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ABC’s ‘Ellen,’ ‘Nothing Sacred’ Named Peabody Award Winners

TIMES TELEVISION EDITOR

Two controversial ABC series--"Ellen” and “Nothing Sacred"--were among the 34 winners announced Thursday for the 57th annual George Foster Peabody Awards saluting excellence in television and radio programming.

Also honored were the CBS news programs “60 Minutes” and “Sunday Morning,” the HBO movie “Don King: Only in America,” the TNT movie “George Wallace,” the PBS children’s series “Wishbone” and, for the third time, the NBC police drama “Homicide: Life on the Street.”

The Peabodys are considered one of the most prestigious awards for television and radio. They are administered by the University of Georgia’s Henry W. Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication. There were more than 1,300 entries for this year’s awards, covering programs aired in 1997.

“Ellen” was cited for the episode in which the title character, played by Ellen DeGeneres, declared that she was gay. The judges said the program marked “a landmark moment in television history” and praised it both for being funny and for “portraying the importance of tenderness and caring in all relationships.”

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“Nothing Sacred,” the freshman drama about a priest that has been criticized by some Catholics and shunned by some advertisers, was hailed as “a provocative and thoughtful drama series that provides an honest portrayal of the complexity of faith in the modern era.”

Hampered by low ratings, “Nothing Sacred” is off the ABC schedule and not expected to return. “Ellen’s” audience also has dropped this season and the network has not yet said whether the show will be renewed for fall.

Two individuals were awarded with Peabodys: Time Warner executive R.E. “Ted” Turner, cited as “a titanic figure in modern electronic communication,” and Carol Marin, praised for her “personal commitment to ethics and integrity in local broadcast journalism.” Marin resigned as an anchor at WMAQ-TV in Chicago last year after the station hired talk-show host Jerry Springer to do commentaries on the news; she now works at CBS News.

Among other Peabody winners were the PBS documentaries “Liberty! The American Revolution,” “Divided Highways: The Interstates and the Transformation of American Life,” “The American Experience: The Presidents Series” and “The American Experience: Troublesome Creek--A Midwestern.”

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The Nickelodeon cable channel was honored for its public-service campaign called “The Big Help.”


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