The Peabody Awards, founded in 1940, each year honors the year’s most important stories and storytellers working in television, radio, and digital media. Recipients must be unanimously chosen by a Board of Jurors made up of industry professionals, media scholars, critics, and journalists.
Previous Peabody Award winners include Edward R. Murrow, Carol Burnett, and David Letterman, as well as programs such as The Sopranos, Sesame Street, and the podcast Serial.
In winning the award, Lear joins fellow Emersonians Vin Di Bona ’66, a Trustee of the College and producer of America’s Funniest Home Videos; and Elaine McMillion, MFA ’13, and Jeff Soyk, MFA ’13, directors of the documentary Hollow. In addition, alumna Traci Blackwell, MA ’14, oversees Peabody winner Jane the Virgin for the CW, and ELA faculty member Marie Colabelli has worked on multiple Peabody-winning programs, including The News Hour with Jim Lehrer.