NBC has pulled from the prime-time schedule an episode of the innovative medical drama "Lifestories" that deals with AIDS and replaced it with an episode about bone marrow transplants.
The AIDS episode, which centers around a gay television news reporter who tests positive for the HIV antibodies and then sees his lover die of AIDS, had been scheduled to air Dec. 2, the day following World AIDS Day, and NBC publicists had sent tapes of the episode to the media to drum up publicity.
CBS' will air an episode of "The Hogan Family" that deals with AIDS and ABC is planning a late-night entertainment special centered on the topic that same weekend.
"I'm upset and terribly disappointed," Jeffrey Lewis, the series' creator and executive producer, said in an interview Monday.
NBC executives could not immediately be reached for comment Monday. NBC Entertainment Group chairman Brandon Tartikoff, who has been an ardent champion of the series since its inception, had said recently that the low-rated series would be given a tryout in different time periods during December.
"They must think that this is the kind of show that will get us in trouble," said Lewis, who had not received an explanation from network executives about why they had pulled the episode. "But the show is already in trouble. This is the kind of episode that might make an impact for our series. It will show everyone that we are serious about putting out work that has strong moral and artistic merit. And it is inconceivable to me how anyone would want to put a serious medical show on the air and then not want to deal with AIDS."
Lewis said that he did not know if NBC, which he said had approved the script for the episode without reservations, had been experiencing trouble with advertisers over it. Last summer, ABC decided not to repeat a "thirtysomething" episode that showed two gay men talking in bed together because it had had trouble selling commercials on the program the first time it was broadcast.
The "Lifestories" AIDS episode does not include any depiction of sex, focusing instead on medical information about AIDS and the TV station's reaction to the reporter's series of on-air reports about AIDS, HIV and his personal experiences.