Thursday, May 28, 2009

The plan for 'Band of Brothers'

"Alright, I want mortars and grenade launchers on that building till it's gone. When it's gone I want 1st to go straight in. Forget going around. Everybody else, follow me."
If you know the context of that quote from "Band of Brothers," then you should be psyched when I start reviewing the miniseries next week. And if not, then you have much to discover and enjoy. A quick explanation of how it's going to work coming up just as soon as I find some Vat 69...

After everybody pledged to read and comment, I sat down and thought about how I was going to do this, given several factors: 1)For the people without the DVDs, the episodes are only up On Demand until June 8, 2)I've been watching the episodes while exercising and therefore haven't taken notes, 3)I have all my thoughts on the episodes rattling around in my head now and want to get to discussing it already, and 4)Even though it's summer, my schedule is already pretty swamped as it is with summer shows, plus "The Wire" and "Sports Night," plus the usual Star-Ledger obligations.

So here's the deal: on Monday, I'm going to post some thoughts on "Curahee," and then I'm going to keep doing these write-ups as quickly as I can over the next few weeks, whenever I have some free time in my day to do so. These won't be remotely as long or as detail-oriented as the "Wire" reviews, nor will I be recapping the plots like I did with "Freaks and Geeks." Just whatever thoughts I happen to have on each episode, followed by an opportunity for you to discuss it. (And if you don't hold up your end, you'll get the Sobel treatment.) In an ideal world where I had unlimited free time, I'd do this more in-depth for posterity's sake, but this is what I can do now.

Also, while I do these separate newbie/veteran versions of the "Wire" reviews, in the interest of keeping things simple here, it's gonna be one version per episode. I'll be as vague as I can about what's coming, but I can't not discuss anything that's to come, and I imagine you guys -- most of whom seem to have seen the miniseries already -- will have a difficult time as well. We'll do our best to not include major spoilers, like that time Guarnere kidnapped Ava Braun... ooops. Shouldn't have said that. But if I say something like, "This episode sets up Hubler's interest in finding a Luger, which will be a running element," or "this guy now doesn't appear for a few episodes," I think that's fair game, under the circumstances.

So, see you on Monday for this one.

49 comments:

Eugene Freedman said...

When does The Pacific come on HBO? It was rumored from the day BoB ended. It went into production a while ago, but I haven't heard anything.

BoB is probably the greatest mini-series of all-time. It was like a 10 part Saving Private Ryan with more depth of characters, so it had more to explore. And, it was a true story to boot. The only episode I wasn't crazy about was the one featuring Doc Roe.

I can recommend the book and moreso Beyond Band of Brothers by Winters.

Bob in SA said...

This is one of my favorite all time series. Having the benefit of the Sepinwall treatment will make it all the much better.

Hatfield said...

Dang, I better start watching now so I feel less spoiler-phobic.

What's the Sobel treatment?

Alan Sepinwall said...

The only episode I wasn't crazy about was the one featuring Doc Roe.

That's funny, as that was the one where, to me, the miniseries really started clicking. There's a lot of good stuff in the first half of the series, but, on first view, anyway, it's so easy to get lost in trying to remember who is who that you miss a lot. "Bastogne" signaled a shift to more of a point-of-view approach, and I preferred that.

Alan Sepinwall said...

What's the Sobel treatment?

You'll understand that by the end of the first episode.

Tobey said...

I recognized that quote immediately. I have watched that particular episode a dozen times, I reckon. Matthew Settle was so good in that role.

jasctt said...

That scene with Spears taking charge is just such an amazing moment, the look on Wahlberg's face when he runs back amidst the germans is just priceless. A f'n legend. And, yeah, BoB IS one of the 10 all time best things ever put on TV. I just watched for the 10th time through.

Eugene Freedman said...

That's funny, as that was the one where, to me, the miniseries really started clicking.I think it was the pacing of the episode more than anything that bothered me, but we can get to those gritty details when we discuss it more in depth.

For some of the earlier episodes it is hard to follow the characters, because there are so many, but for a veteran watcher, that one just drags. It should be said, I was uncomfortable with it the first time I had watched it as well.

Hatfield said...

The one episode I watched, and I don't remember who Sobel is. Oh well, I was planning on starting over anyway

Alan Sepinwall said...

Sobel=Ross Geller.

Caitlin said...

BoB is an amazing series. I've seen it all the way through 3 times and I try to catch as much as I can when the History Channel runs marathons. One of the great things I love about the series is that these things actually happened to these men. So when something happens to a character that you didn't see coming at all, you're like "Why would they do... oh. right. This really happened."
The episode featuring the doctor is one of my personal favorites... though there were very few that i didn't like. Again, great series.

David Coleman said...

I'd just like to say this is awesome. I have watched most of the mini-series on On Demand in the past few days and kept thinking, "Man, wouldn't it be great if Alan had reviewed this?" There are so many good cameos and work by all the actors. I've probably seen this five or six times already, but I get sucked in every time I see it on History Channel. Thanks Alan!

Wolly and the Teev said...

Re: the Pacific. They've finished filming, or at least part of the filming, as actor Jon Bernthal who is in Night at the Museum 2 just came back from his role. Don't know much else.

And for me, the weakest episode is Blithe's. But he was also the weakest guy in Easy Company, so that's fitting.

Hatfield said...

Ahh, I see! Well then I shall do my best to comment well, as I am averse to running

Jordan said...

I thought the Doc Roe episode was one of the best. But yeah, when Spears comes in is such a great scene.

Anonymous said...

Ok seriously BOB has to be the most amazing mini-series ever done!!!!!!!

Jacob Whitlow said...

Just finished watching this with a group of friends (on Blu-Ray!). We got together every week (Monday night) and watched an episode or two until we finished the series. Have now watched the series all the way through four times. The first time was in college some guys in my dorm. Watching BoB with a group of people makes this amazing series even better. Am really looking forward to your write-ups Alan and to this discussions that will follow. Thanks for doing this.

Andrew said...

Hopefully, Netflix has enough copies to accomodate those of us who subscribe to Netflix but not HBO.

David Z said...

I am really psyched to read your reviews of BOB, I have seen the series more times than I can remember. It is one of those shows that when I stumble across it on History Channel, I set down the remote and just keep watching, even though I own the DVD's and can watch it any time.

Thank you for taking the time to revisit this series and I look forward to reading and commenting on the series.

Andrew said...

In a recent interview, Tom Hanks said that they're aiming for The Pacific to premiere in March 2010, so it's still going to be quite awhile. I'm looking forward to it, despite the fact they gave fucking Jon Seda a lead role. How many chances is that vaccuum gonna get?

I always liked the way they started shifting perspectives in the second half of the series. That said, I wish that they had been a bit more stylistically consistent. I always found it kind of jarring that they used voiceover narration in some episodes but not others.

renton said...

Check Blockbuster stores for copies of BoB if you can't find them at Netflix. My local store has it.

Our library also has it, but there's a wait list.

Better yet, buy the set - but I know that's not an option for everyone.

Great, great series -- sadly overshadowed by debuting right around 9/11.

paul said...

This is one series where the spoiler concept is a bit silly. Most of us have seen the series several times, and we are talking about WW II for heaven's sake.

"Dude, what do you mean the Allies attack Normandy?!? You just ruined the whole series for me."

Charlie Crews' Living Room Furniture said...

..."So when something happens to a character that you didn't see coming at all, you're like "Why would they do... oh. right. This really happened."

I read (or did Hanks/someone comment in the DVD commentary?) that once in awhile, it'll look unrealistic for them to be leaping into foxholes or running across hot zones without helmets on. He was aware of that and did it on purpose, so you could see the actor's faces. Makes sense. Otherwise they're just a bunch of helmets. It's difficult enough in the beginning when so many of the actors look alike. First time I watched the series, only Sobel and Damian Lewis' character stood out.

Hatfield said...

The only spoilers I would care about would be if anyone dies, and since some of them obviously will, who in particular. I only ask that information of that sort be left secret for the rare newbies like me.

Indeed said...

Alan, I'm with you. BoB didn't 'have me' until about half way through because I was spending so much energy figuring out who was who, pecking orders, etc. This 30-something woman hasn't watched a whole lot of war movies. But by about Bastogne I was so riveted. I remember rewatching the series immediately after I finished the DVDs the first time around and absolutely falling in love. Have now watched a third time and still love it. Look forward to your write-ups and the discussion.
I agree that there should be a spoiler rule. I for one knew nothing about Easy Company when i watched it. I wouldn't have enjoyed knowing the fates of the men beforehand.
Curahee!!

Flosh said...

Argh! I guess I'll have to try to push through the whole thing this weekend, then!

Gayle said...

I loaned my DVD's to my dad, but will try to make it through the On Demand ASAP.

I recently made my first trip to New Orleans this Spring and had the pleasure of visiting the WWII museum (outgrowth of the D-Day museum in it's first incarnation) and couldn't help but think of BoB as I toured the exhibits.

RIP Stephen Ambrose, but thankful to know that the miniseries (and his books) live on and that Alan will be giving the episodes the Sepinwall Treatment.

In addition, I can't think of a better way to have ushered in Memorial Day weekend and the upcoming 65th anniversary of D-Day than with a definitive rewatching of BoB.

RichC said...

Thank you Alan. I was hooked from the first 2 episodes when they were originally on HBO. I've watched it so many times, and it's still great.

M.A.Peel said...

I'm happy to participate. I agree perfect timing, with the D-Day anniversary coming up. I wondered how I missed watching this the first time it was on, and saw on the wiki page when it was: Sept. 9, 2001. I missed it on that Sunday, and two days later the world changed in my hometown.

Zach said...

Nice. I've had the Blu Ray boxset sitting around since Xmas and just haven't had a chance to revisit the series. This is a perfect excuse.

smaileh said...

I am really looking forward to reading your BoB comments--like so many others, I love the series, watch it every time it shows up on the History Channel, and have my own copies. I liked the Doc Roe episode and the Blythe episode, but my favorite is the one that focuses on Sgt. Lipton. The one that I don't re-watch that often is the end one (Points). That's the one that drags for me, though I realize that that's the point--the war was basically over and everyone was just waiting to be reassigned. I do enjoy the very end segment of that episode with the baseball game and telling what the different men did after the war was over--a cliche in so many movies but I think necessary in a show like this.

MichaelG said...

Huge BoB fan, but I'm scared by your comment: "These won't be remotely as long or as detail-oriented as the "Wire" reviews." All due respect to The Wire, but I think BoB deserves the full-blown treatment, even if it takes longer. It hasn't gotten much notice in the media, but there's a HUGE BoB fanbase out there.

the Stanfield Org. said...

Best mini-series of all time, possibly the greatest thing to be shown on TV ever, right up there with The Wire, Arrested Development, and a few others. "The Breaking Point" is my personal favorite hour-plus of original TV programming ever. The Blithe/"Carentan" episode was easily the series' weakest, but is still must-see viewing for the series as a whole, and is still pretty solid, all things considered. Can't wait for the posts.

ksquard said...

REALLY looking forward to the Bob reviews. I don't watch The Wire and frankly get annoyed when I see those reviews b/c I really have no interest, but there you go. Lots of people probably didn't like the Cupid reveiws, and I loved 'em.

I adore BoB though and have it playing whenever it's on, even if it's only in the background. Spears' episode is one of my favorites (in fact, when I read the intro quote, my first thought was 'why is he quoting Spears?')but what resonates for me in that ep. is Lipton and all that he does/did for that company> Then, when Spears recounts it all for Lipton at the end of the ep and Lip doesn't even know who Spears is talking about. That's an honorable, selfless man.

I'm also struck in that same scene, by the visual of how many men they've lost as they filled the church pews with all the actors and then systematically erase the ones that are gone.

I always think of this ep when I'm in traffic too b/c inevitably I'll scream out Winters' line "GO FORWARD!"

This is a phenomenal series that nevers gets old or tired. A real accomplishment. I'm very much looking forward to the reviews.

SJ said...

Alan, store.hbo.com has items for 75% off. I just ordered the BoB book for a measly $4 (along with a bunch of items).

Also, greatest miniseries ever. I have been watching it on Blu-Ray and it's stunning

SJ said...

Wow I just read the Stanfield's comment and it sounds like something I would say word for word. I do think BoB is the greatest thing ever put on TV, and the breaking point is probably the most captivating hour of TV ever.

Brent McKee said...

"Band Of Brothers", and before that "From The Earth To The Moon" are proof of my belief that you need a truly epic story to make a real miniseries. Too often the miniseries - like the recent "Diamonds" - is just a made for TV movie that doesn't fit a two houre time slot. "Band Of Brothers" tells a story tha couldn't be forced into a two or even a four hour movie.

jcpbmg said...

Amazing-- I've just bumped BOB to the top of my netflix queue

Anonymous said...

Your quote is from the best episode of the series. I can't wait for your thoughts.

Quackamagooska said...

I am repeating what many have said but BoB is worth it. Best thing ever on television. The testament is that I own the box set (k-ration box) and have watched it at least 5 times all the way through and yet i still stop and watch it when it is on History Channel. I look forward to your reviews. It is interesting to see what TV bloggers are doing in the interim between the season finales and the summer start ups. I think some interesting articles will be written.

Quackamagooska said...

"Go Forward!" That is funny.

Another great thing about the episode where Spears steps up into command is how it shows the chain of command. We see this all through the prism of Winters rising through the ranks and how his role changes. When Dyke is getting guys killed, he wants to run out there and LEAD them and Co. Sink screams at him to stop. That really showed me how the delegation of powers works. It seems like a tiny little thing in such a dramatic episode but those are the things that make BoB so good . . . the details.

mjmercado said...

Simply put, one of the best things HBO ever produced. A buddy recently asked me which three episodes we should watch on Memorial Day. For me it was a no-brainer.

1. Episode 2, Day of Days: Spotlight on Winters, probably my favorite character. The assault on Brecourt Manor is awesome.

2. Episode 7, The Breaking Point: Focuses mostly on Lipton, who rocks. And of course the scene Alan quoted might be the single best moment of the series.

3. Episode 10, Points: Brings it all together, as well as my second favorite BOB moment. "Captain Sobel? You salute the rank, not the man."

Eugene Freedman said...

I do want to comment the Speirs takes over is awesome. The character is absolutely incredible throughout the series, including the speculation related to his post D-Day actions, which incidentally were never proven according to Winters himself.

Because he's deceased, portraying it more like it definitely happened in the TV-series, is okay. Had he still been alive, I doubt they would have implied the action with so much surety.

The most powerful scene to me, however, was when Buck Compton drops his helmet.

I agree that the characters can be confusing- who's who, especially in the assault at Brecourt in Day of Days, but it does become easier.

I became very fond of so many of the characters, including Winters, Nixon, Welsh, Lipton, Randleman, Perconte, Guarnere, and Webster specifically.

Carolyn said...

YAY I'm so glad you're going to watch them. I may be a little slower than you but I will be following along! :)

FlopEJoe said...

Some of my thoughts.

-Band of Brothers and Rome is number one and two on my list of best things to come out of HBO. Curb, Flight, and Sopranos is on the top five list but I'm not sure of their order.

-The book is very readable and obviously gets far deeper into the stories. Pegasus Bridge, also by Ambrose, is another great book on an epic battle.

-I also really liked the medic episode. It showed the bravery of the non-combat folks and how vital they were.

-Popping in BoB disk one tonight!

Anonymous said...

Alan, long time - first time...so glad to see you reviewing Band of Brothers. I know you have a stocked summer with SportsNight and The Wire, Season 2...but the more details you put in BoB, the better, as far as I'm concerned. I'd rather wait a week for one of your posts that is richer and deeper than a rush job just to get something up. Keep up the great work!

Groovekiller said...

Unreal, Alan, you are just awesome!

Before seeing your plan about BoB and Wire, Season 2, I just bought them on DVD to watch them with my Dad who hasn't seen either before he goes back to India for the rest of the summer.

You effing rock.

Katy Cooper said...

The first time I watched BoB was Christmas 2002, the whole thing start to finish (starting with the doc that's part of the boxed set). Now it's a Christmas tradition. So I'm definitely up for discussion.

I always liked the Roe episode because it was a different way of looking at things.

JenJen said...

Got to "Breaking Point" last night, and am reminded of this post, and the quote you posted, from Lt. Spiers, of course.

Can't wait till you catch up, Alan! And also I'm sure we'd enjoy your thoughts on today's D-Day Ceremonies.

I don't think it's a spoiler to say that, although this is my third viewing of the series, I finally realize that Spiers is my favorite Easy Company officer, and probably member. Such brilliance, this show was, and all the more poignant to be watching it from Memorial Day to D-Day. Really puts everything in perspective, doesn't it?