You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

The Alzheimer’s Project

Not surprisingly best in humanizing Alzheimer's toll and worst when it veers into after-school special territory.

Two years after throwing its considerable documentary resources at another do-gooder project, “Addiction,” HBO returns with the equally comprehensive and ambitious “The Alzheimer’s Project,” which carries the producing imprimatur of California first lady Maria Shriver, but only intermittently connects as a viewing experience. Delving deeply into the science of what the four-part program dubs “the second most-feared illness” behind cancer, the project is not surprisingly best in humanizing Alzheimer’s toll and worst when it veers into after-school special territory.

Part I, “The Memory Loss Tapes,” is the strongest component, dealing with seven separate stories of people at various stages of affliction — from having trouble remembering names to being deemed unable to drive (“I have lost my independence”) to, in its most severe form, hallucinating about snakes crawling up a wheelchair.

“He really has no life now,” a woman says of her husband, reduced to a vacant stare, in one of the more poignant and painful sequences.

The following night brings the Shriver-hosted “Grandpa, Do You Know Who I Am?,” derived in part from her father, Sargent Shriver, who has Alzheimer’s. Feeling like a Linda Ellerbee Nickelodeon spec, the half-hour offers five lessons mostly directed at kids on how to deal with relatives who are Alzheimer’s patients.

That gives way to “Momentum in Science” — a science-intensive (as in carving up and analyzing brain tissue) two-part look at the prospects for treatment and a cure — concluding along with “Caregivers,” about those forced to watch helplessly as loved ones mentally slip away.

Given that the larger goal is primarily educational — including 15 supplemental films being made available on demand and online — there’s little point in evaluating “Alzheimer’s Project” by conventional standards. That said, the presentation could have done more to increase the science’s accessibility to laypeople, and the segment for children feels both manipulative and stylistically at odds with the more compelling portions that bookend the multiday presentation.

Even so, this is another instance of HBO leveraging its enviable business model to shed light on an illness that remains poorly understood and may affect more than 5.3 million Americans. Based on that mandate, it’s perhaps inevitable that this project will range from sobering and moving to, at times, feeling a bit too much like homework.

The Alzheimer's Project

Multipart Docu; HBO, Sun. May 10, 9 P.M.

Production: Presented by the National Institute of Aging at the National Institutes of Health in association with the Alzheimer's Assn., Fidelity Charitable Gift Fund and Geoffrey Beene Gives Back Alzheimer's Initiative. Executive producers, Sheila Nevins, Maria Shriver; series producer, John Hoffman; producers-directors, Shari Cookson, Nick Doob ("The Memory Loss Tapes"), Eamon Harrington, John Watkin ("Grandpa, Do You Know Who I Am?"), Hoffman, Susan Froemke ("Momentum in Science"), Bill Couturie (Caregivers"). 5 HOURS

More TV

  • 'Queer Eye,' 'Jersey Shore' Creators Reveal

    'Queer Eye,' 'Jersey Shore' Creators Reveal How Unscripted Franchises Were Revived

    Two years after throwing its considerable documentary resources at another do-gooder project, “Addiction,” HBO returns with the equally comprehensive and ambitious “The Alzheimer’s Project,” which carries the producing imprimatur of California first lady Maria Shriver, but only intermittently connects as a viewing experience. Delving deeply into the science of what the four-part program dubs “the […]

  • Forest Whitaker at the Photocall For

    Forest Whitaker to Star in Epix Drama Series 'Godfather of Harlem'

    Two years after throwing its considerable documentary resources at another do-gooder project, “Addiction,” HBO returns with the equally comprehensive and ambitious “The Alzheimer’s Project,” which carries the producing imprimatur of California first lady Maria Shriver, but only intermittently connects as a viewing experience. Delving deeply into the science of what the four-part program dubs “the […]

  • Gavel Court Placeholder

    Sharp Entertainment Sets $226,000 Settlement With New York State Over Overtime Pay

    Two years after throwing its considerable documentary resources at another do-gooder project, “Addiction,” HBO returns with the equally comprehensive and ambitious “The Alzheimer’s Project,” which carries the producing imprimatur of California first lady Maria Shriver, but only intermittently connects as a viewing experience. Delving deeply into the science of what the four-part program dubs “the […]

  • George RR Martin

    George R.R. Martin Says 'Winds of Winter' Will Not Be Released in 2018

    Two years after throwing its considerable documentary resources at another do-gooder project, “Addiction,” HBO returns with the equally comprehensive and ambitious “The Alzheimer’s Project,” which carries the producing imprimatur of California first lady Maria Shriver, but only intermittently connects as a viewing experience. Delving deeply into the science of what the four-part program dubs “the […]

  • Nkechi Carroll WBTV

    Nkechi Carroll Inks Overall Deal at Warner Bros. TV

    Two years after throwing its considerable documentary resources at another do-gooder project, “Addiction,” HBO returns with the equally comprehensive and ambitious “The Alzheimer’s Project,” which carries the producing imprimatur of California first lady Maria Shriver, but only intermittently connects as a viewing experience. Delving deeply into the science of what the four-part program dubs “the […]

  • THE HANDMAID'S TALE -- "Unwomen" --

    'The Handmaid's Tale' Boss and Star Alexis Bledel Talk Emily's Past and Post-Gilead Life

    Two years after throwing its considerable documentary resources at another do-gooder project, “Addiction,” HBO returns with the equally comprehensive and ambitious “The Alzheimer’s Project,” which carries the producing imprimatur of California first lady Maria Shriver, but only intermittently connects as a viewing experience. Delving deeply into the science of what the four-part program dubs “the […]

  • 'Walking Dead' Star Lauren Cohan on

    'Walking Dead' Star Lauren Cohan on Season 9: 'I'm Going Back'

    Two years after throwing its considerable documentary resources at another do-gooder project, “Addiction,” HBO returns with the equally comprehensive and ambitious “The Alzheimer’s Project,” which carries the producing imprimatur of California first lady Maria Shriver, but only intermittently connects as a viewing experience. Delving deeply into the science of what the four-part program dubs “the […]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content