The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences created the Television Academy Honors in 2008 to recognize “Television with a Conscience” — achievements in programming that present issues of concern to our society in a compelling, emotional and insightful way.
In 2008, the Inaugural Television Academy Honors ceremony was hosted by television journalist Lisa Ling (National Geographer Explorer, CNN, The Oprah Winfrey Show), and presented an evening of moving stories and tributes. The first year honorees included:
- First Lt. Dawn Halfaker who accepted the honor for Alive Day Memories: Home from Iraq (HBO), an insightful, inspirational and heartbreaking HBO special in which James Gandolfini interviewed 10 young Iraq War veterans who survived near-fatal wounds and are learning to cope with their life-changing disabilities.
- Producer David E. Kelley for Boston Legal (ABC), the ABC series that addressed a number of issues, including euthanasia, government-sanctioned torture, the status of illegal immigrants, race relations, the teaching of “abstinence-only” sex education and the marketing of sexually suggestive dolls to young girls.
- Executive Producer Dick Wolf for the Law & Order: SVU, "Harm" episode (NBC), about the complicated question of whether, during war, torture is ever justified.
- Nonfiction producer Mohammed Naqvi, whose Showtime documentary Shame (Showtime)told the story of a young Pakastani rape victim who would not be silenced, but inspired her country and the world with her courage.
The emotional acceptance speeches reflected the recipients’ gratitude at the acknowledgment of their work for its ability to enlighten, educate and motivate viewers with regard to important social and cultural issues. Some excerpts:
David E. Kelley, accepting for Boston Legal:
“Congratulations to the Academy for spear-heading and hosting this new award show. I feel a little bit humbled being up here in the company of such fine recipients. But we do fancy ourselves, we like to fancy ourselves a little bit as the town crier, and that underneath all our lunacy we do, at least when we’re at our best, confront social, and moral, and legal, and political issues of the day.”
First Lt. Dawn Halfaker, accepting for Alive Day Memories: Home from Iraq:
“We feel very privileged to be recognized in this inaugural year of the Television Academy honors, and be among all those whose efforts embody television with a conscience… This award is not only a tribute to those stories that were told in the film, but more importantly a tribute to all the stories that will never be told, as it recognizes the many sacrifices of this war.”
Dick Wolf accepting for Law & Order: SVU, “Harm” Episode
“This is really an honor being here for the premiere of this award, which is kind of an award of conscience, which is rare in this business.”
Dan Paulson, accepting for Pictures of Hollis Woods:
“It’s gratifying to be able to educate, enlighten, and entertain an audience through the medium of television. I think ultimately that’s what it’s all about.”
Jill Schneider, accepting for Shame
“We’re so lucky to be where we are, and to do the things we can do, and I think that as filmmakers and storytellers, we realize that these things that inspire us are so much bigger than all of this… and we feel this in this room tonight.”
Margaret Nagle, accepting for Side Order of Life:
“The Television Academy decided to do this at a time when it feels like it’s all about ratings and flash…to create a night that’s all about substance…is really heartening for everybody, not just in this room but in the television community.”
A recap of the inaugural 2008 event, with a complete list of recipients, is available here
Television Academy Honors Releases & Features
2008 Honors Shines: The Full Story
2008 Photo Gallery: Inaugural Television Academy Honors gala shines in Beverly Hills
Planet Earth, Boston Legal among nine recipients of inaugural edition of The Television Academy Honors; Celebration recognizes “Television with a Conscience” [HTML]
Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Announces The Television Academy Honors Awards To Recognize “Television With a Conscience” [HTML]