The Big Picture
- HBO’s Band of Brothers is one of the greatest achievements in television history, with its historical accuracies, grand storytelling scale, and expert filmmaking.
- Unlike previous war shows, Band of Brothers portrays the brutality and drama of war accurately, making it a groundbreaking depiction of the battlefield for the small screen.
- The show follows the story of “Easy” Company, and its accurate portrayal of the soldiers’ experiences, based on extensive research and interviews with World War II veterans, makes it a powerful and immersive watch.
War has been portrayed on the small screen countless times, but few shows have tapped into its brutality and drama as well as HBO’s Band of Brothers. If you’ve never seen it, then today’s your lucky day — this classic just made its way onto Netflix. This beloved WWII miniseries first aired in September 2001 and has lived on, not only in the hearts of those who study history but by audiences everywhere as one of the greatest achievements in television history. Between its historical accuracies, grand storytelling scale that TV hardly ever captures, expert filmmaking, action set pieces, and quick pace, now is the perfect time to lock in and binge Band of Brothers in its entirety.
Leading up to the early 2000s, whenever war was portrayed on screen, it was usually seen on a small scale. Shows like M*A*S*H* steered clear from the battlefield and took us to bases where the greater conflict was more of a backdrop for the events taking place. The historical moments that these programs would take place during sometimes took on a grave tone, but even then, it took a long time for TV to be able to portray anything too dark. Still, there were occasionally battles put on screen on shows like Combat!, whose name literally calls back to this side of war. In the case of Combat!, that show was made at a time when television production hadn’t become too advanced yet. Budgets didn’t and couldn’t call for gargantuan action set pieces. That side of war was saved for the movies.
‘Band of Brothers’ Brought Accurate Battles to the Small Screen
If you wanted to see an accurate battle, then you’d need to direct your attention to the movies. By the ’90s, there were a number of thrilling, engaging war movies that had come out of several decades, even going back to the 1930s. The original All Quiet on the Western Front, adapted in 1930, was the rare case of a ’30s movie that wasn’t afraid to show the horrors of combat. As time went on, we would only continue to see more realistic depictions of war, be it on the battlefield, in the trenches, or situation rooms with generals and politicians. The second half of the 20th century saw one classic released after another — movies like Apocalypse Now, Platoon, and The Deer Hunter. Everything would lead to 1998 when Saving Private Ryan would come along and change how movies in this genre would be approached forever. This Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks collaboration took historical accuracies incredibly seriously. Every war movie made before and after Saving Private Ryan would live in its shadow.
The cultural footprint of Saving Private Ryan was made immediately and led straight to HBO developing Band of Brothers with Spielberg and Hanks. While the show isn’t an adaptation of their 1998 epic, that movie’s approach to the subject, tone, and visual style were used to inform the series. Never before had life at war been told on TV with a scale this great. Band of Brothers might not be a Saving Private Ryan TV show, but it sure does feel like it. This is an unflinching, grim portrayal of life on the battlefield, but it isn’t without its lighter moments. For every machine gun fired and tank seen rolling down blasted city streets, you’ll have a scene where the soldiers sit around and bust on each other’s asses while drinking beer, or jokingly complaining about the quality of food at boot camp. It’s a show that knows that war is terrifying, but it’s also a place where the people who are fighting it grow to become family. In this case, they grow to become brothers.
What Is ‘Band of Brothers’ About?
Band of Brothers, and the 1992 book that it was adapted from, both follow the story of “Easy” Company, the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 101st Airborne Division. We go with the soldiers that make up “Easy” from basic training all the way until the end of World War II. That might feel like a pretty wide span of time for a show to tell in only 10 episodes, especially considering its massive cast, but the writers and filmmakers behind the scenes somehow managed to pull off the perfect juggling act. You’re never given too much time to sit and get used to one setting or part of the war, because you’re too busy getting thrust into the next big event! This might sound like a problem, but ultimately, it makes these episodes move by like a speeding bullet. Given all the characters, army parties, historical moments, and battles that the series had to put to screen, this shouldn’t have worked nearly as well as it does.
The first episode of the series kicks off by introducing us to the large majority of people that we’ll be following, then goes on to center each episode around a different character and flesh their story out individually. That way, by the end of the show, you become attached to a pretty wide array of soldiers in “Easy” Company. These different perspectives help keep every episode fresh and moving quickly too, so you never feel like you’re just reliving the same episode over and over again, creating the ultimate binge-able show. By the end, you’ve fully gotten to know each person’s different responsibilities and their own anxieties that they bring to the war.
The Historical Accuracy of ‘Band of Brothers’
These perspectives aren’t fictionalized either — everything in Band of Brothers actually happened! This led Hanks and Spielberg to go to greater measures than any other war TV show ever had in telling these soldiers’ stories accurately. The writers researched books and soldier’s accounts, and even had interviews conducted with World War II veterans to get their stories, first-hand. Bits of these interviews can even be seen at the beginning of every episode, all of which set the stage for the hour to come. These openings usually take up the first couple minutes of episodes, their inclusion making the show infinitely more powerful in the process. While watching a war movie or TV show, you’re constantly reminded of the horrors of the battlefield, but by making an audience face the soldiers who fought those fights and listen to their stories, it becomes all the more real.
Band of Brothers is so masterfully crafted that it flies by in no time. It doesn’t take long to get wrapped up in the first episode of “Easy” Company’s story, so after you’ve spent 10 episodes with them, you’ll know them like a brother. The only potential caveat might be that the story’s cast is so vast that if you take too much time between episodes, you might forget a face or two here and there. But hey, that’s all the more reason to binge through the whole thing in one sitting. Between its groundbreaking depictions of the battlefield for the small-screen, expertly written characters and plot, and dedication to delivering a fully accurate depiction of “Easy” Company’s journey, the world will never have a WWII TV drama that makes an impact as great as Band of Brothers.