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Emmy snafu puts Rock in hard place

Triple the voters & triple the goofs leave ATAS scrambling

NEW YORK — In the latest incident in a bizarre year for awards shows, the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences omitted one of the five Emmy nominees — the HBO comedy spec “Chris Rock: Bigger and Badder ” — in ballots sent out for the category of variety, music or comedy special.

Rock’s one-hour special, nominated for six trophies overall, was the only one left off the ballot sent to the 120 voters eligible to vote in the category.

John Leverence, the Academy vice president who administers the voting, said the error was discovered the day after the ballots were sent out, and that HBO was notified immediately, along with the 120 or so voters who were contacted by phone.

“There is a fail-safe built into any inappropriate tabulation,” Leverence said, “because your vote will only be counted if you make a numerical ranking of all five candidates.

“If you’ve only done four, the accounting firm won’t count them, and Ernst & Young is providing us with the handful of ballots that fall into that category. We will go back to those voters and give them another ballot because of the Academy error.”

Though the voting period closed Aug. 21, Leverence said the actual vote count on the category could change because of the error but added that the safeguarded system ensures that HBO gets as fair a shot as any nominee.

The Emmys will be awarded Sept. 10.

Triple the voters

Mailed ballots are an innovation for the Academy, which in the past used smaller numbers of voters — 40 in this category — who would be sequestered to watch nominees and vote in a tightly controlled environment. This year, the Academy tripled the number of voters and mailed the nominated programs in videotape form to voters, along with an affidavit which each voter was to sign attesting that he or she had watched all the candidates.

“We have had errors in the past with the blue ribbon panel system, but were able to get it sorted out right there, in a very controlled circumstance,” said Leverence.

“This was the Academy’s error, my error, but we immediately got on the phone after we made it and any sense there might have been noncommunication on the part of the Academy isn’t fair. Maybe I contacted the wrong person, but I thought I was proceeding in an orderly manner.”

Rock seemed unconcerned that getting left off the initial ballot could cost him a trophy. “I’m not worried. I’m sure the Academy will handle it accordingly,” Rock said in a statement.

Rock has already won three Emmys, one for writing on his HBO talkshow, two for his last HBO standup spec “Bring the Pain.”

Year of goofs

The Rock goof isn’t the first mistake to hit this year’s Emmy nominations. Henry Winkler’s nom for guest actor in a comedy series was pulled after ATAS discovered that his stint on “Battery Park” was ineligible, as his episode didn’t air until after Emmy’s May 31 cutoff date.

More recently, glitches related to the new at-home voting process forced the Academy to push back the deadline for Emmy ballots until Aug. 21. Delays in getting out screener tapes to voters meant those participating in the process wouldn’t have enough time to watch the nominated programs.

The Emmy headaches follow a series of Oscar snafus, including missing ballots and the apparent theft of 55 statuettes in the weeks before the ceremony.

That Oscarcast is a nominee in the variety, music or comedy special category, competing against the Rock special. Aside from Rock’s special and the 72nd annual Academy Awards on ABC, the nominees are another HBO spec, “Eddie Izzard: Dressed to Kill,” Bravo’s “Cirque du Soleil — Quidam” and NBC’s “Saturday Night Live: The 25th Anniversary Special.”

(Michael Schneider in Los Angeles contributed to this report.)

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