Change agents make TV’s honor roll

TV Acad to fete shows dealing with social issues

It is, by definition, a highly subjective process.

But the 22 members of the committee that selects the annual recipients of Television Academy Honors kudos worked hard to bring a little science to the judging process through extensive debate and screenings of more than 150 submissions of programs dealing with social issues and causes.

The eight standouts from this year’s crop — ranging from episodes of “CSI,” “Glee” and “Private Practice” to little-seen cable docus to Maria Shriver’s HBO spesh “Grandpa, Do You Know Who I Am?” — will be saluted Wednesday at the third annual awards presentation dinner, hosted by Dana Delany, at the Beverly Hills Hotel.

“This is an evening that makes us all really, really proud to be in the business we’re in,” said TV Acad chairman John Shaffner, who co-chairs the selection committee with Lynn Roth.

Shaffner led the charge for the Acad to establish a means of recognizing worthy work — or in the Acad’s words “the power of television to change attitudes and lives” — that falls outside the Primetime Emmy umbrella. Call it an old-school form of social networking.

The committee strives to assemble a diverse range of programs, and recognize that episodic dramas come to the air with a different mandate than an investigative documentary such as Current TV’s “The OxyContin Express,” another honoree.

After the submissions are in, the committee members meet every other week to winnow the contenders to the top 25. Then the debates grow more intense, Shaffner said.

“Part of what we’re trying to do is recognize how these programs fit into the jigsaw puzzle of our culture and of our business,” Shaffner said. “We’re always astonished at how many great shows there are and the passion people who make these shows bring to their work.”

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