Humanitas Prize
The Humanitas Prize is an award for film and television writing intended to promote human dignity, meaning, and freedom. It began in 1974 with Father Ellwood "Bud" Kieser — also the founder of Paulist Productions
Paulist Productions
Paulist Productions and its sister company Paulist Pictures are production companies for religious television and film projects, respectively. Paulist Productions was founded in 1960 by the Paulist priest Father Ellwood "Bud" Kieser to produce the religious television program Insight...

 — but is generally not seen as specifically directed toward religious cinema or TV. The prize is distinguished from similar honors for screenwriters in that a large cash award, between $10,000 and $25,000, accompanies each prize. Journalist Barbara Walters
Barbara Walters
Barbara Jill Walters is an American broadcast journalist, author, and television personality. She has hosted morning television shows , the television newsmagazine , former co-anchor of the ABC Evening News, and current contributor to ABC News.Walters was first known as a popular TV morning news...

 once said, "What the Nobel Prize
Nobel Prize
The Nobel Prizes are annual international awards bestowed by Scandinavian committees in recognition of cultural and scientific advances. The will of the Swedish chemist Alfred Nobel, the inventor of dynamite, established the prizes in 1895...

 is to literature and the Pulitzer Prize
Pulitzer Prize
The Pulitzer Prize is a U.S. award for achievements in newspaper and online journalism, literature and musical composition. It was established by American publisher Joseph Pulitzer and is administered by Columbia University in New York City...

to journalism, the Humanitas Prize has become for American television."


Beginning as primarily a television award, the first Humanitas Prize winners were announced on the Today Show. Kieser, Ray Bradbury
Ray Bradbury
Ray Douglas Bradbury is an American fantasy, horror, science fiction, and mystery writer. Best known for his dystopian novel Fahrenheit 451 and for the science fiction stories gathered together as The Martian Chronicles and The Illustrated Man , Bradbury is one of the most celebrated among 20th...

, and Robert Abernathy
Robert Abernathy
Robert Abernathy was an American science fiction author during the 1940s and 1950s. He was known primarily for his short stories which were published in many of the pulp magazines that flourished during the Golden Age of Science Fiction...

 announced the first winners in 1975. At that time, the awards were divided into three categories, based on program length (30, 60, or 90 minutes and longer); these lengths tend to correspond to comedies, dramas, and telefilms or miniseries
A miniseries , in a serial storytelling medium, is a television show production which tells a story in a limited number of episodes. The exact number is open to interpretation; however, they are usually limited to fewer than a whole season. The term "miniseries" is generally a North American term...

, to the extent that some articles refer to the categories by those names.

The present-day award system is broken up into Prime Time TV 90 minute, Prime Time TV 60 minute, Prime Time TV 30 minute, Children's Live Action, Children's Animation, Feature Film, and Sundance
Sundance Film Festival
The Sundance Film Festival is a film festival that takes place annually in Utah, in the United States. It is the largest independent cinema festival in the United States. Held in January in Park City, Salt Lake City, and Ogden, as well as at the Sundance Resort, the festival is a showcase for new...

 Feature Film, with additional awards that include the Angell Comedy Fellowship for film-school students. The fellowship was started after David Angell
David Angell
David Lawrence Angell was an American producer of sitcoms. Angell won multiple Emmy Awards as the creator and executive producer, along with Peter Casey and David Lee, of the comedy series Frasier...

 and his wife, Lynn Angell, were killed in Flight #11 in the September 11, 2001 attacks
September 11, 2001 attacks
The September 11 attacks The September 11 attacks The September 11 attacks (also referred to as September 11, September 11th or 9/119/11 is pronounced "nine eleven". The slash is not part of the pronunciation...

. The Kieser Award, a kind of lifetime achievement award, was established after Father Keiser's death in late 2000. The Special Award category is irregularly given, usually to writers of a news or documentary program, which otherwise are excluded from the prize; to date the longest period without the special award was the 11-year period between 1995 and 2006.

When the award was established, the committee determined that the writer was the source of the most humanizing values in any program and should therefore be the focus of the awards. Although lists of Humanitas Prize winners for television categories often tell only the name of the program, the award actually is made to the writers of specific episodes, and more than one episode of a given show may be among the finalists in any given year; similarly, reports on the film categories often give more prominence to the film's title, but the award goes to the writing staff. In 2005 Humanitas winners included Hotel Rwanda
Hotel Rwanda
Hotel Rwanda is a 2004 American drama film directed by Terry George. It was adapted from a screenplay written by both George and Keir Pearson. Based on real life events which took place in Rwanda during the spring of 1994, the film stars Don Cheadle as hotelier Paul Rusesabagina, who attempts to...

(feature film) and The West Wing
The West Wing (TV series)
The West Wing is an American television serial drama created by Aaron Sorkin that was originally broadcast on NBC from September 22, 1999 to May 14, 2006...


In 2006, the documentary film An Inconvenient Truth
An Inconvenient Truth
An Inconvenient Truth is a 2006 documentary film directed by Davis Guggenheim about former United States Vice President Al Gore's campaign to educate citizens about global warming via a comprehensive slide show that, by his own estimate, he has given more than a thousand times.Premiering at the...

about global warming
Global warming
Global warming refers to the rising average temperature of Earth's atmosphere and oceans and its projected continuation. In the last 100 years, Earth's average surface temperature increased by about with about two thirds of the increase occurring over just the last three decades...

 starring Al Gore
Al Gore
Albert Arnold "Al" Gore, Jr. served as the 45th Vice President of the United States , under President Bill Clinton. He was the Democratic Party's nominee for President in the 2000 U.S. presidential election....

 was given a "Special Award" for "mak[ing] a significant contribution to the human family by communicating values, forming consciences and motivating human behavior."

The most wins — four — by any single program was for writers of the TV series M*A*S*H: Larry Gelbart
Larry Gelbart
Larry Simon Gelbart was an American television writer, playwright, screenwriter and author.-Early life:...

, 1976; Alan Alda
Alan Alda
Alphonso Joseph D'Abruzzo , better known as Alan Alda, is an American actor, director, screenwriter, and author. A six-time Emmy Award and Golden Globe Award winner, he is best known for his role as Hawkeye Pierce in the TV series M*A*S*H...

 (with James Jay Rubinfier), 1980; and the team of David Pollock
David Pollock
David Pollock may refer to:*David Pollock , former American child actor*David Pollock , rugby union player for Ulster Rugby...

 and Elias Davis in 1982 and 1983. Several shows won three times including The West Wing
The West Wing (TV series)
The West Wing is an American television serial drama created by Aaron Sorkin that was originally broadcast on NBC from September 22, 1999 to May 14, 2006...

, The Wonder Years
The Wonder Years
The Wonder Years is an American television comedy-drama created by Carol Black and Neal Marlens. It ran for six seasons on ABC from 1988 through 1993. The pilot aired on January 31, 1988 after ABC's coverage of Super Bowl XXII....

, Family
Family (TV series)
Family is an American television drama series that aired on ABC from 1976 to 1980. Creative control of the show was split between executive producers Leonard Goldberg, Aaron Spelling and Mike Nichols...

, Scrubs
Scrubs (TV series)
Scrubs is an American medical comedy-drama television series created in 2001 by Bill Lawrence and produced by ABC Studios. The show follows the lives of several employees of the fictional Sacred Heart, a teaching hospital. It features fast-paced screenplay, slapstick, and surreal vignettes...

, thirtysomething, Hill Street Blues
Hill Street Blues
Hill Street Blues is an American serial police drama that was first aired on NBC in 1981 and ran for 146 episodes on primetime into 1987. Chronicling the lives of the staff of a single police precinct in an unnamed American city, the show received critical acclaim and its production innovations ...

, and I'll Fly Away
I'll Fly Away (TV series)
I'll Fly Away is a television series set during the late 1950s and early 1960s, in an unspecified Southern U.S. state. It aired on NBC from 1991 to 1993 and starred Regina Taylor as Lilly Harper, a black housekeeper for district attorney Forrest Bedford and his family...

, which once won in the 60- and 90-minute categories in the same year. Life with Louie
Life with Louie
Life with Louie is an American animated series. The show is based on the childhood of stand-up comedian Louie Anderson, growing up with his family in Wisconsin.The first two episodes aired in primetime on Fox....

was the only show to win three times in the children's animation category.

Writers who have won three times include Aaron Sorkin
Aaron Sorkin
Aaron Benjamin Sorkin is an Academy and Emmy award winning American screenwriter, producer, and playwright, whose works include A Few Good Men, The American President, The West Wing, Sports Night, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, The Social Network, and Moneyball.After graduating from Syracuse...

 (for The West Wing and Sports Night
Sports Night
Sports Night is an American television series about a fictional sports news show also called Sports Night. It focuses on the friendships, pitfalls, and ethical issues the creative talent of the program face while trying to produce a good show under constant network pressure...

), David E. Kelley
David E. Kelley
David Edward Kelley is an American television writer and producer, known as the creator of Picket Fences, Chicago Hope, The Practice, Ally McBeal, Boston Public, Boston Legal and Harry's Law, as well as several films. Kelley is one of the only screenwriters to have had a show created by him run on...

 (Picket Fences
Picket Fences
Picket Fences is a 60-minute American television drama about the residents of the fictional town of Rome, Wisconsin, created and produced by David E. Kelley. The show initially ran from September 18, 1992, to June 26, 1996, on the CBS television network in the United States...

, The Practice
The Practice
The Practice is an American legal drama created by David E. Kelley centering on the partners and associates at a Boston law firm. Running for eight seasons from 1997 to 2004, the show won the Emmy in 1998 and 1999 for Best Drama Series, and spawned the successful and lighter spin-off series Boston...

), and Marshall Herskovitz
Marshall Herskovitz
Marshall Schreiber Herskovitz is an American film director, writer and producer, and currently the President Emeritus of the Producers Guild of America. Among his productions are Traffic, The Last Samurai, Blood Diamond, and I Am Sam. Herskovitz has directed two feature films, Jack the Bear and...

 (thirtysomething, Once and Again
Once and Again
Once and Again is an American television series that aired on ABC from September 21, 1999 to April 15, 2002. It depicts the family of a single mother and her romance with a single father...

, and the telefilm Special Bulletin). While at least four writers have had back-to-back wins, it is not unusual for several years to pass between one writer's winning the prize again. To date the longest gap was the case of China Beach
China Beach
China Beach is an American dramatic television series set at an evacuation hospital during the Vietnam War. The title refers to My Khe beach in the city of Da Nang, Vietnam, which was nicknamed "China Beach" by unknown foreigners, most likely Americans...

writer-producer John Sacret Young
John Sacret Young
John Sacret Young is an author, producer, director, and screenwriter primarily in television. Young has been nominated for seven Emmys and seven Writers Guild of America Awards, winning two WGA Awards....

, who won in 1978 for the telefilm Special Olympics, then won his second Humanitas Prize 21 years later for the TV movie Thanks of a Grateful Nation. (Young eventually went on to become a member of the Humanitas Board of Directors, where he serves with at least four other repeat prizewinners.)

Media references

In Season 4, Episode 19 of Boston Legal
Boston Legal
Boston Legal is an American legal dramedy created by David E. Kelley, which was produced in association with 20th Century Fox Television for the ABC...

, Carl Sack, played by John Larroquette
John Larroquette
John Edgar Bernard Larroquette, Jr. is an American film, television and Broadway actor. His roles include Dan Fielding on the series Night Court, Mike McBride in the Hallmark Channel series McBride, John Hemingway on The John Larroquette Show, and Carl Sack in Boston Legal.-Personal...

, stated "Well, there goes my Humanitas Award," after a long rant against organized religion. This was an instance of breaking the Fourth Wall
Fourth wall
The fourth wall is the imaginary "wall" at the front of the stage in a traditional three-walled box set in a proscenium theatre, through which the audience sees the action in the world of the play...

, as John Larroquette's short lived eponymous sitcom
The John Larroquette Show
The John Larroquette Show is a situation comedy that ran on the NBC network from 1993 to 1996. The show, created by Don Reo, was a vehicle for John Larroquette following his run as Dan Fielding on Night Court. The series took place in a seedy bus terminal in St. Louis, Missouri and focused on the...

won the award in 1995, as did Boston Legal creator David Kelley
David E. Kelley
David Edward Kelley is an American television writer and producer, known as the creator of Picket Fences, Chicago Hope, The Practice, Ally McBeal, Boston Public, Boston Legal and Harry's Law, as well as several films. Kelley is one of the only screenwriters to have had a show created by him run on...

 in 1996 and 2003.

The short lived Clerks: The Animated Series parodied the award in its first episode (titled "Leonardo Leonardo Returns and Dante Has an Important Decision to Make"); main character Dante Hicks mentioned that it was "an award for shows that don't use words like 'retarded", to which friend Randal Graves replied, "That's retarded. And queer."

On Episode 79 (titled "Stage 5")
Stage 5 (The Sopranos episode)
"Stage 5" is the seventy-ninth episode of the HBO television series The Sopranos. It is the second episode of the second half of the show's sixth season, the fourteenth episode of the season overall...

 of The Sopranos
The Sopranos
The Sopranos is an American television drama series created by David Chase that revolves around the New Jersey-based Italian-American mobster Tony Soprano and the difficulties he faces as he tries to balance the often conflicting requirements of his home life and the criminal organization he heads...

, Tony Soprano
Tony Soprano
Anthony John "Tony" Soprano, Sr. is an Italian-American fictional character and the protagonist on the HBO television drama series The Sopranos, on which he is portrayed by James Gandolfini. The character was conceived by The Sopranos creator and show runner David Chase, who was also largely...

's nephew, Christopher Moltisanti
Christopher Moltisanti
Christopher "Chris" Moltisanti, played by Michael Imperioli, is a fictional character on the HBO TV series The Sopranos. He was Tony Soprano's protégé and a Capo in the Soprano crime family.-Biography:...

, asks a writer about his "Human-itis" award. The writer corrects Christopher, correctly pronouncing "Hu-ma-ni-tas", after which Christopher whacks him on the head with the award. The Sopranos creator David Chase
David Chase
David Chase is an American writer, director, and producer of television series. Chase has worked in television for more than 30 years; he has produced and written for shows as The Rockford Files, I'll Fly Away, and Northern Exposure. He has created two original series; the first, Almost Grown,...

is a previous recipient of an Humanitas award.

External links

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