When William McNamara was turned down for the part of Chris Pritchard, the North Carolina college student who plotted the murder of his mother and stepfather for his $2 million inheritance in the four-hour NBC miniseries Cruel Doubt , the 27-year-old actor didn’t get mad; he got even — taking the same role in Honor Thy Mother, the two-hour movie based on the same 1988 crime that ran last month on CBS.
That two networks would make competing movies on the same subject and air them within weeks of each other is not new. In 1987, Nutcracker: Money, Madness and Murder and At Mother’s Request both examined the case of a woman who encouraged her son to kill her father for his money. But Susan Baerwald, the executive producer of Cruel Doubt, who also collaborated on the NBC dramatizations of McGinniss’ Fatal Vision and Blind Faith, cries ”no fair!” about competition from CBS. ”That was pretty mean, given all the material out there to choose from.” Still, she swears, there are differences: ”Ours covers more of the family’s story. Their movie was more a police drama. And I don’t want to be nasty about it, but how compelling is that?” Sounds to us like a classic non-nasty network raid on the headlines.