The 75th annual Peabody Awards are underway in New York, with stars and showrunners of “Mr. Robot,” “Unreal,” “Transparent,” “Marvel’s Jessica Jones” and other programs on hand to accept their kudos. David Letterman and Jon Stewart are also in the house to receive special achievement honors.
Follow Variety‘s live coverage from Cipriani Wall Street here as the winners take the stage.
7:14 p.m.: Host Keagan-Michael Key takes the stage following a goofy video featuring him consulting Fred Armisen and Stephen Colbert on hosting the ceremony.
7:17: Key notes the high level of diversity among the honorees. He calls out Jada Pinkett-Smith as being in the crowd, noting her vocal protest regarding the Oscar nominees this year. When he’s told that she’s not here, he exclaims: “This would have been the one for Jada to come to!”
7:24: Jill Soloway accepts for “Transparent.” “This kind of moment for me feels totally unreal, like a dream come true. I was raised to worship at the altar of television,” she said. The Amazon comedy about a transgender woman and her family has allowed “people who have been forced to be the objects in most popular culture to be the subjects.”
7:28: Leslee Udwin, director of “India’s Daughter,” talks about the horror of violence against women and the lack of rights for women in India. She notes there is still no equal rights amendment in the U.S. either. “When you lay bare a problem with such blinding clarity as we do in ‘India’s Daughter’ what happens is that the solution looms with equal searing clarity,” she says with great passion and that type of authoritative British accent that makes Yanks sit up and take notice.
7:34: Producer Chapman Downes of “Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel: The Killing Fields” accepts for an episode about elephant poaching in central Africa. He dedicates the win to those who have died in the effort to save elephants.
7:36: Producer Lindy Cameron of the children’s series “Katie Morag” likens the odds that her tiny production company in the highlands of Scotland would win a Peabody to the chance that underdog team “Leicester City might win the English Football League.”
7:38: Documentary king Alex Gibney dedicates his win for “Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief” to “the brave men and women who came forward to testify about the human rights abuses in the church of Scientology. I think we really made a mark.” At my table, Anthony Anderson of “Black-ish” coughs loudly and says “Tom Cruise.”
7:40: Long tribute clip to “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.”
7:43: Big standing ovation for Stewart and his “Daily Show” team.
7:45: Stewart talks to the documentarians and news producers in the crowd. “I’m shocked at the breadth and somewhat disappointed at the terrible conditions in the world that you all are addressing in the world through your good work,” he said in that familiar tone. “I thought that we over our 16 years had healed a lot of this through witty repartee but apparently s—’s still going down,” he said. He gave a shout-out to the team of producers behind him, many of them who work on Trevor Noah’s “Daily Show.” “They continue to do great work with Trevor — it’s a wonderful show and powerful show. And I have learned the pleasures of rubbing the bellies of farm animals.”
7:50: Andrew Jarecki tells a Robert Durst story that’s too long to recount here. But he also talks about he impact of “The Jinx” on the mother of murder victim Kathy Durst. She died earlier this year at 102 and her family told Jarecki that the HBO docu series “gave her some sense of calm at the end of her long journey.”
7:55: Sarah Gertrude Shapiro, co-creator of “Unreal,” thanks the crowd for a “game-changing honor” and thanks Lifetime for taking a chance on her “incredibly weird short film” that inspired the series.
7:57: “Listen to Me Marlon” producer John Battsek thanks Showtime’s David Nevins and others for supporting the Marlon Brando docu project that they are “incredibly proud of.”
8:00: “Night Will Fall” director Andre Singer pays tribute to the World War II and Holocaust survivors “who gave up time and emotional energy” to remember the atrocities of the war for the film about the making of and suppression of the documentary film of concentration camp just after its liberation.
8:03: An Irishman whose name escapes me is accepting for BBC’s coverage of the European migrant crisis. He notes that it “matters” to receive the honor “at a time in Britain when there is such a bitter debate about the future of public service broadcasting.” He also suggests that journalists dig deep and look hard at their work and priorities. “We might look back on this period and (regret) not putting content above click bait, for not conquering the politics of fear.” Amen.
8:10: “Master of None’s” Aziz Ansari credits Netflix and Universal TV for truly understanding what it means to support diversity. “It’s not ‘Hey let’s get this white protagonist a brown friend.’ It’s ‘Let’s have a show where there’s a token white guy.’ ” He also thank the Peabodys for giving them an award without any campaigning required. “You guys just watched our s— and decided it was good.” “Master” co-creator Alan Yang noted that for all its problems “this country has never been a greater place to live” for people of color.
8:16: Director Najibullah Quraishi pleads with the crowd to not forget Afghanistan. He praises “Frontline” and exec producer Raney Aronson for their dedication to the “ISIS in Afghanistan” docu, which captured footage of children learning to use automatic weapons and other material that terrified the director about the state of his country. “To some viewers it might just look like I take a walk into the mountains, meet up with some bad guys, film for a couple days and walk out again,” he said. “Nothing could be further from the truth.”
8:20: Bryant Gumbel delivers a tribute to Morley Safer, the “60 Minutes” veteran who died earlier this week. Safer had four Peabodys in his collection of kudos.
8:25: NPR correspondent Caitlin Dickerson talks about getting reluctant military veterans to revisit the painful of experience of being exposed to mustard gas as part of sanctioned U.S. military experiments during World War II. “It was an honor to be able help bring their experiences to life,” she said of NPR’s “Secret Mustard Gas Experiments” investigative report.
8:41: Had to take a break, sorry local news winners. The projects looked very worthy. Here comes “Mr. Robot.”
8:43: “Mr. Robot” creator Sam Esmail thanks the Peabodys and thanks USA and Universal Cable Productions for their courage in supporting his vision. “You guys are really brave. Thank you for letting us say things and paying us to do it.” He notes that he finally paid off his student loans. Exec producer Chad Hamilton takes a moment to thank Esmail “for everything he’s done.”
8:46: “Deutschland 83” award is accepted by Lisa Honig. She tells crowd that creators Anna and Joerg Winger wanted to tell the story of pre-unification Germany because their young daughters “didn’t know what life was like before the wall came down.”
8:49: Veteran TV reporter Carol Marin is recognized as part of the team behind NBC O&O’s “The Laquan McDonald Investigation” into the police shooting death of a 17-year-old African-American youth. She credited the power of investigative journalism to shine a light on social ills. She also thanked the people of Chicago “for trusting us to tell them terrible truths.”
8:55: Documentarian Stanley Nelson is hailed for his body of work. He notes that he grew up in the 1950s, when the only African-Americans found in TV were usually “performing on ‘The Ed Sullivan Show.’ ” He praised the Peabodys for consistently recognizing diversity. But he also urged the crowd to look around at the racial composition of the room. “The work isn’t done. It’s not only important what we put in front of the camera; it’s also important we think about who’s behind the camera. There we can do a better job,” he said.
9:00: “Black-ish” creator Kenya Barris speaks from the heart about the response to the family comedy. He’s gratified when people come up to him who are not African-American and tell him the show reminds them of their families. “What I’ve learned is the specificity does speak to the universal. You tell a good story and an honest story – that’s what people relate to.” He also assured the crowd: “This award to me is everything. I’d like that other award, but I‘m very happy with this one, forever.” Also we learned that Barris does a pretty good Mickey Mouse imitation. Given that the show is on ABC, “I always think about Walt Disney and Mickey Mouse and what Mickey must be thinking,” he said. And in his Mickey voice he added: ” ‘Really. Wow. OK. That’s a lot of black people.’ ”
9:04: “How to Dance in Ohio” director Alexandra Shiva dedicates the award for the HBO docu about a spring dance held for youth on the autism spectrum to Lucy, the girl who inspired her to make the movie. “Today is her 18th birthday,” Shiva said. “Happy birthday Lucy.”
9:14: Damon Lindelof creator of “The Leftovers” thanks the Peabodys for not pitting artists together in competitive races. “I don’t have to pretend to wish Sam Esmail from ‘Mr. Robot’ luck while secretly wishing he suffers a minor head injury and loses the desire to write,” he said. He made mention of his show’s modest audience — “942 people including time-shifting on HBO Go” — and said the recognition was that much more meaningful. “Thanks to all of you for heating up ‘The Leftovers,’ ” he said. “We could not be more grateful.”
9:16: Shonda Rhimes introduces a clip reel of Peabody-approved entertainment programs over the years.
9:20: “Beasts of No Nation” director Cary Fukunaga salutes the “courageous group” of honorees who have blown past the 30-second time limit set for acceptance remarks. More seriously, he said the subject matters tackled by other honorees had inspired him to go forth and produce projects “that make the world small and make us realize we’re all one people.”
9:23: Time to applaud my favorite docu of last year, “What Happened, Miss Simone?”
9:25: “What Happened” director Liz Garbus notes that Nina Simone in 1986 said there was no more reason to play her civil rights songs. “In this once instance we can say, Miss Simone, you were wrong,” Garbus said. “Her music is more relevant than ever.”
9:27: Melissa Rosenberg, creator of “Marvel’s Jessica Jones” thanks a long list of people including star Krysten Ritter. “I’m constantly in awe of you,” she said of Ritter. And then she added a plug about increasing the volume of women working behind the camera. “I believe that stories can create change. If we tell them honestly, bravely and loudly, we can do that.”
9:32: Steve Martin is introducing David Letterman. They’re doing a funny bit.
9:40: Letterman telling a yarn, like he used to every weeknight around 11:45. Gawd I’ve missed him.
9:44: Very heartfelt Dave. Told a story about the speech class in high school that inspired him to become a broadcaster. Told a story about being invited to the White House’s recent state dinner for the Nordic countries. But mostly he delivered a lot of thank-yous to the crowd of “Late Night” and “Late Show” alumni in the room. “I feel silly and awkward being honored this way. Many people were with me for 33 years. All I really did was put on a tie. … I am accepting this award on behalf of the hundreds and hundreds of men and women who have done the hard work and heavy lifting to keep me on the air for 33 years. I’ll never, ever be able to repay you.”
He closed with an anecdote about his teenage son Harry, who was also present. On the ride over, Letterman said he kept telling Harry “Daddy hopes Daddy doesn’t bomb in front of Daddy’s family.” Finally, Harry put it to rest: “My son said ‘Daddy, for the love of god stop referring to yourself in the third person.’ “
(Pictured: Jon Stewart)