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Introducing our Band of Brothers Series

The Band of Brothers series so far:

The Sobel Problem: Band of Brothers "Currahee"

Why Officers Lead from the Front

The Sobel Problem Redux: Band of Brothers "Currahee" Round 2

Little Groups of Ineffective Paratroopers: Band of Brothers "Day of Days"

Take No Prisoners Part 1: Band of Brothers "Day of Days"

Take No Prisoners Part 2: Band of Brothers "Day of Days"

The Mini-Series Memoir: Band of Brothers "Carentan"

World War II's Rules of Engagement: Band of Brothers "Replacements"

Why We Hate ASUs: Band of Brothers "Crossroads"

When the Army Left its Fallen Comrades Behind: Band of Brothers "Bastogne"

How Many Men Did Easy Company Sacrifice? Band of Brothers "The Breaking Point"

War at its Worst: Band of Brothers "Breaking Point"

The Feeling You Might Live Through It: Band of Brothers' "The Last Patrol"

I Have No Idea What I'd Do: Band of Brothers' "The Last Patrol"

Band of Brothers' "Why We Fight" or: No, That's Not Why We Fought

The Myth of the Good War: Band of Brothers "Points"

A Review of HBO's "The Pacific"

Our Band of Brothers Sequel Pitch

Really, Really, Ridiculously Good Look Soldiers: The Pacific Part 10

As you may have guessed (if you read the title of this post), we’re starting a new series on Steven Spielberg, Tom Hanks and HBO’s preeminent World War II mini-series, Band of Brothers.

But--huge but here--we’re not planning on reviewing the series, because, honestly, what’s left to review?

On almost every level, from writing to directing to cinematography to historical interest to special effects to whatever, almost everyone everywhere admires Band of Brothers. The series won six Emmy’s out of 19 nominations, a Golden Globe and a Peabody. On Metacritic, Rotten Tomatoes and IMDB, Band of Brothers garners a 9.7, a 96% and a 9.6 rating, respectively. When I tried to find Band of Brothers criticism, the only critiques I could find were written by white supremacists. On a personal level, our dad has plunged his way through the series at least four times; if the series comes on TV, he watches the whole damn thing.
Reviewing the series would mean ranking and comparing episodes against one another, which means we would have to disparage one episode in favor of another, pointing out criticisms that come across as nitpicks. (When Chuck Klosterman suggested that The Wire was the second best television series of all time--pretty strong praise--some internet commenters interpreted that as, “Klosterman hates The Wire!”) Who cares if “Carentan” isn’t as good as “Points”? Both episodes are better than most TV in general.

We don’t want to do that.

Instead, we want to ask big questions. Researching this series, I found this essay by Leonard Pierce, “Saving Private Ryan, Band Of Brothers, and The Pacific: Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks’ World War II“. Describing Saving Private Ryan, Pierce sums up the goal of our series on Band of Brothers:

“Spielberg and screenwriter Robert Rodat deserve equal praise for depicting, in what is essentially an action-movie format, the kind of Big Questions that are usually reserved for smaller, more philosophical films: Is any goal worthy of the carnage of total war? How much value do we place on a single human life, and is one life worth more than another if it has symbolic value? Where do we find heroism and courage, and how do we deal with cowardice and failure?”

Big questions. Band of Brothers inspires big questions, so we’re starting a series on the miniseries. It makes us think. It makes us want to write, on everything from paratroopers to the media portrayal of officers and World War II to the futility of killing civilians in war. It’s all in there. (Leonard Pierce, strangely enough, was the one critic we could find who didn’t like Band of Brothers. For the exact opposite opinion--hating Saving Private Ryan but loving Band of Brothers--read Paul Fussel’s review of the series on Slate.)

Here’s how the series is going to work: every other week, using one episode as a jumping off point, we’re going to write about an idea sparked by the miniseries. Some episodes may have more than one post, and we’ve already invited regular guest poster Matty P to contribute his ideas.

Guest posts on Band of Brothers are more than welcomed. Again, we don’t want reviews of the episodes, or posts on which episode is your favorite. We want the thoughts and ideas Band of Brothers gave you about your life, the military, the wars in Iraq or Afghanistan, on art, whatever.


six comments

Can’t wait to read this upcoming series!

I don’t know if this is related or if you guys have written about it before, but have you ever watched the old TV series Combat? That was produced when WWII was only as far back as the first Gulf War is now. I think I remember reading that it was highly regarded at a time when there were millions of WWII vets around to do the regarding. My young self was transfixed every Tuesday night at 7:30 p.m. and you would never think the shouted word “Halftrack!” could be so frightening.

Is “Combat” on netflix? If it is I may have to check it out.

I believe it is, if I read the site right. Look under “Combat!”. Please check it out. I would be interested in a younger person’s opinion of it. It ran in 1962, 63, 64 and 65,

So, in Saving Private Ryan, when they have a half-track in the final battle, is that a call-back to Combat!?

Could be. I never thought of that. In the series, half tracks were a terror because they were so hard to knock out and the weapons mounted chewed everybody up.

Modern soldiers don’t know what it was like to be attacked by tanks you couldn’t kill. German tanks were hell and the standard bazooka wouldn’t kill the Panthers and Tigers, like being on the receiving end of an M-1. I read the 82nd collected all the German bazookas they could because they were 88mm and were big enough to take the German tanks.

In Paul Fussell’s autobiography he recounts how he got wounded by fire from a German tank. Terrifying. I remember when I was a boy the movie reviewer for the Cleveland Press, Tony Mastrioni I think his name was, used to make pointed comments about the war movies he reviewed. He was in the ETO and one thing he would say was the tanks they used in the war movies to simulate German tanks had it all wrong. The barrels on the main gun were too short. He said the barrels on main gun of the real German tanks were long, really long. I listened to a Cleveland radio talk show once and a WWII tanker told of the time his Sherman was moving around in a town and they saw a Tiger just a few yards away. They immediately all jumped out of their Sherman and surrendered. Those tanks really impressed American soldiers.