The Academy of Television Arts and Sciences said the eight shows, which looked at issues ranging from doctor-assisted suicide to autism and Alzheimer's disease, will be honored at a ceremony in May.
The "Television Academy Honors" started three years ago, and is an opportunity to recognize programs that use TV's ability to reach millions of viewers in a thought-provoking and positive way.
It is a separate event from the glitzy Emmy awards, the industry's top honors, which celebrate the best performances, writing and directing on U.S. TV and also are sponsored by the Los Angeles-based Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.
"This year we were impressed by not only the number of entries received but also by the breadth of subject matters addressed," said John Shaffner, chairman and CEO of the academy.
The honorees encompassed highly-rated popular network shows as well as documentaries and programs from cable channels. "Glee" airs on the Fox network and "CSI" plays on CBS.
The other 2009 programs selected for the honors were:
- HBO film "Taking Chance" about the military escort of a fallen Iraq soldier's remains.
- HBO's "Grandpa, Do You Know Who I Am," a documentary featuring children whose grandparents are suffering from Alzheimer's.
- National Geographic Television's "Inside Death Row" following prison inmates and their families in Texas.
- An episode of ABC's "Private Practice" drama about a doctor's request to die.
- Discovery Health's "Unlocking Autism" documentary on the scientific and human aspects of autism
- Current TV's "Vanguard; The OxyContin Express" tackling prescription drug abuse in the United States.
The makers of all eight programs will be honored at a dinner in Beverly Hills on May 5.
(Reporting by Jill Serjeant; Editing by Bob Tourtellotte)
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