Slow Seeds: The Rise of the Series

I still remember the first time I saw Band of Brothers. I was in junior high school, and I’d been curious about ever since I saw an early teaser. Back in those days (wow, now I feel old) HBO wasn’t quite the same studio it is now. The first season of Game of Thrones was still a decade away. The Sopranos was still fresh on everybody’s mind. Television was, in many ways, in good (if not great) shape. Band of Brothers wasn’t good. Band of Brothers was a revelation.

On the surface, it sounds like any other war movie - we follow Easy Company on their adventures and misadventures through war-torn Europe at the height of World War II. What made it so excellent was the real estate with which the show could explore its characters. I’d never see anything where every character was essentially made the main character of an entire episode. We see the story of Easy Company as told through the eyes of her men. It’s a riveting tale of an era of American history that is now dipping past the horizon into the storied past. Band of Brothers in some ways feels like a time capsule, functioning as one of the great swan songs of the World War II drama.

I showed it to everybody who would watch it with me. Years later, I’d watch The Pacific - and later still, Generation Kill. All of these miniseries’ are consistently excellent. The Pacific is perhaps the most inaccessible, due in part I think to its brutal subject matter. I maintain, however, that the portrayal of Marines as put on display in Generation Kill is the single most accurate depiction of what it’s like to be a Marine.

As we ride into the conclusion of the final season of Game of Thrones, I find myself thinking about the days when Band of Brothers felt like something new. We take it almost for granted now that our HBO series’ should have budgets that rival the biggest Hollywood blockbusters, but that was certainly not the case, even ten years ago. Sure, Game of Thrones has earned a lot of credit as being a trailblazer in terms of showing what a well-built series can do. Band of Brothers, I’d argue, was Game of Thrones before Game of Thrones.

Regardless of where we feel this golden era of television began, one thing is for certain: this is a great time to be a fan of TV. We are spoiled with not one, not two, but several high caliber shows with great writing and wonderful acting. I’ve just started watching Barry, which marks the directorial debut of veteran actor Bill Hader. It’s wonderful. Amanda and I watched Russian Doll this past year, and it was some of the best writing I’ve ever seen put to the screen. On the SciFi channel, The Expanse is filling the nigh-unfillable shoes left behind by the first two seasons of Battlestar Galactica (Good hunting!). Netflix’s Stranger Things has become a pop culture icon, even as it pays homage to the icons which came before it, while it’s other famous outing Queer Eye are striving to raise the self-esteem of its audience.

I could go on, but I won’t. I just wanted to say, as Game of Thrones prepares to air it’s penultimate episode on Sunday night, that I’m so grateful that I was alive for this generation of storytelling.

What are some of your favorites?

-R