Biz aghast at ‘Friends’ flub

On a day when everyone should have been buzzing about HBO’s chart-topping 90 Primetime Emmy Award nominations — by far the most ever for a cable network — the attention instead centered on a computer glitch, of all things.

Because Academy of Television Arts & Sciences director John Leverence forgot to press “Save” on his computer, the press conference script that was read live on national TV Thursday morning listed “Friends” as one of the five nominees for outstanding comedy series.

The problem was, it wasn’t. And “3rd Rock From the Sun” was.

It wasn’t until network and media reps opened their nominations packets handed out following the pre-dawn telecast from North Hollywood that it was realized an error had been made — and a particularly embarrassing one at that.

Warner Bros. TV staffers had already rushed to call the “Friends” producers with the good news, only to learn they had been inadvertently misled. The studio demanded, and received, an official apology from the TV Academy, which also issued mea culpas to NBC and the “Friends” producers.

Leverence explained in a statement that he had prepared the script for the press conference “on top of last year’s computer file.” Since four of the five nominees in the top comedy category were the same as last year’s, he simply replaced “Friends” with “3rd Rock.” But without pushing “Save,” the script failed to record the change.

“With the extreme confidentiality of the preparation of nomination documents, the error was not caught until after the press conference,” Leverence wrote.

Leverence was unsure why the blunder was not corrected for the West Coast feed of “Today,” “Good Morning America” and “CBS This Morning” at 8:38 a.m. Pacific Standard Time.

Warner Bros. TV was prepared to issue a statement chastising the Academy, but thought better of it, an insider explained, adding, “We ultimately figured that making a big deal out of it would only call attention to the fact that the show wasn’t nominated.”

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