Band of Brothers
Executive Producers Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg
This is a ten-part HBO (Home Box Office) television series form the United Statesbased on the novel of the same title by Stephen E. Ambrose, who passed away late in 2002. In Japan, the ten episodes come on five VHS cassette tapes, each tape a full 120-minutes long. The screenwriters and directors of the shows vary form episode to episode, not always the same people. But the cast is the same as the story follows Easy Company (E Company) of the 82nd Airborne Division (a parachute regiment created in the early part of the war) of the U.S. Army from basic training in the U.S. in 1942 right through to the end of the war in Europe.
Tom Hanks starred in the film Saving Private Ryan, which was directed by Steven Spielberg. That film became instantly famous for the opening twenty-minute D-Day Normandy landing sequence which was very graphic and shocking. (There was talk of elderly World War Two veterans experiencing post traumatic shock in the movie theaters and suffering incapacitating flashbacks after seeing the bloody invasion landing sequences [which were filmed in Ireland].) Now these two men have collaborated in the production of this TV series, and it is very much like that first 20-minutes of Saving Private Ryan, only stretched out to ten hours. There is a lot of noise, lots of explosions, and the camera is often jerking and jogging around - a hand-held camera, maybe - to help give us the feeling of following, or being with the soldiers as they walk, run, crawl, and cower over western Europe.
It is a human military drama, it is full of noise as I said, and it is also frequently quite graphic, I thought. Stephen Ambrose himself served as a “co-executive producer.” There were other “co-executive producers,” as well, and I thought the show went overboard on producers, executive producers, and co-executive producers. But the end result does not seem to suffer for it, because the shows are excellent, I thought.
They are also very informative. The Ambrose book is non-fiction, and the mini-series is excellent. It forces me to consider the role of television as education, and I must also consider the line between fictional entertainment and truly educational programming. I think Band of Brothers can be called educational, both (reasonably) historically accurate as well as dramatically impressive. But we have to remember that most of what is broadcast on TV and in the movies is nothing but pure fictional entertainment, and more often than not it has a greater influence on the minds of the young than the real historical truth of things. People confuse fiction with non-fiction so easily, and the confusion only gets worse when it is presented in a very impressive Hollywood fashion.