Band of Brothers (TV miniseries)

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Band of Brothers
BandofBrothersIntertitle.jpg
Title card
Genre War
Directed by
Produced by
Written by
Based on Band of Brothers 
by Stephen E. Ambrose
Starring see Cast below
Music by Michael Kamen
Cinematography
Editing by
  • Billy Fox
  • Oral Norrie Ottey
  • Frances Parker
  • John Richards
Budget $125 million
Country
  • United States
  • United Kingdom
Language
  • English
  • German
  • French
Original channel
Original run September 9, 2001 (2001-09-09)  – November 4, 2001 (2001-11-04)
Running time 705 minutes
No. of episodes 10 (List of episodes)
Followed by The Pacific

Band of Brothers is a ten-part, 11-hour television World War II miniseries, originally produced and broadcast in 2001, based on historian Stephen E. Ambrose's 1992 book of the same title. The executive producers were Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks, who had collaborated on the 1998 World War II film Saving Private Ryan.[1] The episodes first aired in 2001 on HBO. They are still run frequently on various TV networks around the world.[2][3]

The series dramatizes the history of "Easy" Company (part of the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division) from jump training in the U.S. through its participation in major actions in Europe, and up until Japan's capitulation and war's end. The events portrayed are based on Ambrose's research and recorded interviews with Easy Company veterans. The TV series took literary license, adapting the recorded history for the purposes of dramatic effect and series structure.[4][5][6] All of the characters portrayed are based on members of Easy Company. Some of the men were recorded in contemporary interviews, which viewers see as preludes to each episode. The men's identities are not revealed until the finale.

The title for the book and the series comes from the famous St. Crispin's Day Speech as written by William Shakespeare in his play Henry V, for delivery by Henry V of England before the Battle of Agincourt. Ambrose quotes a passage from the speech on his book's first page; this passage is spoken by Carwood Lipton in the TV series' final episode.

Plot[edit]

Band of Brothers is a dramatized account of "Easy Company" (part of the 2nd Battalion, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment), assigned to the United States Army's 101st Airborne Division during World War II. Over the course of ten episodes, the series details the company's exploits during the war. Starting with jump training at Camp Toccoa, Georgia, Band of Brothers follows the unit through the American airborne landings in Normandy, the Siege of Bastogne, Operation Market Garden, and on to the war's end. It includes the U.S. taking of the Eagle's Nest in Germany and refers to the surrender of Japan. Major Richard Winters (1918–2011) is the central character featured, shown working to accomplish the missions and keep his men together and safe. While the series features a large ensemble cast, each episode generally focuses on a single character, following his actions during certain events (for example, the Siege of Bastogne or Operation Market Garden).[1]

As the series is based on historic events, the fates of the characters conform to the persons they are drawn from. Numerous characters die or sustain serious wounds, some of which lead to survivors' being sent home; in other cases, soldiers recover under treatment in hospital and can rejoin their comrades on the front lines. Their experiences and the moral, mental, and physical hurdles they must overcome are central to the story.

Production[edit]

The series was developed chiefly by Tom Hanks and Erik Jendresen, who spent months detailing the plot outline and individual episodes.[7] Steven Spielberg served as "the final eye" and used Saving Private Ryan, the film which he and Hanks had collaborated on, to inform the series.[8] Accounts of Easy Company veterans, such as Donald Malarkey, have continued to be published and were incorporated into production to add historic detail.[8]

Budget and promotion[edit]

Promotional poster for Band of Brothers

Band of Brothers was the most expensive television miniseries made by HBO or any other television network when it was created.[9][10] This record was superseded by the series' 2010 sister show, The Pacific.[11][12][13] The budget for Band of Brothers was approximately $125 million, which comes to an average of $12.5 million per episode.[8] An additional $15 million was allocated towards the promotional campaign, which included hosting screenings for World War II veterans.[9]

One of those screenings was held at Utah Beach, Normandy, where US troops landed on D-Day. On June 7, 2001, 47 Easy Company veterans were flown to Paris and then travelled by chartered train to the site, where the series premiered.[14][15] Also sponsoring the miniseries was Chrysler, as its Jeeps were used to great extent in the series.[16] Chrysler spent $5 to $15 million on its advertising campaign, based on and using footage from Band of Brothers.[16] Each of the spots was reviewed and approved by co-executive producers Hanks and Spielberg.[16] By then Chrysler was jointly owned by US and German manufacturers.

The BBC paid £7 million ($10.1 million) as co-production partner, the most it had ever paid for a bought-in program, and screened it on the BBC Two channel. It was originally to have aired on BBC One, but was moved to allow "an uninterrupted 10-week run" with a denial that this was because it was not mainstream enough.[17][18] Negotiations were monitored by British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who personally spoke to co-executive producer Spielberg.[19]

Location[edit]

The series was shot over 8 to 10 months at Hatfield Aerodrome in Hertfordshire, England. Various sets, including replicas of European towns, were built here.[15] This location had also been used to shoot the film Saving Private Ryan.[8][10] Replicas were constructed on the large open field to represent twelve different towns, including Bastogne, Belgium; Eindhoven, Netherlands; and Carentan, France.[20]

The village of Hambleden, in Buckinghamshire, England was used as a location extensively in the early episodes to depict the site of the company's training in England, as well as in later scenes. The scenes set in Germany and Austria were shot in Switzerland, in and near the village of Brienz in the Bernese Oberland, and at the nearby Hotel Giessbach.

Historical accuracy[edit]

To preserve historical accuracy, the various writers conducted additional research. One source was the memoir of Easy Company soldier David Kenyon Webster. Written after the war from the diary he kept, his memoir Parachute Infantry: An American Paratrooper's Memoir of D-Day and the Fall of the Third Reich was published by LSU Press in 1994, following renewed interest in World War II and almost 40 years after Webster's death in a boating accident. (Ambrose had quoted liberally from Webster's then-unpublished diary entries, with permission of his estate, in his 1992 book.)

The production team consulted with Dale Dye, a retired U.S. Marine Corps Captain and consultant on Saving Private Ryan, as well as most of the surviving Easy Company veterans at the time, such as Richard Winters, Bill Guarnere, Frank Perconte, Ed Heffron, and Amos Taylor.[8][21] Dye (who additionally plays the role of Robert Sink) instructed the actors portraying soldiers in a 10-day boot camp.[21]

The production worked for accuracy in details of weapons and costumes. Simon Atherton, the weapons master, corresponded with veterans to match weapons to scenes, and assistant costume designer Joe Hobbs extensively used photos and veteran accounts.[8]

Most actors had contact before filming with the individuals they were to portray, often by telephone. Several of the veterans came to the production site.[8] Co-executive producer Tom Hanks acknowledged alterations were needed to create the series: "We've made history fit onto our screens. We had to condense down a vast number of characters, fold other people's experiences into 10 or 15 people, have people saying and doing things others said or did. We had people take off their helmets to identify them, when they would never have done so in combat. But I still think it is three or four times more accurate than most films like this."[15] As a final accuracy check, the veterans saw previews of the series and approved the episodes before they were aired.[22]

Some inaccuracies were reported. For instance, Albert Blithe was incorrectly reported as dying in 1948. Blithe lived to 1967, dying while on active duty in the Army.[23] Joseph Liebgott was ethnically Jewish, but he was a practising Roman Catholic.[24][page needed] Also a title card shows the date as 11 April 1945 when Capt. Nixon advises a group of Easy Company that Hitler is dead. Hitler didn't commit suicide until 30 April 1945.

Cast and characters[edit]

Since Band of Brothers focuses entirely on the exploits of "E" (Easy) Company during World War II, the series features a large ensemble cast. The show's main character is Lieutenant (eventually Captain and then Major) Richard Winters, played by Damian Lewis. He leads the cast for most of the episodes and is the main subject of the episodes "Day of Days", "Crossroads" and the final episode, "Points". Tom Hanks, co-executive producer, said the production needed a central character to tie the story together, and they believed that Damian Lewis was best for that role.[25]

Ron Livingston portrays Lieutenant (eventually Captain) Lewis Nixon, Major Winters' best friend and frequent confidant during the series. The episode "Why We Fight" largely centers on him, dealing with his problems with alcoholism, in particular. Captain Ronald Speirs, played by Matthew Settle, leads the Company into the field in the series' latter half and is the subject of rumors among the soldiers starting in the third episode, "Carentan."

Appearing alongside Lewis and Livingston in all ten episodes are Donnie Wahlberg as Sergeant Carwood Lipton, Scott Grimes as Technical Sergeant Donald Malarkey, Peter Youngblood Hills as Staff Sergeant Darrell "Shifty" Powers, Shane Taylor as Technician Fifth Grade Eugene "Doc" Roe, and Matthew Leitch as Staff Sergeant Floyd Talbert. The episode "The Breaking Point" features Lipton prominently and the importance he played in maintaining the company's morale, while "Bastogne" features Doc Roe's experience as a medic during the siege of Bastogne.

Appearing in nine episodes are Rick Gomez as Technician Fourth Grade George Luz, Michael Cudlitz as Staff Sergeant Denver "Bull" Randleman, Nicholas Aaron as Private First Class Robert "Popeye" Wynn, and James Madio as Technician Fourth Grade Frank Perconte. Randleman was the subject of his own episode, "Replacements", which featured his escape from a German-occupied village in the Netherlands. Philip Barrantini as Private Wayne A. "Skinny" Sisk is uncredited in the opening sequence but also appears in nine episodes.

From left: Damian Lewis as Major Richard Winters and Ron Livingston as Captain Lewis Nixon.

Neal McDonough as First Lieutenant Lynn "Buck" Compton, Dexter Fletcher as Staff Sergeant John "Johnny" Martin, Ross McCall as Technician Fifth Grade Joseph Liebgott appear in eight episodes. George Calil as Sergeant James "Moe" Alley Jr., Nolan Hemmings as Staff Sergeant Charles E. Grant and Rick Warden as First Lieutenant Harry Welsh and Robin Laing as Private First Class Edward "Babe" Heffron, although uncredited in the opening appear in eight episodes. Stephen McCole portrayed First Lieutenant Frederick Heyliger, who took part in D-Day and Operation Market Garden before being wounded by friendly fire.

Credited in the opening in seven episodes or fewer are:

Reception[edit]

Critical reception[edit]

Band of Brothers received critical acclaim. CNN's Paul Clinton said that the miniseries "is a remarkable testament to that generation of citizen soldiers, who responded when called upon to save the world for democracy and then quietly returned to build the nation that we now all enjoy, and all too often take for granted." [26] Caryn James of The New York Times called it "an extraordinary 10-part series that masters its greatest challenge: it balances the ideal of heroism with the violence and terror of battle, reflecting what is both civilized and savage about war." James also noted the generation gap between most viewers and characters, suggesting this was a significant hurdle.[27] Robert Bianco of USA Today said the series was "significantly flawed and yet absolutely extraordinary — just like the men it portrays," rating the series four out of four stars. He noted that it was hard to identify with individual characters during crowded battle scenes.[28]

Tom Shales of The Washington Post said that though the series is "at times visually astonishing," it suffers from "disorganization, muddled thinking and a sense of redundancy." Shales noted the characters are hard to identify: "Few of the characters stand out strikingly against the backdrop of the war. In fact, this show is all backdrop and no frontdrop. When you watch two hours and still aren't quite sure who the main characters are, something is wrong."[29]

Band of Brothers has become a kind of benchmark for WWII series. The German series Generation War, for example, was characterized by critics as Band of Brüder ("Brüder" being the German word for "Brothers").[30]

Ratings[edit]

The premiere of Band of Brothers on September 9, 2001, drew 10 million viewers.[31] Two days later, the September 11 attacks occurred, and HBO immediately ceased its marketing campaign.[31] The second episode drew 7.2 million viewers.[31] The last episode of the miniseries received 5.1 million viewers, the smallest audience.[32]

Awards[edit]

The series was nominated for 20 Primetime Emmy Awards, and won seven, including Outstanding Miniseries and Outstanding Directing for a Miniseries, Movie, or Dramatic Special.[33] It also won the Golden Globe Award for Best Miniseries or Motion Picture Made for Television,[34] American Film Institute Award for TV Movie or Miniseries of the Year,[35] Producers Guild of America Award for Outstanding Producer of Long-Form Television,[36] and the TCA Award for Outstanding Achievement in Movies, Miniseries, and Specials,.[37] The show was also selected for a Peabody Award for '...relying on both history and memory to create a new tribute to those who fought to preserve liberty.'[38]

Home video releases[edit]

All ten parts of the miniseries were released in a DVD box set on November 5, 2002. The set includes five discs containing all the episodes, and a bonus disc with the behind-the-scenes documentary We Stand Alone Together: The Men of Easy Company and the video diary of actor Ron Livingston, who played Lewis Nixon. A collector's edition of the box set was also released, containing the same discs but held in a tin case. Band of Brothers is one of the best-selling TV DVD sets of all time,[39] having sold about $250 million.[40]

The series was released as an exclusive HD DVD TV series in Japan in 2007. With the demise of the format, they are currently out of production. A Blu-ray Disc version of Band of Brothers was released on November 11, 2008 and has become a Blu-ray Disc top seller,[41] though many video enthusiasts contend that the HD DVD version features superior visual quality due to the presence of digital noise reduction on the Blu-ray release.[42][43]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b "Drama: Band of Brothers". BBC.co.uk. Retrieved: 2008-06-09.
  2. ^ Snead, Elizabeth. " Tom Hanks Jumps on Bandwagon". TV Guide. 22 June 2001. Retrieved: 2008-06-09.
  3. ^ "Band of Brothers Minisite". History.com. Retrieved: 2008-06-09.
  4. ^ Biggest Brother: The Life of Dick Winters
  5. ^ Parachute Infantry, an autobiography by David Kenyon Webster
  6. ^ "Trigger Time by 101st historian Mark Bando has a detailed discussion of the miniseries' historical accuracy". 101airborneww2.com. Retrieved 2012-12-24. 
  7. ^ Mifflin, Lawrie (2001-06-07). "TV Notes ; World War II, The Mini-Series". The New York Times. 
  8. ^ a b c d e f g Hohenadel, Kristin (2000-12-17). "Television/Radio ; Learning How the Private Ryans Felt and Fought". The New York Times.  [1]
  9. ^ a b Carter, Bill (2001-09-03). "On Television ; HBO Bets Pentagon-Style Budget on a World War II Saga". The New York Times.  [2]
  10. ^ a b Levin, Gary (2001-01-09). "'Brothers' invades fall lineup HBO's WWII miniseries battles network premieres". USA Today. 
  11. ^ "Pop Eater/AOL News: The Pacific TV miniseries $200+ million budget". Popeater.com. 2010-08-27. Retrieved 2012-12-24. 
  12. ^ "Manila Bulletin: The Pacific: most expensive miniseries ever made (last paragraph)". Mb.com.ph. 2010-03-07. Retrieved 2012-12-24. 
  13. ^ Ross Bonander (2010-03-14). "The Pacific: 5 Things You Didn't Know". Askmen. Retrieved 2012-12-24. 
  14. ^ Levin, Gary (2001-04-18). "HBO Cable network sets itself apart with daring fare". USA Today. 
  15. ^ a b c Riding, Alan (2001-06-07). "Arts Abroad ; A Normandy Landing, This One for a Film". The New York Times. 
  16. ^ a b c Elliott, Stuart (2001-09-10). "The Media Business: Advertising ; Jeep's manufacturer seeks to capitalize on the vehicle's featured role in 'Band of Brothers.'". The New York Times. 
  17. ^ BBC News: Spielberg epic loses prime slot, August 15, 2001
  18. ^ The true drama of war New Statesman, October 8, 2001
  19. ^ Hellen, Nicholas (2001-04-08). "BBC pays Pounds 15m for new Spielberg war epic". The Sunday Times. 
  20. ^ Garner, Clare (1999-12-01). "Hatfield prepares for invasion of Spielberg brigade". The Independent. 
  21. ^ a b Huff, Richard (2001-09-09). "Actors & Vets Bond In 'Band Of Brothers'". Daily News (New York). 
  22. ^ MacDonald, Sandy (2002-09-15). "Miniseries put actors through boot camp". The Daily News (Halifax). 
  23. ^ 506th Airborne Infantry Regiment Association website - MSG Albert Blithe - June 25, 1923-December 17, 1967, (accessed 2009-01-01)
  24. ^ Brotherton, Marcus. A Company of Heroes: Personal Memories about the Real Band of Brothers and the Legacy They Left Us. Penguin, 2010.
  25. ^ Kronke, David (2001-09-02). "Battle ready; World War II Miniseries by Hanks, Spielberg Coming To HBO". Los Angeles Daily News. 
  26. ^ CNN, Enlist TV for 'Band of Brothers' September 7, 2001 Posted: 11:55 AM EDT (1555 GMT)
  27. ^ James, Caryn (2001-09-07). "TV Weekend; An Intricate Tapestry Of a Heroic Age". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-08-24. 
  28. ^ Bianco, Robert (2001-09-07). "'Band' masterfully depicts horror, complexity of war". USA Today. 
  29. ^ Shales, Tom (2001-08-07). "'Band of Brothers': Ragged WWII Saga Off to a Slow March". The Washington Post. 
  30. ^ "Band of Brüder: a German view of wartime". The Irish Times. Retrieved July 8, 2013. 
  31. ^ a b c Lyman, Rick (2001-10-16). "Fewer Soldiers March Onscreen; After Attacks, Filmmakers Weigh Wisdom of Military Stories". The New York Times. 
  32. ^ HBO's 'Band of Brothers' Draws Series' Smallest Audience for Finale
  33. ^ "Band of Brothers". Television Academy. Retrieved 7 June 2014. 
  34. ^ "Band of Brothers". Golden Globes Awards. Retrieved 7 June 2014. 
  35. ^ "AFI Awards 2001". American Film Institute. Retrieved 7 June 2014. 
  36. ^ "Producers Guild of America Awards winners". United Press International. Retrieved 7 June 2014. 
  37. ^ "2002 TCA Awards winners". Television Critics Association. Retrieved 7 June 2014. 
  38. ^ "Band of Brothers". Peabody Awards. Retrieved 7 June 2014. 
  39. ^ Laurence Lerman (12/8/2008). "2008 VIDEO HALL OF FAME PROFILE: Henry McGee". Archived from the original on 2009-03-28. Retrieved 2011-08-10. 
  40. ^ Joe Flint (March 16, 2010). "Over 3 million viewers sign up for HBO's 'The Pacific'". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2011-08-10. 
  41. ^ DVD Shop: Band of Brothers. — Warner Bros.
  42. ^ "Blu-ray Review: Band of Brothers | High-Def Digest". Bluray.highdefdigest.com. Retrieved 2012-12-24. 
  43. ^ "Band of Brothers DVD, HBO MPEG-2, HD DVD & Blu-ray comparison *PIX*". Avsforum.com. Retrieved 2012-12-24. 

Further reading[edit]

A number of books have been published which give further insight into Easy Company.

  • A Company of Heroes: Personal Memories about the Real Band of Brothers and the Legacy They Left Us (2010), by Marcus Brotherton. Penguin. Profiles of deceased Easy Company men by their family members.
  • Band of Brothers: Easy Company, 506th Regiment, 101st Airborne from Normandy to Hitler's Eagle's Nest (1992), by Stephen Ambrose.
  • Beyond Band of Brothers: The War Memoirs of Major Dick Winters (2006), by Major Richard Winters and Colonel Cole Kingseed. The first of Winters' memoirs.
  • Biggest Brother: The Life of Major Dick Winters, The Man Who Led the Band of Brothers (2005), by Larry Alexander. The second of Winters' memoirs.
  • Brothers in Battle, Best of Friends, by William Guarnere and Edward Heffron with Robyn Post.
  • Call of Duty, by Lynn Compton with Marcus Brotherton. Recounts Compton's career as an attorney and prosecutor of Sirhan Sirhan.
  • Easy Company, by Genesis Publications. A limited edition coffee table book.
  • Easy Company Soldier, by Donald Malarkey with Bob Welch.
  • From Toccoa to the Eagle's Nest: Discoveries in the Bootsteps of the Band of Brothers (2009), by Dalton Einhorn.
  • In the Footsteps of the Band of Brothers: A Return to Easy Company's Battlefields with Sgt. Forrest Guth (2010), by Larry Alexander. Part travelogue, part historical perspective.
  • Parachute Infantry, by David Kenyon Webster. Published posthumously in 1994.
  • Shifty's War: The Authorized Biography of Sergeant Darrell Powers, the Legendary Sharpshooter from the Band of Brothers, (2011) by Marcus Brotherton.
  • The Way We Were (1985), by Forrest Guth and Michel de Trez. A collection of Guth's war time pictures and memoirs.
  • We Who Are Alive and Remain (2009), by Marcus Brotherton. Oral history featuring 20 surviving members of E Co.

External links[edit]