5 ABC Shows Among Winners of Humanitas Prize


A documentary about the mentally ill, a TV movie about the homeless and a children’s special about a handicapped teen-ager were among five ABC programs that won Humanitas Prizes Thursday for “humanizing achievement in television writing.”

An episode of CBS’ “Frank’s Place,” written by series creator Hugh Wilson, was the only winner from another network.

The winners were announced at a luncheon at the Century Plaza.

The cash prizes are given annually by the Pacific Palisades-based Human Family Institute to the writers of prime-time and children’s programs that are judged to best promote enriching values.


The top prize of $25,000, for programs 90 minutes or longer, went to Dennis Nemec for “God Bless the Child,” an ABC movie. The judges praised it as a “compassionate and insightful dramatization of the vicious spiral that carries so many people who want to work into the human hell of homelessness.”

Paul Haggis and Marshall Herskovitz shared the $15,000 prize in the 60-minute category for an episode of “thirtysomething” titled “Business as Usual,” in which the character of Michael deals with his father’s serious illness. The judges commended its “assertion that love alone can give us the courage to face the mystery of human life and its inevitable end.”

Wilson collected $10,000 for a “Frank’s Place” episode titled “The Bridge,” which the judges described as a “sensitive portrayal of one man’s struggle to provide for his family when society’s safety net has failed.” They cited it for its message “that human values must come before monetary ones.”

In the children’s area, $10,000 prizes went to Joanna Lee for an “ABC Afterschool Special” called “The Kid Who Wouldn’t Quit: The Brad Silverman Story,” about a boy who attended college in spite of suffering Down’s syndrome; and to Mary Jo Ludin and Lane Raichert for an episode of “The Flintstone Kids” titled “Rocky’s Rocky Road.”

The judges said that Lee’s script was chosen in part because of its theme “that the handicapped have as much to give us as we have to give them,” while Ludin and Raichert wrote a “touching probe of a child’s struggle to grow and affirm himself.”

A non-monetary award was given to Marshall Frady and Helen Whitney for writing “They Have Souls Too,” an “ABC News Closeup” about the mentally ill. The judges praised the dignity with which the program presented its subjects.