×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Miss Evers’ Boys

Miss Evers' Boys (Sun. (22), 9-11 p.m., HBO) Filmed in Atlanta by HBO NYC Prods. in association with Anasazi Prods. Executive producers, Laurence Fishburne, Robert Benedetti; producers, Kip Konwiser, Derek Kavanagh; co-producers, Kern Konwiser, Peter Stelzer; director, Joe Sargent; writer, Walter Bernstein (based on the play by David Feldshuh); production designer, Charles Bennett; director of photography, Donald M. Morgan; composer, Charles Bernstein; editor, Michael Brown; sound, Shirley Libby; casting (Los Angeles), Jaki Brown-Karman, (Atlanta) Shay Bentley-Griffin. Cast: Alfre Woodard, Laurence Fishburne, Craig Sheffer, Joe Morton, Obba Babatunde, E.G. Marshall, Ossie Davis. Powerful, haunting and artfully mounted, "Miss Evers' Boys" is a docudrama of uncommon quality and clarity. The acting is exceptional, the characters vivid, the presentation balanced. Original films for television rarely aim so high as does this HBO NYC production. Yet at the risk of coming down unfairly on a project so unflinchingly noble, the film drags along at an ox-cart clip too often for its own good. It takes its sweet time getting where it's going, stopping the storyline cold with a succession of bluesy dance sequences that are glorious but redundant and even disruptive. Nit-picking? Probably. "Miss Evers' Boys" is hardly supposed to resemble "Twister," after all. And cinematographically, it is a revelation, with director of photography Donald M. Morgan lending the production a strikingly dingy, washed-out look that blends perfectly with the piece's bleak sensibility. The story as told here centers on nurse Eunice Evers (a dynamic, layered performance from Alfre Woodard). Evers went to work at Alabama's Tuskegee Hospital in 1932 to assist a certain Dr. Brodus (brilliant work from Joe Morton) in caring for poor black men (sharecroppers mostly) who have been stricken with syphilis. Enter Dr. Douglas (Craig Sheffer), a white doctor who brings with him a fully funded program to treat syphilis at the hospital, offering free treatment to any man who tests positive for the disease. A few months pass before Brodus travels to Washington to meet with Douglas and a government panel of doctors who tell him the funding for treatment has dried up. However, money is available for a study of the syphilitic African-American men. The catch: They can receive no medical treatment initially as a way to establish whether syphilis affects blacks and whites differently. Brodus initially is outraged, but acquiesces in the belief the study will disprove the racist notion of physiological inferiority in blacks. Evers also reluctantly follows along, lying to the men while giving them only vitamins, tonics and liniment rubs. But as the months turn into years, it becomes clear that the afflicted men will never receive treatment. Only with their deaths is the study of how the disease runs its course made complete and viable. Walter Bernstein's arduous, potent teleplay (based on the Pulitzer Prize-nominated play by David Feldshuh) switches gears during its second hour to become an examination of Evers' gut-wrenching moral ambiguity in sticking around to help perpetrate this ghastly fraud over 40 years. Woodard movingly conveys the conflict weighing down Evers' guilt-riddled soul, giving a profound resonance to the disturbing ethical questions raised by her dedication in the name of lending the men comfort and a form of loving (if deliberately ineffectual) care. Laurence Fishburne turns in a dynamic and understated performance as Caleb Humphries, Evers' suitor and an early participant in the Tuskegee Study of Untreated Syphilis in the Negro Male, whose health improves after shots of penicillin --- the same penicillin available to the untreated men. Obba Babatunde is superb as Willie Johnson, a dancer who takes part in the study, while Ossie Davis (as Evers' father) and E.G. Marshall (as a Senate committee chairman running a 1972 hearing into the Tuskegee atrocity) lend top-drawer support. Joe Sargent's direction is self-assured. Despite the oft-slovenly pacing, the overall tone and tenor of "Miss Evers' Boys" is one of subtle brilliance, bolstered by an exquisitely detailed period sheen that screams excellence. After it's over, you sit disbelieving that such an inhumane, insidious experiment designed to reduce black men to the level of laboratory animals could ever have been conducted in the United States of America --- much less gone undetected until 25 years ago. It went far beyond mere institutional racism. It was pure evil. --- Ray Richmond

With:
Cast: Alfre Woodard, Laurence Fishburne, Craig Sheffer, Joe Morton, Obba Babatunde, E.G. Marshall, Ossie Davis.

Miss Evers’ Boys (Sun. (22), 9-11 p.m., HBO) Filmed in Atlanta by HBO NYC Prods. in association with Anasazi Prods. Executive producers, Laurence Fishburne, Robert Benedetti; producers, Kip Konwiser, Derek Kavanagh; co-producers, Kern Konwiser, Peter Stelzer; director, Joe Sargent; writer, Walter Bernstein (based on the play by David Feldshuh); production designer, Charles Bennett; director of photography, Donald M. Morgan; composer, Charles Bernstein; editor, Michael Brown; sound, Shirley Libby; casting (Los Angeles), Jaki Brown-Karman, (Atlanta) Shay Bentley-Griffin. Cast: Alfre Woodard, Laurence Fishburne, Craig Sheffer, Joe Morton, Obba Babatunde, E.G. Marshall, Ossie Davis. Powerful, haunting and artfully mounted, “Miss Evers’ Boys” is a docudrama of uncommon quality and clarity. The acting is exceptional, the characters vivid, the presentation balanced. Original films for television rarely aim so high as does this HBO NYC production. Yet at the risk of coming down unfairly on a project so unflinchingly noble, the film drags along at an ox-cart clip too often for its own good. It takes its sweet time getting where it’s going, stopping the storyline cold with a succession of bluesy dance sequences that are glorious but redundant and even disruptive. Nit-picking? Probably. “Miss Evers’ Boys” is hardly supposed to resemble “Twister,” after all. And cinematographically, it is a revelation, with director of photography Donald M. Morgan lending the production a strikingly dingy, washed-out look that blends perfectly with the piece’s bleak sensibility. The story as told here centers on nurse Eunice Evers (a dynamic, layered performance from Alfre Woodard). Evers went to work at Alabama’s Tuskegee Hospital in 1932 to assist a certain Dr. Brodus (brilliant work from Joe Morton) in caring for poor black men (sharecroppers mostly) who have been stricken with syphilis. Enter Dr. Douglas (Craig Sheffer), a white doctor who brings with him a fully funded program to treat syphilis at the hospital, offering free treatment to any man who tests positive for the disease. A few months pass before Brodus travels to Washington to meet with Douglas and a government panel of doctors who tell him the funding for treatment has dried up. However, money is available for a study of the syphilitic African-American men. The catch: They can receive no medical treatment initially as a way to establish whether syphilis affects blacks and whites differently. Brodus initially is outraged, but acquiesces in the belief the study will disprove the racist notion of physiological inferiority in blacks. Evers also reluctantly follows along, lying to the men while giving them only vitamins, tonics and liniment rubs. But as the months turn into years, it becomes clear that the afflicted men will never receive treatment. Only with their deaths is the study of how the disease runs its course made complete and viable. Walter Bernstein’s arduous, potent teleplay (based on the Pulitzer Prize-nominated play by David Feldshuh) switches gears during its second hour to become an examination of Evers’ gut-wrenching moral ambiguity in sticking around to help perpetrate this ghastly fraud over 40 years. Woodard movingly conveys the conflict weighing down Evers’ guilt-riddled soul, giving a profound resonance to the disturbing ethical questions raised by her dedication in the name of lending the men comfort and a form of loving (if deliberately ineffectual) care. Laurence Fishburne turns in a dynamic and understated performance as Caleb Humphries, Evers’ suitor and an early participant in the Tuskegee Study of Untreated Syphilis in the Negro Male, whose health improves after shots of penicillin — the same penicillin available to the untreated men. Obba Babatunde is superb as Willie Johnson, a dancer who takes part in the study, while Ossie Davis (as Evers’ father) and E.G. Marshall (as a Senate committee chairman running a 1972 hearing into the Tuskegee atrocity) lend top-drawer support. Joe Sargent’s direction is self-assured. Despite the oft-slovenly pacing, the overall tone and tenor of “Miss Evers’ Boys” is one of subtle brilliance, bolstered by an exquisitely detailed period sheen that screams excellence. After it’s over, you sit disbelieving that such an inhumane, insidious experiment designed to reduce black men to the level of laboratory animals could ever have been conducted in the United States of America — much less gone undetected until 25 years ago. It went far beyond mere institutional racism. It was pure evil. — Ray Richmond

Miss Evers' Boys

Sun. (22), 9-11 p.m., HBO

Production: Filmed in Atlanta by HBO NYC Prods. in association with Anasazi Prods. Executive producers, Laurence Fishburne, Robert Benedetti; producers, Kip Konwiser, Derek Kavanagh; co-producers, Kern Konwiser, Peter Stelzer; director, Joe Sargent; writer, Walter Bernstein (based on the play by David Feldshuh).

Cast: Cast: Alfre Woodard, Laurence Fishburne, Craig Sheffer, Joe Morton, Obba Babatunde, E.G. Marshall, Ossie Davis.Production designer, Charles Bennett; director of photography, Donald M. Morgan; composer, Charles Bernstein; editor, Michael Brown; sound, Shirley Libby; casting (Los Angeles), Jaki Brown-Karman, (Atlanta) Shay Bentley-Griffin.

More TV

  • Apple TV Plus Reese Witherspoon Jennifer

    What We Know About 'Amazing Stories' And Other Shows Coming to Apple TV+

    Viewers got a sneak peek of upcoming shows coming to Apple TV+, Apple’s newly unveiled streaming service, during the company’s live-streamed event in Cupertino, Calif., on Monday. The stars and creators of the most highly anticipated projects like Steven Spielberg’s “Amazing Stories” and “The Morning Show” from Reese Witherspoon appeared on stage to reveal more [...]

  • WARNING: Embargoed for publication until 00:00:01

    Richard Gere Series 'MotherFatherSon' Sold to Multiple Territories

    BBC Studios, the British public broadcaster’s commercial arm, has announced a raft of territory sales for Richard Gere starrer “MotherFatherSon,” a drama series written by Tom Rob Smith, Emmy-nominated for “The Assassination of Gianni Versace.” The show will screen Tuesday at Series Mania, France, in the International Panorama section. More Reviews Concert Review: Yoko Ono [...]

  • TV News Roundup: Netflix Releases Trailer

    TV News Roundup: Netflix Releases Trailer for 'Special'

    In today’s roundup, Netflix releases a trailer for “Special,” and Wrestlemania’s main event will be a women’s match, a first in WWE history. More Reviews Concert Review: Yoko Ono Earns a Wide-Ranging, All-Female Salute at Disney Hall Film Review: 'Shazam!' FIRST LOOKS Netflix has released the trailer for its upcoming 15-minute comedy show “Special.” Ryan O’Connell [...]

  • "The Donation Oscillation" -- Pictured: Sheldon

    Live+7 Ratings for Week of March 4: 'Big Bang Theory' Narrowly Tops 'This Is Us'

    The last episode of “The Big Bang Theory” before the show’s grand finale narrowly beat out “This Is Us” to top the Live+7 ratings chart for the week of March 4. More Reviews Concert Review: Yoko Ono Earns a Wide-Ranging, All-Female Salute at Disney Hall Film Review: 'Shazam!' The CBS megahit, which will come to [...]

  • Apple Event: Everything We Learned From

    Everything We Learned From Today's Apple Event

    After revealing new services in news, finance, and gaming, Apple CEO Tim Cook kept the biggest, most anticipated announcement until last. More Reviews Concert Review: Yoko Ono Earns a Wide-Ranging, All-Female Salute at Disney Hall Film Review: 'Shazam!' Cook, along with heads of worldwide video programming Zack Van Amburg and Jamie Erlicht, and a whole [...]

  • Lauren Whitney

    Miramax President of TV Lauren Whitney Exits to Join Spyglass Media Group

    Lauren Whitney, the president of television for Miramax, is leaving the company, Variety has learned. More Reviews Concert Review: Yoko Ono Earns a Wide-Ranging, All-Female Salute at Disney Hall Film Review: 'Shazam!' She will now become the president of television for Spyglass Media Group effective April 1. The news comes less than two years after Whitney [...]

  • Tim Cook Oprah Winfrey Steven Spielberg

    Apple Sits Out This Emmy Season, but Get Ready for a Frenzy of Contenders in 2020

    Apple won’t be entering the Emmy race this year — but get ready for 2020. The tech giant’s not-so-surprise launch of its new Apple TV+ video service on Monday included a hefty roster of top producing and acting talent that will immediately make the service an awards contender when it launches in the fall. More [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content