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Binge It! Band of Brothers Remains the Most Compelling WWII Story of Television’s Golden Age


HBO’s 2001 mini-series Band of Brothers is about the men of Easy Company, 2nd Battalion, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 101st Airborne Division fighting in World War II. This story, told through the finite scope of a relatively small group of soldiers among millions in the war, is based on the equally compelling book of the same name by prolific writer and historian Stephen E. Ambrose.

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The series follows the men of Easy Company from their time in jump training, through their role in the D-Day invasion, their entrenchment at Bastogne during the Battle of the Bulge, taking the Eagle’s Nest, and Germany’s eventual surrender.

From start to finish, Band of Brothers tells a story of war that is very much focused on its characters rather than the events around them. While the majority of the show is certainly told through big action set pieces, it always finds its way back to the personal toll taken on the men of Easy Company. Each episode opens with interviews with the surviving men, beginning the story through the lens of hindsight and allowing the real-life characters to give the audience insight into the profound personal impact of war. It’s easy for film and television producers to lean on the crutch of romanticized action and the glorification of combat, but with Band of Brothers, the writers and producers leaned more into the emerging trend of more human-driven stories of war which are much more common now.

It would be impossible to overlook the care and attention given to depicting battle in the series, as the action in Band of Brothers is simply mesmerizing and enthralling. The series shares a lot of the same production staff and producers as Saving Private Ryan, and many of the techniques developed on the 1998 Steven Speilberg film are perfected here. From the shaky camera and its out-of-sync shutter capturing the chaos of battle to the heavily desaturated color exemplifying the drab, inhumane nature of war, every moment brings a level of immersion that was previously hard to come by in film, and nearly unheard of in a television series.

If compelling character studies and jaw-dropping production value aren’t your thing, you can still find value in the who’s who casting of the series. The show was produced at just the right time to capture a lot of about-to-break talent in bit parts (and at just the right time during Friends’ run to remind everyone that David Schwimmer is a phenomenal actor). There are quick appearances by Simon Pegg, Michael Fassbender, Tom Hardy, Jimmy Fallon and James McAvoy, to name a few.

Alongside the series’ 10-episode run is a wealth of companion material in related books from Stephen E. Ambrose, as well as a number of books and journals from the men of Easy Company, including Dick Winters, Buck Compton, David Webster, Don Malarkey and Bill Guarnere about their time in Easy and how they adapted to life after the war.

Band of Brothers takes a personal approach to a conflict of unfathomable scale and destruction. And while the action is compelling and awe-inspiring, it’s the stories of the men of Easy Company and the care taken in accurately telling them that sets the series above other World War II stories. The entire thesis of Band of Brothers is summed up in the closing interview with the late Major Dick Winters: “I cherish the memory of a question my grandson asked me the other day. He said ‘Grandpa, were you a hero in the war?’ And [I] said, ‘No. But I served in a company of heroes.’”

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Binge It! is IGN’s recommendation series. Movies, TV shows, books, comics, music… if you can binge it, we’re here to talk about it. In each installment of Binge It!, we’ll discuss a piece of content we’re passionate about — and why you should check it out.

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