×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

TV Review: PBS’ ‘Caring for Mom and Dad’

With:
Narrator: Meryl Streep

PBS could hardly deal with a more appropriate topic, given its older demographic tilt, than “Caring for Mom and Dad,” a one-hour special that explores the challenges faced by family members looking after aging parents — as well as the broader implications of 78 million baby boomers living longer, as the cohort’s eldest members approach their septuagenarian years. The only real downside to this discussion, narrated by Meryl Streep, is that it tilts too heavily toward anecdotes over experts, and probably should have been an hour longer. Even so, it’s a project that likely will harbor considerable relevance for a vast audience.

Sparely told by writer-producer-director Larkin McPhee, the show features interviews with various adults who are looking after their elderly parents, often struggling to manage full-time jobs and absorbing the heavy financial burden of expenses that aren’t necessarily covered by Medicare. As author Jane Gross, who wrote about her experience, puts it, “There are many scenarios in which by the time this is over … Mom and Dad are broke, and so are you.”

Those interviews also delve into the emotional toll the situation exacts — with the role-reversal of parents who, in essence, have become as dependent as young children. There’s also a question of the guilt experienced by some of the daughters and sons who aren’t fully up to the task, either because they’re unable or unwilling.

Produced with funding from the AARP and Pfizer, “Caring for Mom and Dad” is so focused on those stories, sobering as they are, as to give relatively short shrift to experts who can address the wider nature of the crisis created by an aging population of people who, understandably, would prefer to live out their remaining days at home, as opposed to being warehoused in nursing facilities. Much of the macro data, in fact, are relegated to being flashed across the screen in script form, as opposed to receiving the more thorough examination they deserve.

By themselves, the stats are unsettling. Among them: that the number of working Americans serving as caregivers, most of them women, is rising; and that unless a parent is wealthy, entire estates are apt to be exhausted by the cost of longterm care. In addition, the escalating rate of Alzheimer’s disease and the extended periods of assistance it can require (four to eight years, on average) raise significant public-policy concerns that haven’t been adequately addressed.

“Soon, the old will outnumber the young,” the narration notes near the outset, “and most will live longer than ever before.”

Given the issue’s importance, this special, scheduled in advance of Mother’s Day, should really mark the beginning of a deeper conversation, one PBS is uniquely suited to conduct. Because as one of the caregivers puts it, when it comes to becoming a potential burden to somebody we love, barring the alternative, “We’re all gonna be there some day.”

TV Review: PBS' 'Caring for Mom and Dad'

(Special; PBS, Thurs. May 7, 10 p.m.)

Production: Produced by Larkin McPhee Prods. for WGBH Boston.

Crew: Executive Producer, Laurie Donnelly; producer-director-writer, Larkin McPhee. 60 MIN.

Cast: Narrator: Meryl Streep

More TV

  • Peak TV Saturation TV Placeholder

    Apollo Global Management Buys Majority Stake in Cox TV Stations

    Private equity giant Apollo Global Management has cut a deal with Atlanta-based Cox Enterprises to buy a majority stake in Cox’s 13 TV stations as well as three newspapers and a handful of radio stations in Ohio. Apollo has been in the hunt for broadcast TV stations for some time. Cox’s station group, which includes [...]

  • Ken Jeong TV Take Podcast

    Listen: Ken Jeong on His Return to Stand-Up and New Netflix Special

    Welcome to “TV Take,” Variety’s television podcast. In this week’s episode, Variety’s executive editor of TV, Daniel Holloway, talks with Ken Jeong about his Netflix comedy special, “Ken Jeong: You Complete Me, Ho,” and being a judge on Fox’s “The Masked Singer.“ Jeong started working on his new standup act after ABC canceled his show “Dr. [...]

  • "Brother" -- Episode 201-- Pictured (l-r):

    CBS Interactive's Marc DeBevoise on Streaming Boom, Content Strategy, and Apple

    Not everyone wants or needs to be Netflix to succeed in the streaming space. And not everyone sees Apple’s enigmatic new service as a threat. Even as rival streaming services offer gobs of content, CBS Interactive’s president and COO Marc DeBevoise sees the company’s targeted original programming strategy continuing to attract viewers to its All [...]

  • Ken Jeong to Star in CBS

    Ken Jeong to Star in CBS Comedy Pilot From 'Crazy Rich Asians' Author Kevin Kwan

    A “Crazy Rich Asians” reunion is happening at CBS. Ken Jeong has been cast in a lead role in the multi-camera comedy pilot “The Emperor of Malibu,” which is being co-written and executive produced by “Crazy Rich Asians” author Kevin Kwan. In the series, Auggie, the son of a Chinese tech billionaire, announces his engagement [...]

  • Jussie SmollettFOX 'Empire' TV show panel,

    Jussie Smollett Case: Chicago Police Arrest Two Suspects

    Chicago police confirmed on Friday that they have arrested two suspects in the case of “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett. The police did not state what charges the men are being held on. Local media have identified the men as two brothers from Nigeria, though law enforcement has not confirmed their identities. More Reviews Film Review: [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content