New York City - The wildly popular SABC1 drama InterSEXions was last night honoured here as a recipient of a 2011 Peabody Award, the world's oldest and most respected award for electronic media.
InterSEXions, produced by Curious Pictures and Ants Multimedia in partnership with Johns Hopkins Health and Education South Africa (JHHESA) and SABC Education, and funded by USAID and PEPFAR, was an instant hit with audiences when it was first broadcast in late 2010. It was rebroadcast in 2011.
Thirty-eight recipients of the 71st Annual Peabody Awards were honoured yesterday at the Waldorf Astoria Grand Ballroom, at a ceremony hosted by the University of Georgia's Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication. The winners were chosen by the Peabody Board, as the best in electronic media for 2011.
This year's winners awards range from websites such as TED.com and Human Rights Watch to Al-Jazeera and CNN's coverage of the Arab Spring, The Colbert Report and drama series such as Game of Thrones, Parks and Recreation, and Treme.
The Peabody short citation for InterSEXions reads: "'InterSEXions' is public service as educational serial entertainment. The HIV virus itself plays a role as a seductive voice in this well-acted, candidly written program focused mostly on young, restless, high-risk adults."
The awards were formally presented at a luncheon ceremony at the Waldorf Astoria in New York City with Sir Patrick Stewart, star of two Peabody winners, Star Trek: The Next Generation and Macbeth, presiding as the host at the event.
Executive producers Harriet Gavshon (Curious Pictures/Quizzical Pictures) and Uzanenkosi Mahlangu (Ants Multimedia) attended the New York Ceremony to accept the award on behalf of the production.
InterSEXions' Peabody Award follows the unprecedented 11 SAFTA awards that the series won earlier this year.
InterSEXions' success is that is has worked both as a very popular drama series and also as an extremely effective HIV and AIDS communication vehicle.
Although InterSEXions does not present itself as an overtly HIV/AIDS drama series, the ground-breaking series has driven social change by "mapping" out a sexual network over 25 independent, but interrelated episodes that follow an HIV infection chain as it cuts across geographic, age, racial and class boundaries. Each story aimed to take viewers closer to understanding the interconnectedness of their own sexual networks.
The Peabodys, the oldest awards in broadcasting, are considered among the most prestigious and selective prizes in electronic media. The Peabody Awards recognise excellence and meritorious work by radio and television stations, networks, webcasters, producing organisations and individuals. The 16-member Peabody Board is a distinguished panel of television critics, industry practitioners and experts in culture and the arts. To receive a Peabody, the judges have to make a unanimous decision.
All entries become a permanent part of the Peabody Archive in the University of Georgia Libraries. The collection is one of the US' oldest, largest and most respected moving-image archives.
"This Peabody Award is an accolade second to none for us, and recognition that world-class work is being done in this country in the arena of behavioural change communications. Intersexions has been an unqualified hit with audiences, and also with broadcast industry experts both here and at home, and we're very proud of this latest achievement," says JHHESA managing director Richard Delate.
According to Mahlangu, Intersexions is the result of melding the great creative talents of a diverse range of people.
"So often, one hears that something has been successful because the team behind it had worked so well together - and if ever there was an accurate reflection of such a sentiment, it's Intersexions. The writers, cast, directors and production teams all brought their A game to this series and were each instrumental, in their own way, in the creation of something truly special," Mahlangu says.
His sentiments are echoed by Gavshon, who says that the broadcast industry in South Africa is overflowing with talent.
"It's immensely inspirational to be surrounded with passionate, dedicated creative people, and InterSEXions had them in spades. They took the opportunity to be a part of a production with great potential, and with their commitment and talent took InterSEXions to a level of excellence that none of us had anticipated. It is a great honour to accept this award on behalf of all those wonderful people who made InterSEXions what it is," she says.
For Pontsho Makhetha, acting general manager for SABC Education, the Peabody Award for InterSEXions makes an unequivocal statement: television programming with a strong educational focus need never be boring or predictable.
"InterSEXions has exploded several stereotypes, not least of which is that educational programming cannot be exciting and enormously entertaining. Another is that certain types of programme will attract only certain types of viewer; InterSEXions captured the imaginations of viewers from all walks of life, making it one of the few truly South African television productions to date. We're very proud of all that the series has achieved, and would like to congratulate everyone who is involved with InterSEXions for the Peabody Award," Makhetha says.
InterSEXions is currently in development for a second season in South Africa. Follow InterSEXions on the following sites:
join on twitter @Intersexions
join on facebook InterSEXions.