Why I Should Watch Band of Brothers
WHAT IS BAND OF BROTHERS ABOUT?
A gritty, intense and emotion-filled war drama based on historian Stephen E. Ambrose’s 1992 book of the same name. Set during the Second World War, the miniseries tells the true story of Easy Company, the 2nd Battalion of the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 101st Airborne Division of the U.S. Army. The production chronicles the assorted exploits of the unit, from jump training on through to the end of the war.
Original TV Home: HBO
Number Of Seasons: 1 (September 2001)
Total Episodes / Time Table: 10 (approx. 52 to 74 minutes each) = approx. 10 hours.
Viewing Strategy: You can watch the entire miniseries in less than a week by simply taking in only 2 episodes per day.
Begin who is in it section
WHO’S IN IT?
A large ensemble cast is highlighted by Damian Lewis, Ron Livingston, David Schwimmer, Rick Gomez, Scott Grimes, Shane Taylor, Rick Gomez, Frank John Hughes, James Madio, James McAvoy, Neal McDonough, Donnie Wahlberg, Kirk Acevedo, David Andrews, Jimmy Fallon, Colin Hanks, Tom Hardy.
WHERE IS IT NOW?
WHY IS IT BINGE WORTHY?
Band of Brothers was reported to be the most expensive TV miniseries ever made back when it was produced. With a budget of $125 million (about $12.5 million per episode), it was the creative offspring of executive producers Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg. Shot in England and Switzerland as a co-production by HBO and the BBC, the miniseries was filmed over a period of close to 10 months.
The production is painstakingly accurate in its visual details, storylines and key characters who were based on actual individuals. Modern-day interviews with the real-life veterans who are portrayed in the miniseries help kick off each episode and also help to shape the emotional foundation of what transpires in each instalment. As a crowning touch, the identities of those veterans are not revealed until their final interviews at the end of the closing episode.
Band of Brothers actually opened the American TV gates for a string of British actors who have since gone on to star in a number of U.S. series. The most notable among the pack here: Damian Lewis, who tops the cast as Richard Winters, a soldier who begins his journey in the story as a lieutenant and later makes his way to captain and eventually major. Lewis, meanwhile, has since moved on to such U.S. series as Homeland and an upcoming series for Showtime called Billions.
Ron Livingston provides able co-starring support as Lewis Nixon, a fellow lieutenant who is Winters’ best friend and most trusted adviser and confidante. Among many others who are noteworthy in the ensemble: Donnie Wahlberg as Sergeant Carwood Lipton, Neal McDonough as Lynn “Buck” Compton and Michael Cudlitz as Denver “Bull” Randleman.
David Schwimmer also shows up in a trio of episodes as Herbert Sobel, a controversial battalion leader disliked by many for his tough-as-nails approach to training and discipline, and for his ineptitude when that training is put into actual practice. Although Schwimmer’s performance at first comes across as a laughable, nasty version of Ross Geller (his character on Friends), he does give the role enough breadth as the story grows.
Another couple of humorous appearances: Colin Hanks (Tom’s son) shows up as a lieutenant fresh out of West Point and Jimmy Fallon puts in a cameo appearance as a lieutenant who delivers ammunition. (More details in Must-Sees below.)
Although Band of Brothers is somewhat reminiscent of Spielberg’s memorable 1998 war movie, Saving Private Ryan, the dramatic journey here is a more detailed and often numbing, power-packed trek through the horrors of war. There is a lot of firepower and it is sometimes difficult to tell one character from another, particularly during certain battle scenes.
War is hell. And the random hand of fate delivering a death sentence on a battlefield is often horrifying. Although this story takes place about 70 years ago, Band of Brothers certainly serves as a vivid reminder of what those who fight in any war experience – and the physical and mental scars that are a result of that experience. It truly makes you want to reach out to military veterans and shake their hands or even give them a hug to thank them for their service.
Every episode packs a different type of emotional punch. Still there are some that stand out …
Currahee (Episode 1): Although the episode begins in June 1944, it soon flashes back to a couple of years earlier, as the men of Easy Company begin their training and are run ragged by a strict commanding officer named Herbert Sobel (David Schwimmer). The storyline takes you from the early days of their parachute-jump training to the final preparations for the invasion of Normandy on June 6, 1944 – otherwise known as D-Day.
Carentan (Episode 3): It’s an intense episode, filled with lots of fighting. One of its storylines involves a character named Albert Blithe (Marc Warren), a private who ends up wounded during the course of events. Although Blithe’s story is moving, its portrayal actually has some stark inaccuracies. The end of the episode contains an onscreen explanation that says: “Albert Blithe never recovered from the wounds he received in Normandy. He died in 1948.” That statement was also made in the book by Stephen E. Ambrose on which the miniseries is based. Blithe’s family reportedly pointed out the error and revealed that Blithe actually survived his injuries and eventually died of kidney failure almost 20 years later, in 1967, while still on active duty in Germany. In spite of that, most editions of the miniseries and Ambrose’s book still have not been corrected.
Crossroads (Episode 5): The only episode directed by Tom Hanks, this instalment has a visual style that stands apart from other episodes, including a distinctive opening sequence riddled with jumpy hand-held-camera footage. The episode’s storytelling style differs as well, with an early chunk of the episode’s plotline revealed in flashback, jumping back and forth as Dick Winters (Damian Lewis) types out his report on an Easy Company combat operation. Much of the episode’s focus is on Winters and his shift from the battlefields to the higher ranks of military administration, with hints of post-traumatic stress disorder creeping into his brain. The episode is also notable for an appearance by Jimmy Fallon as George C. Rice, a lieutenant who delivers a load of ammunition to the sorely under-equipped members of Easy Company as they prepare for the Battle of the Bulge in Bastogne, Belgium.
The Breaking Point (Episode 7): Easy Company’s attack on the German forces in the Belgian town of Foy is told from the point of view of Sergeant C. Carwood Lipton (Donnie Wahlberg), who narrates much of the story. It’s a shining moment for Wahlberg, whose character provides vital moral support as the casualties of Easy Company escalate.
The Last Patrol (Episode 8): Another episode told from another point of view. This time, it is the perspective of David Webster (Eion Bailey), a private who returns from having been in hospital and rehabilitation. The episode also features Colin Hanks as Henry Jones, a new lieutenant who is fresh out of West Point.
Points (Episode 10): With the war against Germany drawing to a close, Dick Winters (Damian Lewis), Lewis Nixon (Richard Livingston) and the other men of Easy Company contemplate what lies ahead for them. But first, there are war memories, both good and bad, that resurface for Winters. And, although the enemy has surrendered, that doesn’t mean an end to casualties. As the episode closes, the future of each of the remaining characters is revealed. And a closing set of interviews with the actual men portrayed in the miniseries finally reveals each of their identities.
MOST SHOCKING EPISODES
Almost every episode has a shocking element of some sort. Among those that stand out the most …
Day of Days (Episode 2): The first battle-filled episode of the miniseries, this instalment features an opening sequence that recreates the airborne maneuvers that preceded the Allied landing on Normandy. With anti-aircraft fire enveloping them, the paratroopers’ descent on Normandy is quite shocking and grim at times. The combat scenes throughout the episode are intense and disturbing, with lots of blood-soaked battlefields. Ultimately, the episode dramatizes the capture of the German Battery located at Brecourt Manor – an assault that, according to the episode’s closing credits, is still demonstrated to those attending at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.
Replacements (Episode 4): This chapter starts out pretty placid and serene, but the troops are soon called into action for a high-risk operation that doesn’t go very well. As the end of the episode reveals, the casualties are numerous.
Bastogne (Episode 6): Set in the winter, this fierce episode focuses much of its attention on one of the the company medics, Eugene Roe (Shane Taylor), as he comes to the aid of various soldiers in battle. Some of the blood-spurting injuries will certainly turn your stomach. And the growing piles of frozen bodies that litter the surroundings as the episode grinds on will definitely make you cringe.
Why We Fight (Episode 9): As Allied forces move their way into Germany, the discovery of an abandoned concentration camp still filled with prisoners has the men of Easy Company coming face-to-face with some stark revelations of what the Nazis had been up to. There is no major gunfire or warfare in this episode – but the atrocities that are uncovered are mind-blowing nonetheless.
THAT LINE WAS SO GREAT…
“Five o’clock in New York. Four o’clock in Chicago.”
“Happy hour, huh?”
“Yeah, happy hour. Couple of drinks. Maybe an early dinner before the theater. Civilized place for civilized men.”
“Shoulda been born earlier, Nix.”
“What? And give up all this?”
– From Currahee (Episode 1): A bit of banter between Richard Winters (Damian Lewis) and Lewis Nixon (Ron Livingston) as their battalion anxiously awaits the start of their mission during the planned invasion of Normandy.
“Well, you know, I’m always fumblin’ with grenades. It would be easy if one went off by accident, y’know?”
– From Currahee (Episode 1): Private Joseph Liebgott (Ross McCall) suggests a possible solution to get rid of the forceful but inept Capt. Herbert Sobel (David Schwimmer).
“That night, I took time to thank God for seeing me through that day of days and prayed I would make it through D-Day plus 1. And if, somehow, I managed to get home again, I promised God and myself that I would find a quiet piece of land someplace and spend the rest of my life in peace.”
– From Day of Days (Episode 2): The final lines of Richard Winters (Damian Lewis) after the first day of intense fighting and emotional turmoil.
“Now, the thing to remember, boys – flies carry disease. So, keep yours closed.”
– From Carentan (Episode 3): George Luz, (Rick Gomez) doing an imitation of an army general.
“We’re all scared. You hid in that ditch because you think there’s still hope. But, Blithe, the only hope you have is to accept the fact that you’re already dead. And the sooner you accept that, the sooner you’ll be able to function as a soldier is supposed to function. Without mercy. Without compassion. Without remorse. All war depends on it.”
– From Carentan (Episode 3): Lieutenant Ronald Speirs (Matthew Settle) tells Private Albert Blithe (Marc Warren) to buck up and get with the program.
“I don’t know whether to slap ya, kiss ya or salute ya. I told these scallywags you was OK.”
“And they didn’t listen?”
“Ah, these salty bastards, they wanted to go on a suicide run to drag your ass back.”
“Is that right?”
“Yeah, I told them, ‘Don’t bother.’”
“Never did like this company none.”
– From Replacements (Episode 4): An exchange between Sgt. Bill Guarnere (Frank John Hughes) to Sgt. Denver “Bull” Randleman (Michael Cudlitz) as Randleman returns after going missing in the aftermath of some intense combat.
“Hold the line, Colonel. Close the gaps. This goddamn fog won’t lift anytime soon, so you can forget about air cover. Your 1st Battalion just pulled out of Foy. Krauts on their tail. Tanks. Artillery. Got no backup. There’s a lot of shit headed this way.”
– From Bastogne (Episode 6): General Anthony McAuliffe (Bill Armstrong) relaying the dismal state of things amid the harsh winter conditions facing Capt. Dick Winters (Damian Lewis), Capt. Lewis Nixon (Ron Livingston) and Col. Robert Strayer (Phil McKee) and the rest of Easy Company.
“Jesus Christ! We gotta do all this with a CO who’s got his head so far up his fucking ass, that lump in his throat is his goddamn nose.”
– From The Breaking Point (Episode 7): Sgt. Bill Guarnere (Frank John Hughes) complaining about Lieut. Norman Dike (Peter O’Meara) being a useless replacement officer for Easy Company.
“Well – I’ll tell ya. I wouldn’t want to be a replacement officer coming in here. Him gettin’ thrown in with a group of guys who have known each other for, what, two years? That have been in combat together since Normandy? He’s supposed to just show up and lead them? I mean, how does a guy do that? How could anyone really hope to gain the respect of the toughest, most professional, most dedicated sons of bitches in the entire ETO? Huh? See, if you ask me, a guy would have to march off to Berlin and come back with Hitler’s mustache or something.”
– From The Breaking Point (Episode 7): Company First Sergeant C. Carwood Lipton (Donnie Wahlberg) reassures his men not to worry about the ineptitude of Lieut. Norman Dike (Peter O’Meara).
“Don’t do anything stupid? Who the hell is he talking to? A bunch of morons who volunteered to jump out of a perfectly good airplane. Can you get any more stupid than that?”
– From The Breaking Point (Episode 7): Cpl. Alex Penkala (Tim Matthews) reacts after Lieut. Lynn “Buck” Compton (Neal McDonough) advises each of the men in the company not to do anything stupid, like another soldier, who shot himself in the leg, did.
“I’m not going. I’ve already seen the States. I grew up there. That’s why I came to Europe. Just wish they’d told me there was a war on. Anyway, the point is, this thing’s wasted on me. But I’m sure we can find an officer somewhere in this Battalion who could use a long trip home.”
– From The Breaking Point (Episode 7): Lewis Nixon (Ron Livingston) telling Dick Winters (Damian Lewis) that he is turning down a 30-day furlough he has been offered.
“How do I feel about being rescued by Patton? Well, I’d feel pretty peachy about it if it wasn’t for one thing. We didn’t need to be fucking rescued by Patton. You got that?”
– From The Breaking Point (Episode 7): Joe Toye (Kirk Acevedo) being interviewed on camera by a film/news crew following the Battle of the Bulge.
“I wondered if people back home would ever know what it cost the soldiers to win this war. In America, things were already beginning to look like peace time. The standard of living was on the rise. Racetracks and nightclubs were booming. You couldn’t get a hotel room in Miami Beach, it was so crowded. How could anyone ever know of the price paid by soldiers in terror, agony and bloodshed if they’d never been to places like Normandy, Bastogne or Hagenau?”
– From The Last Patrol (Episode 8): The lines that end the episode as Private David Webster (Eion Bailey) reflects on the toll that the Second World War took on those who fought in it.
“Do you remember the letter that Mike Ranney wrote me? You do. You remember how he ended it? ‘I cherish the memories of a question my grandson asked me the other day, when he said, “Grandpa, were you a hero in the war?” Grandpa said, “No – but I served in a company of heroes.” ‘ ”
– From Points (Episode 10): The final lines of the miniseries, uttered by the real Dick Winters during an on-camera interview that caps off the final episode.