Now that the 53rd annual Primetime Emmy Awards has been called off for an unprecedented second time — the most recent postponement came Sunday following U.S.-led air strikes in Afghanistan — rumors are rampant that despite the old Hollywood adage, this show may never go on. But Bryce Zabel, chairman and chief executive officer of the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, insists that no such decision has been made.

"We're not at this point calling it a cancellation," he said at a press conference yesterday. "We're looking at all the options... We've simply gone ahead and said for now we're postponing."

The ceremony was originally slated to air Sept. 16, but was called off following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. After much discussion, Academy officials and CBS decided to reschedule the show for Oct. 7 — albeit with a much more somber tone (read: no lavish gowns, no after-parties and no Joan Rivers).

Noted Emmy historian Tom O'Neil believes that if the ceremony is rescheduled yet again, it will undergo another — even more significant — revamp. "It probably won't be a big ball at the Shrine Auditorium," he says. "But the Academy also doesn't want to simply scrap the whole thing and notify winners by mail. This isn't the People's Choice Awards."

However, because there is no precedent, O'Neil confesses that CBS is hard-pressed to decide what the next step should be. Before calling the show off yesterday, the network's entertainment president, Les Moonves, consulted with the heads of the other major networks — in addition to other industry bigwigs. "There was a general feeling of people feeling uncomfortable," he said at the press conference. "It was not a day to celebrate, certainly... It was the community really coming together and expressing the feeling that it would be the wrong thing to do this, to come together tonight."

What's more, Moonves confirmed that "certain high-profile shows and casts" informed him that if the show did in fact go on, they would not be in attendance. "They weren't being jerks. They weren't being prima donnas. They didn't feel appropriate about coming down here and participating," explained the exec, who declined to name names. "I did not speak to one person today from the community who was passionate about going on.

"This is television. It's really small potatoes compared to what's going on out there in the world," he added. "It's a tough decision we've all had to make. I want to go out and puke right now."

For his part, O'Neil expects a final decision to come down "in the next day or so." How does he think this cliffhanger will play out? Mirroring much of the uncertainty being felt throughout the showbiz world these days, he sighs: "I honestly have no idea."