TV viewers may have to choose between two competing telefilms about Matthew Shepard if either HBO or NBC doesn't reschedule its respective project, reports the Los Angeles Times. Cable giant HBO announced a few weeks ago that The Laramie Project, a film adaptation of Moisés Kaufman's play based on interviews with the townspeople of Laramie, Wyo., following Shepard's murder, would make its broadcast premiere on March 16. Earlier this week, NBC chose the same night to premiere The Matthew Shepard Story, which stars Stockard Channing and Sam Waterston as Shepard's parents and was originally slated to air in the fall of 2001.
Chris Albrecht, HBO's president of original programming, said his network would likely shift Laramie Project, which had its world premiere at this year's Sundance Film Festival, to another night, adding, "It's taking this whole one-upmanship thing to a new low. I'm just surprised that [NBC] would damage their [own] movie...and sacrifice what should be an important project for the sake of--I don't know what." NBC, on the other hand, claimed that the scheduling matchup was pure coincidence. "Why would we ever pay attention to them?" said NBC entertainment president Jeff Zucker, alluding to the cable channel's smaller ratings in comparison with those of the major networks. Zucker also noted that NBC has not locked in the date for The Matthew Shepard Story and that it too could move.
A spokesman for the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation lauded both films but noted, "If they're competing against each other, no one wins."