Spurring social change was brought to the fore at the eighth annual Television Academy Honors, which feted six stand-out television programs at the Montage Beverly Hills on Wednesday.
The honored programs were the ABC comedy “Black-ish,” Amazon Prime’s “Transparent,” the ESPN Boston marathon bombing docu “E:60 Dream On: Stories of Boston’s Strongest,” Netflix’s “Virunga” and a pair of HBO films, “The Normal Heart” and “Paycheck to Paycheck: The Life & Times of Katrina Gilbert.”
The night’s goal was to recognize people who use television to “change people’s minds” according to Maury McIntyre, the Television Academy President and COO. The programs broached prescient topics including poverty in America, corporal punishment in the black community, reacting to terrorist attacks and the transgender movement.
“Transparent” creator Jill Soloway delivered one of several heartfelt acceptance speeches focused on the evening’s mission. “We’re doing something more than making TV,” she said. “We’re making change.”
She talked about the duty that she had to the Transgender movement. “The Trans community welcomed us and allowed us to tell this story,” she said. “It’s a lot to take it on and carry this mantle, but it’s an honor for me to carry this mantle. This is a civil rights movement and it is just getting started.”
On a lighter note, Soloway also gave a shout-out to Florence Henderson who was in the audience. “My sister and I were raised by you, so it’s good that you came,” she said.
“Black-ish” creator Kenya Barris also talked about his experience making a show that represents social progress. “So many times people will talk about creating a show about a family that happens to be black,” he said. “And that was sort of the palatable way to do it. We wanted to do a show about a family that was absolutely black. And something about that specificity would hopefully speak to the universe.”
Members of the cast joined Barris onstage to accept the honor including Laurence Fishburne, Tracee Ellis Ross, Marcus Scribner, Yara Shahidi, Marsai Martin and Miles Brown. The show was recognized specifically for its episode “Crime and Punishment” which asked the question, “When does a child deserve to be spanked?”
For Dana Delany, who hosted the awards for the seventh time, all of this year’s honorees addressed a common theme of community. “There seems to be a strong need for community and family. How do we survive together?” she asked. To her, all six programs highlighted the need for communities to help elevate each other in order to rise above adversity.
Other industry members in attendance included Bradley Whitford, Judith Light, “Paycheck to Paycheck” executive producer Maria Shriver and the docu subject Katrina Gilbert, “Dream On’s” producer and host Andy Tennant and Bob Woodruff and “Virunga” producer Joanna Natasegara.