Gallen to produce ‘Heroes’

Producer-director takes on CNN awards gala

NEW YORK — CNN landed producer-director Joel Gallen to produce “CNN Heroes,” a two-hour awards gala the net is billing as the only televised awards event honoring “ordinary people accomplishing extraordinary things.”

Gallen will look to bring in celebrity presenters to introduce winners and narrate short documentaries about the lives of people making an impact in arenas ranging from the environment to civil rights.

Gallen, who produced telethons benefiting victims of the Sept. 11 attacks and Hurricane Katrina, said the awards show is the first “not giving awards to celebrities. It’s important to honor these heroes from all walks of life that go under the radar of most people.”

It’s also important, he added, to explain to viewers why they should care — a significant departure from other awards shows and a producing challenge for Gallen and the network.

He anticipates that nine or 10 awards will be given out, fewer than the standard 15-18 for a two-hour awards show, to make room for the short video pieces and even magazine-style interviews conducted onstage.

Show will be hosted by Anderson Cooper and staged at the Natural History Museum in Gotham. CNN has collected 2,500 nominations for potential “Heroes” on its website. A panel will sift through and make recommendations.

Gala is part of a wider “Heroes” programming initiative at the network on TV and online.

“We are identifying people right now and have various content about ‘heroes’ on TV and our website,” said CNN prexy Jim Walton.

A celebrity-laden awards show can bring big ratings, and Walton said CNN developed the “Heroes” concept to fit within the network’s brand attributes.

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