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Cause for 'Glee': TV academy honors 'television with a conscience'

The_Men_of_Glee-web The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, which in September brings you the glitz fest known as the Emmy Awards, quietly honored eight shows that represent "television with a conscience" at the Beverly Hills Hotel on Wednesday evening. But don't think the usual laws of Hollywood don't apply to those creators too -- they still have to look good.

That appeared to be news to Lt. Col. Michael Strobl, whose experiences as a volunteer military escort officer were dramatized in the HBO film "Taking Chance."

Strobl-web Introducing a table of wounded Marines before presenting the Television Academy Honor to the film's executive producers, Brad Krevoy and Cathy Wischner-Sola, Strobl said, "I just hope that none of them find out I was just back there getting makeup."

Oops.

This was the third annual installment of the academy's special awards, and this year's crop tackled issues including Alzheimer's disease, physical handicaps, doctor-assisted suicide, autism and the black market for painkillers, explored in Current TV's "The OxyContin Express." So the traffic got pretty busy up there on the podium.

As "Celebrity Apprentice" Holly Robinson-Peete was introducing the award for "Unlocking Autism," produced by Figure 8 Films for Discovery Health, she suddenly stopped. "The vice president is in front of my teleprompter," she said ...

... as Current TV co-founder Al Gore returned to his seat with his award. "For you, I'll wait."

There can be even trickier obstacles to making socially relevant entertainment, as "Private Practice" executive producer Shonda Rhimes explained while accepting an award for an episode about doctor-assisted suicide.

Maria_Shriver_and_Al_Gore-w "I pitched it [when the show started], and we didn't do it because it was scary and we were new and no one believed -- including me -- that audiences would like us if we told the story when we were that new," Rhimes said. "'Private Practice' that spring gained an audience. And when you have an audience and viewers come to really love your characters, it becomes a lot easier to tell a really hard story."

Despite the generally tough subject matter overall, the most popular girl at the prom was still Ryan Murphy Productions' "Glee," which was honored for an episode in which the club learned empathy by performing in wheelchairs. Introducing cast members Cory Monteith, Chris Colfer, Kevin McHale and Mark Salling, emcee Dana Delany called Fox's megahit "my favorite show of the decade. I watch this on the treadmill and squeal with delight. And it also sends a great message on how we need more funding for the arts in the public schools."

It's somehow comforting to know that public schools aren't the only ones who need some love these days. As California first lady and former NBC newswoman Maria Shriver remarked while accepting an award for "Grandpa, Do You Know Who I Am?," an episode of "The Alzheimer's Project" on HBO, "I want to thank the academy for honoring it;  I want to tell anybody who has a parent with Alzheimer's there is hope, but we've got to get moving; and to all of you talented producers out there, come January, I'll need a job."

Other winners were CB Productions and Jerry Bruckheimer Television's "CSI" and "Explorer: Inside Death Row," produced by Mannucci Inc. and National Geographic Television.

— Irene Lacher

Top photo: The men of "Glee" -- Cory Monteith, left, Kevin McHale, Mark Salling and Chris Colfer -- arrive at the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences' 3rd Annual Academy Honors at the Beverly Hills Hotel. Credit: Mathew Imaging.

Middle photo: Lt. Col. Michael Strobl arrives at the TV academy event. Credit: Alberto E. Rodriguez / Getty Images.

Bottom photo: Maria Shriver and Al Gore. Credit: Mathew Imaging. 

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