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Humanitas Prizes Given to Uplifting TV, Film Scripts

Honors: The writers of 'Gulliver's Travels,' 'Hiroshima' and 'Dead Man Walking' receive $25,000 awards.

July 12, 1996|From a Times Staff Writer

NBC's "Frasier," CBS' "Picket Fences" and the feature film "Dead Man Walking" were among the entertainment fare honored Thursday with the 22nd annual Humanitas Prizes for TV and film scripts that "enrich the lives of the viewing public."

The cash awards, handed out by the Pacific Palisades-based Human Family Educational & Cultural Institute, are given to writers to encourage the creation of scripts that affirm human dignity and probe the meaning of life. The institute said it received nearly 500 entries this year.

Tim Robbins won the $25,000 award in the feature film category for his screenplay for "Dead Man Walking," which the judges praised for its "assertion that there can be no redemption without honesty on the part of the criminal and forgiveness on the part of the victim's family."

John Hopkins and Toshiro Ishido shared the $25,000 prize in the category for PBS and cable programming, for Showtime's "Hiroshima," a movie about the events that led the United States to bomb the Japanese city in 1945.

In the category for network TV movies, Simon Moore collected $25,000 for "Gulliver's Travels" on NBC, which the judges praised for its message that "a persevering love can conquer all."

Nick Harding and David E. Kelley were given a $15,000 prize for their "Picket Fences" script that examined the role of faith in people's lives with a story about a boy who inexplicably begins to bleed from his palms.

An episode of "Frasier" in which the lead character tries to get his father to say "I love you" got a $15,000 award for writer Steve Levitan.

Two awards of $10,000 were given out for children's programming. The animation one went to Alex Taub for an episode of Fox's "Life With Louie" that the judges praised for its "portrayal of the folly of allowing petty resentments to separate us from one another."

Betty G. Birney won the other children's award for live-action programming for an "ABC Afterschool Special" script called "Fast Forward," about a teenager dealing with alcohol. It was Birney's third Humanitas Prize.

In his keynote speech at the awards luncheon at the Sheraton Universal, writer-producer Norman Lear decried Hollywood's dependence on ratings and box-office figures to make decisions.

"We here know," he said, "that the great American viewing audience will be far better served the day we all decide to drop the numbers-driven mental maps that lay claim to us now in favor of developing those scripts, those program ideas that flow solely from our tastes and sensibilities, from our capacities for awe and wonder and mystery, from our humanity and compassion. . . ."

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