'Wiz Live!' casts its spell on NAACP Image Awards, apparently sight unseen

As the title character in NBC's "The Wiz Live!," Queen Latifah was seemingly imbued with special powers. But she may have met her match with the people behind the NAACP Image Awards, who evidently can see into the future.

Tuesday brought news that NBC's "The Wiz Live" — a sparkling version of the 1974 R&B-tinged Broadway adaptation of "The Wizard of Oz" — had won a pair of major nods in the 47th NAACP Image Awards: for outstanding television movie, miniseries or dramatic special and for David Alan Grier's performance as the Cowardly Lion. The problem is, the organizers seem to have bent the rules to make "The Wiz" eligible, basing the nominations on nothing more than confidence that the production would be award worthy.

Image Awards rules required entrants to submit screeners of their work by Nov. 4. But because "The Wiz" was a live event, there was no finished product to send. "The Wiz" would not have been able to provide screeners until after the airdate of Dec. 3 — just five days before the nominations were announced.

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"The voters felt that there was enough material out there beforehand about the show that they could vote on it without actually seeing it," a spokeswoman for the NAACP said.

As it happens, waiting was not a viable option for NBC either. "The Wiz" — which drew 11.5 million total viewers, according to Nielsen — would not have been eligible for consideration at next year's Image Awards show because only work that premieres within that particular calendar year is qualified.

An NBC spokesman did not respond by deadline. But the NAACP spokesperson said that providing screeners is optional.

"For TV categories, screeners are not required but are encouraged," the spokeswoman wrote in an email. "For subcommittee categories such as writing, directing and literary it is required."

If "The Wiz" does win in the specials category, it may strike a sour note with the other nominees, including ABC's "American Crime," HBO's "Bessie," BBC America's "Luther" and BET's "The Book of Negroes."

The NAACP spokeswoman declined to provide the 2015 submission guidelines, saying they are not public. But a 2014 copy found online outlined the process to send screeners and did not say sending them was merely a suggestion.

"Entries received are viewed and evaluated online, during special screenings, industry screenings and individual research," the rules say.

The Image Awards celebrate the "accomplishments of people of color in the fields of television, music, literature and film and also honors individuals or groups who promote social justice through creative endeavors," according to a media release from the NAACP, a civil-rights organization whose roots date back more than a century.

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