Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Band of Brothers (2001)

Band of Brothers is a ten-part, 11-hour television miniseries, based on the book of the same title written by the late historian and biographer Stephen E. Ambrose. The episodes first aired in 2001 on HBO and are still run frequently on various TV networks around the world. The executive producers were Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks, who had collaborated on the World War II film Saving Private Ryan (1998).

The series is a fictionalized account of "Easy Company" (part of the 2nd Battalion, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment), assigned to the 101st Airborne Division of the United States Army during World War II. Starting with jump training at Camp Toccoa, Georgia, Band of Brothers follows the unit through the American airborne landings in Normandy, Operation Market Garden, the Siege of Bastogne, and on to the end of the war, including the taking of the Eagle's Nest and capitulation of Japan.

All of the characters portrayed are based on actual members of Easy Company; some of them are recorded in interviews as preludes to each episode (their identities, however, are not revealed until the close of the finale). Major Richard Winters (1918–2011), played by Damian Lewis, leads the cast and is the main subject of the episodes "Day of Days", "Crossroads" and the final episode, "Points".

The series was shot over 8 to 10 months at the Hatfield Aerodrome in Hertfordshire, England, on which various sets, including replicas of European towns, were built. This location was also used to shoot the film Saving Private Ryan. Twelve different towns were constructed on the large open field, including the towns of Bastogne, Belgium; Eindhoven, Netherlands; and Carentan, France. The village of Hambleden, in Buckinghamshire, England was used extensively in the early episodes to depict the site of the company's training in England and for scenes later in the series. The scenes set in Germany and Austria were shot in Switzerland, in and near the village of Brienz in the Bernese Oberland and the nearby Hotel Giessbach.

Band of Brothers was the most expensive television miniseries made by HBO or any other television network at the time it was created. This record would be superseded by The Pacific (2010). The budget for Band of Brothers was approximately $125 million, which comes to an average of $12.5 million per episode. An additional $15 million was allocated towards the promotional campaign, which involved, among other things, hosting screenings for World War II veterans.

One of those screenings was at held at Utah Beach, Normandy. On June 7, 2001, 47 Easy Company veterans were flown to Paris and then traveled by chartered train to the site, where the series premiered.

The television premiere on September 9, 2001 drew 10 million viewers. However, two days later the September 11 attacks occurred, and HBO immediately ceased its marketing campaign. The second episode nonetheless drew 7.2 million viewers. Band of Brothers is one of the best-selling TV DVD sets of all time, having sold about $250 million.

The series was nominated for 19 Emmy Awards, and won six, including "Outstanding miniseries," "Outstanding Casting for a miniseries, Movie, or a Special," and "Outstanding Directing for a miniseries, Movie, or a Dramatic Special." It also won a Golden Globe for "Best miniseries, or Motion Picture Made for Television," an American Film Institute award, and was selected for a Peabody Award for "...relying on both history and memory to create a new tribute to those who fought to preserve liberty." It also won a 2003 Writers Guild Award (Television, Adapted Long Form) for episode six ("Bastogne").

The Pacific
(2010) is a ten-part television miniseries produced by Steven Spielberg, Tom Hanks, and Gary Goetzman in association with HBO Miniseries. The Pacific was spearheaded by Bruce McKenna (co-executive producer), one of the main writers on Band of Brothers. Hugh Ambrose, the son of Band of Brothers author Stephen Ambrose, served as a project consultant.

The series is a companion piece to the 2001 miniseries Band of Brothers and focuses on the United States Marine Corps' actions in the Pacific Theater of Operations within the wider Pacific War. Whereas Band of Brothers followed one company of the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment through the European Theater, The Pacific centers on the experiences of three Marines (Eugene Sledge, Robert Leckie and John Basilone) who were all in different Regiments of the 1st Marine Division.

Filming was done in and around Melbourne, Australia where US troops camped in 1943, and in other locations in Far North Queensland. Originally the project was estimated at $100 million to produce, but ended up costing over $200 million, making The Pacific the most expensive television miniseries ever created by any network.

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