'The Alzheimer's Project'


Only a curmudgeon of the highest order would find anything bad to say about HBO's four-part series "The Alzheimer's Project."

This is not merely a series of short documentaries; there are supplemental short films, a Web site and community outreach information — a real 360-degree approach. It's a massive undertaking, made with a great deal of earnestness and hope for a future in which this slow death of the mind is eradicated.

That said, parts of this documentary will try the patience of saints, even saints involved with Alzheimer's on a daily basis. For sheer watchability, the four segments are hit-and-miss: The first, "The Memory Loss Tapes," is the most accessible and riveting as it homes in on several patients' lives and how they cope with their disease. It's heartbreaking and wonderful but goes on too long. The subject might not be exhausted, but it is exhausting.

The other segments are an entry hosted by Maria Shriver (whose father is stricken) geared at children, a segment devoted to the caregivers and a massive two-parter covering the science.

The last one features most of the hard data on Alzheimer's, but the clinical presentation gets teeth-grindingly dull.

"Alzheimer's" is a noble effort. We like noble efforts. But we tend to like them better on TV when they're accompanied by a sense of pacing and entertainment value. (If things were otherwise, PBS would rule the universe.) In this case, a few more spoonfuls of sugar might have helped this medicine go down.