Band of Brothers is a mini series that focuses on the exploits of Easy Company’s World War 2 campaign. It was released in 2001 and still remains one of TV’s strongest outings. Developed by Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks, it shares the same gritty aesthetic that works so successfully in Saving Private Ryan and almost serves as a companion piece.
Episodes often begin with the real life men from Easy Company discussing the events or ideas the episode is about to present us with. The show smartly forgoes naming these men until the closing statements of the finale. This allows the audience to still feel tension about who’s going to survive and also serves as a heartwarming ending where you realise who’s who and see how convincingly the actor portrayed them. All the actors are great throughout the show, believably conveying the changes the characters experience and always feeling like a unit, with the camaraderie between everyone really shining and adding another layer of authenticity. It truly is an ensemble piece, with each character being distinct and leaving an impression despite limited screen time in many instances. Often characters are granted one episode when they are centre stage and for the remaining episodes they feature primarily in the background. This allows each episode to be distinct from one another and help you connect with the multitude of characters. By the end of the show you’ll feel like you really know the characters. This is demonstrated best by the sequence where the men are playing baseball after the German armies surrender. With Damien Lewis narrating they inform the viewer about what each man went on to do following the war and in this heartwarming sequence that never fails to illicit a few tears…
The two part story set in Bastogne is the series highlight but there isn’t a weak episode throughout the run. By focusing on the medic during the period when the company faced barrages of bombs draws attention to the immense bravery and the mental toll war would take upon those who try to save the lives of their fellow soldiers. The episodes based around Bastogne is also where the show really shows off it’s budget. You really feel like you’re there, in the fox holes being bombarded by the enemy. Through this shared experience, you understand how such strong bonds are formed between the men. It’s quite jarring seeing how starkly the men, namely Marlarky, have changed in the subsequent episode. This is smartly centred on David Webster as he rejoins the company having missed Bastogne due to an injury. But having seen a mere glimpse of what they went through for the month you understand where the resentment they feel towards him originates, yet you also feel bad for the character having to earn the men’s respect once more, despite having been with them from the start. It’s great television that demonstrates the mediums ability to craft impactful stories and bring attention to different perspectives. It’s another aspect of the war, alongside the replacements episode, that you haven’t seen explored before that I found really engaging. The show really tugs at the heart strings too, with lovable characters suffering horrific injuries and a particularly emotional episode where the soldiers discover an interment camp. This powerful sequence comes during an episode focusing on intelligence officer Lewis Nixon’s struggles with alcohol and personal issues before coming face to face with the true horrors of the Nazis atrocities.
What’s impressed me upon my rewatch it just how well it holds up by today’s standards. At its time it was the most expensive TV show ever, with each episode costing around $1 million… It really shows too, as the production quality is second to none across the board. The focus on employing practical effects throughout is exemplary and helps the show stand the test of time. The CGI shots do stand out as being dated however but they are few and far between and understandable considering when it was produced. The show shares the same washed out colour palette that Steven Spielberg utilised in Saving Private Ryan that has now become a staple for the genre. The lack of vibrant colours effectively communicates the grim reality that these men experienced. It’s not until the final episode when the visual pallete expands and this coincides nicely with the surrender of the German army, where the men are able to relax and enjoy themselves.
All in all this is a seminal TV show that more than deserves its place amongst the very best that TV has to offer.