The only hope you have is to accept the fact that you're already dead.
May 8, 2014 12:50 AM   Subscribe

Todd VanDerWerff at the A.V. Club is in the process of reviewing the 2001 HBO miniseries Band of Brothers. Episodes reviewed so far: Currahee --- Day of Days --- Carentan --- Replacements --- Crossroads --- Bastogne.
posted by paleyellowwithorange (27 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
 
My first and still one of my favourite HBO shows. This convinced me that long-form, high-budget series television is the way of the future. Such an amazing show, and one of the best war "movies" ever put to screen. Time to pull the Blu-Rays out.
posted by turbid dahlia at 3:18 AM on May 8, 2014 [6 favorites]


"I’ll expose both my ignorance of World War II history and firearms with this question: What’s so damned desirable about a Lugar?"

Whoo, boy.
posted by turbid dahlia at 3:22 AM on May 8, 2014 [3 favorites]


What's so damned desireable about the Luger, indeed: a couple of years ago my best friend and I did the Behind The Lines tour of the National World War II Museum. We climbed on the exhibit vehicles, went through the workshops, and put on white gloves to handle artifacts not on display. The curator, Meg, ended by showing us the cabinet full of firearms. Naturally, the Luger jammed, and I laughed right out loud.
posted by wenestvedt at 3:42 AM on May 8, 2014


Band of Brothers, or as I like to call it, Why Grandpa Drinks.



Of course, The Pacific should really be called Why You Never Knew Your Grandfather.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 4:27 AM on May 8, 2014 [9 favorites]


I’ve seen the mini once before—when it first aired...

How is this even possible? I never saw BoB when it first aired, yet I've seen it innumerable times since. Mostly accidentally, stumbling across it as I'm flipping through the channels. Because of that, though, I've never seen the entirety of the first episode.

How does The Pacific compare? I've yet to see that series pop-up elsewhere.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:04 AM on May 8, 2014


So are they not giving each episode a letter grade because there's no grade above an A+?

Seriously, along with Deadwood, this is the best thing that's ever been on television, and one of the most important.
posted by HumanComplex at 5:12 AM on May 8, 2014 [4 favorites]


How does The Pacific compare?

I have watched BoB a couple of times, but I only made it to episode 3 of The Pacific so far. I think this is because the latter is pretty unrelentingly grim, what with the ferocity of the jungle fighting.

Also, I feel that The Pacific's story doesn't engage the viewer as well as BoB's does. The Pacific is three men's stories -- books, actually -- that were kind of jammed together to tell different experiences within a military theatre that covered so many thousands of miles, while BoB is a cohesive group with a unified narrative.
posted by wenestvedt at 5:44 AM on May 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


I rewatch BoB every Memorial Day weekend (and John Adams around the 4th of July). Really looking forward to it this year.
posted by Mick at 6:16 AM on May 8, 2014 [2 favorites]


Back in the 90s, the Washington City Paper had a film screener who wrote really interesting pieces accompanying his reviews (he might have been named Sean?). At one point, several years after Heat came out, he wrote a mid-length piece about how it had taught many boys his age how to be men, and not in a good or bad way, but that it was a good microcosm of (cis, het, white, to be sure) male behavior in America.

I thought about that piece when I rewatched Band of Brothers or whenever it comes up in conversation with my male friends. It comes up in conversation a lot with male friends. In part, that's because it aired at a very weird confluence in cultural history: it straddled 9/11, yet was also an undeniable product of the Greatest Generation lovefest. And, at the time, it seemed like maybe we were on the cusp of our generation's defining moment (which, as Tyler Durden pointed out two years before 9/11, we sorely lacked). In ways both simple and complex, Band of Brothers speaks about what it means to be a man and what it means to be human. And it says volumes about what to do as a human under stress, without the usual boundaries of civilization. Something it has in common with Heat.

But another part of why it comes up amongst men of a certain age is that we all have heroes, friends, and archetypes in that series. Winters is a saint of course. For many of us (myself included), we aspired to Nixon's path of eventually finding peace and happiness, even if our current lives were a bit screwed up. Spiers was a crazy madman whom we respected the hell out of but also feared. All of the NCOs were like older brothers who did well, but maybe hoped for something a little better for the rest of us. Guys like Joe Toye and Bill Guarnere, who came back with both less and more than they had than when they left. These were the guys you grew up with: wiseasses, schmucks, pains in the ass. You know, your buddies. And your coworkers, your boss, your boss's boss, your neighbors, and so on.

In short, I know a ton of people, particularly men, between the ages of 36 and 44 for whom that series hits all the buttons.
posted by aureliobuendia at 6:16 AM on May 8, 2014 [13 favorites]


Have to say, aerliobuendia, you have absolutely nailed why BoB means so much to me and my friends I think. Even now, with us all living in different towns and some having children, we still try and get together one day over Christmas and watch a few episodes of BoB over beers.

I'd never thought of it the way you describe it before, but now you've said it I realise that you're absolutely right about what it means to us.
posted by garius at 6:21 AM on May 8, 2014


Coincidentally, Mark has just started watching BoB as well.

(Incidentally, if you're not familiar with Mark Does Stuff and you want to comment over there, please please please read the top of the first review and take its words to heart.)
posted by kmz at 6:40 AM on May 8, 2014 [2 favorites]


Band Of Brothers introduced me to the "Ok, one more episode."

[48 minutes later]

"Ok, one more episode"

[48 minutes later]

"Fine, just one more, then bed."

[48 minutes later]

"HOW THE HELL IS IT 3 a.m.!"
posted by stltony at 6:49 AM on May 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


I love this series. It's something I can go back to again and again. The only episode I find myself kind of skipping through is the first, and it has a lot to do with how despicable they made Schwimmer's character. He's so utterly loathsome, I want to skip past him. I also find myself watching this, wishing Ron Livingstone was in more stuff, rather than just the bit parts I've seen him in since.

As for the Pacific, I've never made it much past the fourth episode, and thought it was a real let down. The thing is, it's always going to be compare to Band of Brothers, and nothing really can match up. I wonder, if I had seen the Pacific first, if I'd have wanted to finish it.
posted by Ghidorah at 7:43 AM on May 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


Band of Brothers speaks about what it means to be a man

A certain archetypal man. There are other archetypes. In Australia they have the "bush bloke" e.g. Crocodile Dundee. Or in American the Cowboy was the archetype for a long time.
posted by stbalbach at 8:35 AM on May 8, 2014


The book is a wonderful read on several levels, too. It frames the BoB mostly as guys who wanted to be in the best unit possible not because they were Type-A overachievers, but because in a scary situation like that, they wanted to know the guys around them were solid. Ambrose casts volunteering for the 101st as a matter of making the best of a very bad situation. Ambrose doesn't really pull punches, either; several times he talks about the rampant looting practiced by American soldiers, the BoB included.

Interestingly, the stuff about Lt. Spiers' (sp?) war crimes in the book and the series kind of betrays some of Ambrose's occasionally sloppy scholarship. In at least one piece on D-Day that he wrote before BoB, he reports the story about Spiers and the German prisoners on D-Day as if it's fact, and he just kind of glosses over it without much detail. It's only in BoB that he gets down to the fact that literally every account of the moment is second or third-hand and that there's apparently not much solid evidence that it happened at all. But he doesn't say it in a way that repudiates his earlier claim; if you hadn't read the previous work, you would never know Ambrose had referred to the incident before writing BoB.

Still, with this aside... it's such a good book. The biggest difference between the book and the show is that the show sort of turns the heroic bad-assery DOWN. It's a case of reality seeming a little too unrealistic for TV.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 9:52 AM on May 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


Personally I think The Pacific was a definite improvement over Band Of Brothers – and I quite like Band of Brothers. Perhaps because I had read one of the books it is based on – but Band Of Brothers carries with it at least as much of the Greatest Generation schmaltz as Saving Private Ryan did, while The Pacific is much less sentimental about it (while still honoring its subjects).

Additionally I thought that they had learned a great deal over the years in building the set-pieces, and, for example, their portrayal of invasion of Peleliu is as well-done as SPR's famous Omaha Beach scene in many respects, if necessarily shorter.

Also Band Of Brothers has not got a single performance to match that of Rami Malek as Snafu (which, btw, significant liberties were taken with his character vs. the source material)
posted by furiousthought at 10:23 AM on May 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


I think The Pacific got into the action too quickly and made a huge mistake early with the lighting of Basilone's extraordinary night on Guadalcanal. It was so dark that it was incredibly difficult to figure out who was doing what and when. I ended up turning the brightness on my TV way up, but even then felt like I was missing half of what was going on and I think the show missed out on a great opportunity to have you connect with one of its' 3 main characters. They could have used a bit of artistic license to have an episode like "Currahee" or Generation Kill's "Get Some" where you get to know the characters.
posted by IanMorr at 10:28 AM on May 8, 2014


I have to disagree with the reviews and declare the Bastogne episode the worst of the entire series. It is relentlessly awful and unwatchable a second time. Yeah suffering misery horror I get it.

But even worse, that episode was turned into a chapter of a video game, Call of Duty I think. I haven't played it in ages. Some of the Normandy scenarios are lifted exactly from Band of Brothers, I don't know how they get away with it without licensing the story. The landing at Omaha Beach was a precise duplication of that episode. It was frustrating as all hell. You'd ride ashore in an LST and the minute the door opened, MG42 fire killed everyone inside, including you. I played it a dozen times, getting killed instantly each time, then I realized, yeah, that's what really happened, the Butcher of Omaha Beach got everyone. I could never even get out of the LST without cheats enabled.

But it got worse. They duplicated the Bastogne episode. All you do is run around from foxhole to foxhole, give this guy some morphine, hey I need a scissors from some other foxhole. Then run around and try not to get killed by falling artillery shells. Oh FFS gimme a break. Then oh yeah this is a war game, tack on a shooting scene at the end of that game chapter. Mech infantry wave after wave, keep the tanks and foot soldiers from overrunning you, using only a tommy gun and a bazooka. Also totally unwinnable without cheats enabled.

So in a way, BoB has a bad effect on everything that followed. It has become a standard version of history, you can emulate it or use it as a starting point, it is now enshrined as a canonical version of events. I think not.
posted by charlie don't surf at 10:37 AM on May 8, 2014


Narratively BoB benefited from being based on one book in which the narrative had already been drawn together. Ambrose chose the specific company he did because of how their war ended, and working back realised they'd been involved in many of the major events of the European campaign.

The Pacific was centred on a number of people involved in different parts of a campaign that by its island hopping nature was disjointed. It's based on real memoirs, but they're the memoirs of multiple people.

As entertainment it suffers a bit for that in my opinion, but as an exploration of the effects of that war on individuals it probably benefits from it.

I enjoyed both, but if I wanted to watch a ripping yarn it would be BoB I'd put on.
posted by vbfg at 10:41 AM on May 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


Previously from 2005 and 2011. From my 2005 post, I will say that the context of BoB is just as important as the content: "[The] original airings took place in the shadow of 9/11 (the premiere was September 9th, 2001, with the D-Day drop occuring in the second episode, Day of Days, on 9/16/2001)[.]"
posted by rzklkng at 10:52 AM on May 8, 2014


But even worse, that episode was turned into a chapter of a video game, Call of Duty I think. I haven't played it in ages. Some of the Normandy scenarios are lifted exactly from Band of Brothers, I don't know how they get away with it without licensing the story. The landing at Omaha Beach was a precise duplication of that episode.


Are you confusing Band of Brothers with Saving Private Ryan? There is no Normandy landing scene in Band of Brothers. Easy Company mostly landed near Sainte-Mère-Église on the Cotentin peninsula.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 11:43 AM on May 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


Of course, The Pacific should really be called Why You Never Knew Your Grandfather.

More like Why Grandpa Is Incredibly Boring And We Don't Bother Visiting Him Any More.
posted by turbid dahlia at 3:05 PM on May 8, 2014


Are you confusing Band of Brothers with Saving Private Ryan? There is no Normandy landing scene in Band of Brothers. Easy Company mostly landed near Sainte-Mère-Église on the Cotentin peninsula.

Even worse, he's confusing Call of Duty with Medal of Honor!
posted by turbid dahlia at 3:12 PM on May 8, 2014 [2 favorites]


Also, the Ambrose book D-Day is super-racist about the Commonwealth troops. I kind of packed it in on Ambrose halfway through that tripe.
posted by turbid dahlia at 3:39 PM on May 8, 2014


You may be right, it might have been Medal of Honor. But the Bastogne medics scene is definitely out of BoB. It's my least favorite part of the game, although the lead-in to that chapter (infantry hold off advancing tanks as they advance on Bastogne) is one of the best.
posted by charlie don't surf at 6:29 PM on May 8, 2014


Even worse, he's confusing Call of Duty with Medal of Honor!

At least he's not calling it "Congressional Medal of Honor"!

posted by wenestvedt at 11:30 AM on May 9, 2014


New installment: The Breaking Point.
posted by paleyellowwithorange at 1:12 AM on May 19, 2014


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