The Pamela Smart case -- Helen Hunt plays the schoolteacher in a CBS movie

By Benjamin Svetkey
September 20, 1991 at 04:00 AM EDT

This season, TV viewers may have the chance to watch not one, not two, but three different dramatizations of real-life crimes involving teenage boys and older women. On Sept. 24, CBS will air Murder in New Hampshire: The Pamela Smart Story, a two-hour movie about a 22-year-old schoolteacher who was convicted last March of persuading her 15-year-old lover to kill her husband. The same story is currently under development for NBC’s cops and lawyers show Law & Order, which would use the case as the basis for a fictional treatment. And next May, ABC will air a two-part docudrama based on a remarkably similar crime in Georgia in 1984 (working title: Stay the Night). ”I can’t speak for the other networks,” says New Hampshire producer Phil Kleinbart, ”but we went ahead with the movie because it was such a hot story. We were following the case last year” — when portions of the actual trial were televised in much of the country — ”and we knew it would make a great film.” How did actress Helen Hunt (St. Elsewhere), who plays Smart in New Hampshire, put a new twist on such a high-profile character? ”I wanted to keep her mysterious. I wanted to make her complex and frightening and sympathetic. That’s what I was hoping to do, anyway. I hope I didn’t end up making her boring.”