The 74th Peabody Awards, marking a major shift to Sunday night from weekday midtown luncheon to evening gala downtown, featured both dialed-up star wattage and a healthy dose of wholesomeness. The gala, hosted by an industrious Fred Armisen powering through a prolix script, honored 40 programs ranging from acclaimed cable series like The Americans and Inside Amy Schumer to investigative work on Frontline and the breakout podcast Serial.
In between often sobering and stirring segments honoring work about the crash of a Japanese bullet train, the rise of Boko Haram and sexual abuse cases in the Catholic church, the two-and-a-half-hour affair at Cipriani Wall Street blended in plenty of red-carpet star power. Talent, showrunners and execs from shows such as The Knick, Fargo, Rectify and Black Mirror mingled with an eclectic mix of local, national and international news and documentary crews. Pivot will air an edited 90-minute version of the Peabody ceremony on June 21.
Introducing Schumer, Tina Fey scored the night's biggest laughs. "She is the biggest thing in comedy right now," she said of the honoree. "That's why I wanted to come down here tonight in a Madonna kind of way and kind of eat her youth and maybe suck her soul out in a really awkward, staged lesbian kiss. But when I pitched that idea to Amy's camp, they came back with such an immediate yes that it kind of grossed me out."
Sure enough, Schumer and Fey did mockingly lock lips. In keeping with the night's earnestness of purpose, though, Schumer delivered brief but heartfelt remarks after the joking subsided. "We thought we were making this secret feminist show but people caught on quickly," she said. "And we're so glad that they did."
John Oliver, an honoree for his HBO series Last Week Tonight, thanked his former Daily Show boss, Jon Stewart (who was in the audience), "for basically everything." He admitted finding award shows "excruciating" but managed a distinctively British note of appreciation. "This is so kind and it's a real treat," Oliver said. "We will work hard to make sure you don't regret this any more than I assume you already do."
Charlie Rose, who presented Oliver with his prize, referenced his win last year for his interview of Syrian dictator Bashar Assad. "It took me 25 years to receive a Peabody," Rose quipped. "It took John Oliver about six months."