Caring for Your Parents



9 p.m. Wednesday, April 2
WNET (New York)

Granted, it's not as much fun as watching a network sitcom or a high-stakes game show, but "Caring for Your Parents" shows us what television also can do: It can give us a good shot of reality when it's time to take the medicine and get real.

This is the ultimate reality television, a 90-minute documentary focusing on stories of middle-age children caring for their elderly parents. It's a subject not as hard to watch as one might think. There's a great deal of love in this beautifully rendered documentary. More than anything, it's heartwarming and endearing.

Filmmaker Michael Kirk looks at five families living in Providence, R.I. In each one, an elderly parent (sometime two) becomes the centerpiece in the lives of their children, who give back what their parents gave them for so many years: selfless (when possible) caregiving, a deep sense of responsibility and, in back of it all, a great love for those they call family. One parent, for instance, has little memory left, another is suffering the physical and mental effects of old age. Each needs special care. But in each story there is the kind of connection between parent and child fascinating to watch.

It's the stuff of a good Hallmark card, but not nearly as sentimental. And there's plenty to think about when the docu ends.