Prism Awards honor films and television that educate and entertain

Garry Marshall and Hector Elizondo at the Prism Awards.

How do you educate people about the impact of mental health problems and addiction? “It all starts with the creative community,” said John Landgraf, president of the FX network, which airs the Prism Awards, an event that honors the accurate depictions of these issues. Films and television shows can reach a huge audience and address a wide variety of health and social issues. With the help of the Entertainment Industries Council (EIC), Landgraf said, “We are doing it with greater accuracy without compromising creative freedom or entertainment value.”

The EIC produced the Prism Awards in collaboration with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, and the FX network held the event at the Beverly Hills Hotel. Landgraf added, “The work we honor this evening shows just how powerful and effective our collective voices can be. Each of the nominees have, in their own way, contributed to the public good.”

Looking at the list of nominees reinforced that heady statement for me. The movie Crazy Heart, about a country singer whose hard-drinking ways almost destroy him, won a Prism Award. The Soloist, which presented mental health issues in a powerful way, was another brilliant film and also a winner.

Then there’s the series Monk, which used comedy to get across the struggles of someone with an obsessive-compulsive disorder, plus an assortment of phobias. Director-producer-writer-actor and comedy genius Garry Marshall was on hand to present an award to the comedy and to his buddy Hector Elizondo, who played Monk’s (Tony Shalhoub) therapist.

Garry also had wise words for the creative crowd. He said, “Entertain, educate, but don’t be boring, no matter what you do. My mother told me that.” What a wise woman she was.

Gorgeous Barbara Eden was on hand and noted she has gone to Capitol Hill for a congressional presentation for a Prism Showcase. A special moment during the awards was seeing Larry Hagman jump on stage to give his I Dream of Jeannie co-star a hug. Other notables attending were Michele Lee, Nancy O’Dell, Pauley Perrette, Mackenzie Phillips, Melora Hardin, Henry Simmons, Carolyn Hennesy, Tobin Bell, Kate Linder, and announcer Shadoe Stevens.

Among the winners were Breaking Bad, Law & Order: SVU, Dr. Phil, Rosie O’Donnell, and Kevin McKidd for his post-traumatic stress disorder storyline in Grey’s Anatomy. All helped raise awareness, in a realistic way, about the power of treatment and recovery. That’s the goal of the Prism Awards.

Universal Studios Hollywood team with M.E.N.D. for holiday cheer

Thanks to the big hearted folks at Universal Studios Hollywood, a thousand shelter residents enjoyed an unseasonable holiday celebration. Universal’s “Discover a Star Foundation” volunteers helped create the “Christmas in Spring” event at the M.E.N.D. (Meeting Each Need with Dignity) headquarters in Pacoima. Joy was brought to families and children from ten area transitional living facilities, including P.A.T.H. (People Assisting the Homeless) in Hollywood. Family Housing’s North Hollywood Valley Shelter, and Vineland Place in North Hollywood, among others.

Of course Santa Claus was there giving out wonderful gifts to needy families with the help of his Universal “elves.” All enjoyed the carnival-themed festivities, inspired by the “Simpsons Ride” at the studio’s tour center. There was a holiday feast, plus Beetlejuice, SpongeBob SquarePants, Dora the Explorer, Scooby-Doo and Shaggy among the popular characters strolling around making new friends and spreading the word that “Giving is Universal.”