THE GOOD PLACE -- "Chidi Sees the Time-Knife" Episode 312 -- Pictured: (l-r) Kristen Bell as Eleanor, William Jackson Harper as Chidi, D'Arcy Carden as Janet, Manny Jacinto as Jason, Jameela Jamil as Tehani -- (Photo by: Colleen Hayes/NBC)
In this era of "peak TV," the prestigious University of Georgia Peabody Awards committee that decides which entertainment programs get picked must have an exceedingly difficult time narrowing the nominees down. But this year, they did: the nine winners include a surreal comedy about the afterworld, a female cat-and-mouse game between a serial killer and a spy; a 1980s-era espionage series, a look at different segments of life in New York City in the late 1980s; a hitman who wants to be an actor; and a talk show featuring a man who is both Indian-American and Muslim.
There is also a special institutional award for “Sesame Street.” The awards will be officially handed out at Cipriani Wall Street in New York City May 18. Ronan Farrow will host.
Other categories will be announced later this week. Two local-connected news-related nominees are in the running: Fox 5’s “$2 Tests: Bad Arrests” special series revealing how cops used cheap on-site drug tests that generated false positives and WABE-FM’s podcast about old civil rights cases called “Buried Truths.”
Here are today’s winners with the board’s comments:
Steven Universe Cartoon Network Studios (Cartoon Network)
On its surface, Rebecca Sugar’s animated series develops a complex mythology centering around the Crystal Gems—“polymorphic sentient rocks” who protect young Steven and his human friends from cosmic threats. But in this earnest fantasy epic and superhero saga, empathy is perhaps the most important superpower, something our real-world human society needs now more than ever.
Barry HBO Entertainment in association with Alec Berg and Hanarply (HBO)
“Saturday Night Live” alum Bill Hader has built a dark comedy off the unlikely premise of a hitman who really wants to be an actor and earnestly pursues his dream under the guidance of his has-been acting teacher played by Henry Winkler. Even as one of the quirkiest and entertaining series on TV, “Barry” asks serious questions about emotional connection, the nature of violence, and the cost of doing whatever it takes to keep a secret.
Hannah Gadsby: Nanette Netflix (Netflix)
Comedian Hannah Gadsby makes a major statement about the social costs of laughing at someone, and about what it means to be the brunt of a joke. She brilliantly finds the tragedy in comedy, in the process breaking apart and reconstructing the standup comedy special format. Throughout, she delivers the thunderous message of the destructive power of heteronormativity, toxic masculinity and male sexual violence, and how easily society tolerates each.
Killing Eve Sid Gentle Films Ltd. for BBC America (BBC America)
The tense cat-and-mouse spy thriller—serving as a vehicle for amazing performances by Sandra Oh and Jodie Comer—is also a masterful, playful recalibration of the genre, creating room not just for two women at the helm, but also for women’s interests and circumstances in almost every inch of the plot. Like its psychopathic assassin, Villanelle, it is equal parts terrifying, hilarious, slick, playful, and surprisingly soulful.
Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj Netflix (Netflix)
Hasan Minhaj has created the perfect model for engaging his fellow millennials in contemporary politics and public life. With his trademark high-octane energy, the first Indian-American and Muslim late-night host brings a welcome voice to political entertainment television. He’s also bold and fearless, taking on the ruthless Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman just weeks after the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
Pose Fox 21 Television Studios and FX Productions (FX Networks)
Set in 1980s New York, “Pose” follows the ongoing rivalry between the established House of Abundance and the upstart House of Evangelista in an honest telling of trans and gay people of color at a critical time in history. Presided over by Billy Porter’s Pray Tell, the competition and its delicious melodrama serves as backdrop for the burgeoning LGBTQ community and family, doing important representational work and storytelling both on and off the ballroom floor.
Random Acts of Flyness HBO Entertainment in association with A24 and MVMT (HBO)
Breaking the mold of what we think television is and can be, “Random Acts of Flyness” ponders what it means to be young and black in America and produces a layered, complex experience of wonder, joy, and insight. The series brilliantly assembles black sonic, visual, and literary worlds into a 21st century cut ‘n’ mix of black aesthetic of absurdity, critique, affirmation, and fun. Most importantly, it does so without a preoccupation with white gaze or desire, centering blackness as a complex, productive historical fact and contemporary lived experience rather than a phobic-obsessed reaction to whiteness.
The Americans Fox 21 Television Studios and FX Productions (FX Networks)
If a great drama series is judged—at least, in part—by the way its story ends, then “The Americans” can easily be counted among the best TV shows in history. Over six seasons, the 1980s-set thriller centered on two Soviet spies deeply undercover as middle-class American parents in a Virginia suburb. In 2018, creators brought the acclaimed story to a masterful conclusion, forcing spies Elizabeth and Philip Jennings to make impossible choices as their carefully constructed lives imploded on multiple fronts.
The End of the F***ing World Clerkenwell Films/Dominic Buchanan Productions for Channel 4 Television and Netflix (Netflix)
Teenage angst collides with dark British humor in this series about a self-identified psychopath and a wily high school rebel who seek adventure outside their boring suburban town. Based on a graphic novel by Charles Forsman, the British-American co-production features deeply funny and moving performances by Jessica Barden and Alex Lawther that capture the confusion of adolescence with intelligence and depth. A wonderfully unorthodox coming-of-age story for 21st century realists and hopeless romantics alike.
The Good Place Universal Television, Fremulon and 3 Arts Entertainment (NBC)
A Peabody nominee last year, Michael Schur’s fantasy-comedy about the afterlife keeps refusing to follow the formulas of broadcast network sitcoms, constantly renegotiating its format as our favorite contemporary morality play. The energies of Kristin Bell, Ted Danson, Jameela Jamil, and D’Arcy Carden, in particular, keep the show moving with virtuosity in every unexpected laboratory from the Good Place to the Bad Place, the afterlife to the Medium Place, and of course, to Earth.
Rodney Ho writes about entertainment for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution including TV, radio, film, comedy and all things in between. A native New Yorker, he has covered education at The Virginian-Pilot, small business for The Wall Street Journal and a host of beats at the AJC over 20-plus years. He loves tennis, pop culture & seeing live events.