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Why 'Band Of Brothers' Lasts: A Perspective From One Of Its Writers
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True story: When Tom Hanks told me and the other screenwriters of Band of Brothers that he was going to place interviews with the “guys” (as we called them) in front of our episodes, we all howled what a terrible, awful idea it was. It would make everything that followed look like Hollywood re-enactments, just actors in costumes with toy guns.
We were so, so wrong.
The interviews gave everything that followed a gravitas, a patina of reality, that drove home in a fashion better than any of our writing could do that this was real life. That this happened to real men. And many didn’t make it home.
I vividly recall our collective nervousness as the show was about to air. Were there too many characters? Aren’t they all dressed alike? Will the audience be able to track who is who? Or is it just a mush of handsome actors in Corcoran jump boots?
And then there was the concern (by the writers) of a certain unevenness in the show. There were seven writers, and surprisingly little communication between us. One lived in Paris, another on a boat in San Francisco, another in Carmel, and the rest in Los Angeles. We had exactly one “all hands” meeting, and barely talked story during any of it. We pretty much each focused on our own episodes, trusting that Tom and Steven would make sure it all fit together.
But we were definitely worried. One episode had “Bull in a Barn” (as we called episode four, the episode that was the most re-written, as I recall), another had a medic we barely see in other episodes, and another had an alcoholic intelligence officer trying to make sense of it all. Would it add up to a cohesive whole?
The answer, as we now know, is yes. That disparity of points of view is one of the show’s greatest strengths.
Another strength? Band of Brothers was one of the very first TV shows to be shot and broadcast in widescreen — at a time when very few televisions were made that way (most people originally saw the show with black bars on the top and bottom of their square TV screens). Same thing with the sound. Tom and Steven insisted that it be mixed like a movie, in surround sound, when very few people had home surround systems. I am convinced that if we had not done these things — at Steven’s insistence, by the way — that today, the show would look and hear antiquated, as if from another era. Instead, technically, it still holds its own against any movie or TV show made today.
But ultimately, I think Band of Brothers’ endurance can be attributed to two things: the inherent power of Easy Company’s story, and the commitment of every one of the thousand or so people who worked for years to get that story right.
Additionally, ten and a half hours gave us the time to explore the experiences of infantrymen in a way that had never really been done before. Universal truths about warfare were shown. Good leadership. Bad leadership. The exhilaration of war. The horrors of war. Fought by men of honor, and men not so honorable.
But mostly, Band of Brothers succeeded in living up to its ambitious title. Men (and now women) fight for many reasons, but mostly, they fight, kill, and die for their friends in the next foxhole.
John Orloff was nominated for an Emmy for his writing on “Band of Brothers,” as well as an Independent Spirit Award for his screenplay for “A Mighty Heart,” the story of Daniel Pearl’s abduction and murder. He is currently adapting Don Miller’s “Masters of the Air” into a 10-hour miniseries for Tom Hanks, Steven Spielberg, and HBO.
Senior defense officials offered a wide range of excuses to reporters on Wednesday about why they may not comply with a subpoena from House Democrats for documents related to the ongoing impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump.
On Oct. 7, lawmakers subpoenaed information about military aid to Ukraine. Eight days later, a Pentagon official told them to pound sand in part because many of the documents requested are communications with the White House that are protected by executive privilege.
Senators Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) and Johnny Isakson (R-GA) will announce legislation Wednesday aiming to "fix" a new Trump administration citizenship policy that affects some children of U.S. service members stationed abroad.
The inside story of how The Village People shot the Navy's most controversial recruiting video onboard an active warship
The video opens innocently enough. A bell sounds as we gaze onto a U.S. Navy frigate, safely docked at port at Naval Base San Diego. A cadre of sailors, dressed in "crackerjack" style enlisted dress uniforms and hauling duffel bags over their shoulders, stride up a gangplank aboard the vessel. The officer on deck greets them with a blast of a boatswain's call. It could be the opening scene of a recruitment video for the greatest naval force on the planet.
Then the rhythmic clapping begins.
This is no recruitment video. It's 'In The Navy,' the legendary 1979 hit from disco queens The Village People, shot aboard the very real Knox-class USS Reasoner (FF-1063) frigate. And one of those five Navy sailors who strode up that gangplank during filming was Ronald Beck, at the time a legal yeoman and witness to one of the strangest collisions between the U.S. military and pop culture of the 20th century.
"They picked the ship and they picked us, I don't know why," Beck, who left the Navy in 1982, told Task & Purpose in a phone interview from his Texas home in October. "I was just lucky to be one of 'em picked."
Defense Secretary Mark Esper on Tuesday casually brushed aside the disturbing news that, holy shit, MORE THAN 100 ISIS FIGHTERS HAVE ESCAPED FROM JAIL.
In an interview with CNN's Christiane Amanpour, Esper essentially turned this fact into a positive, no doubt impressing public relations and political talking heads everywhere with some truly masterful spin.
"Of the 11,000 or so detainees that were imprisoned in northeast Syria, we've only had reports that a little more than a hundred have escaped," Esper said, adding that the Syrian Democratic Forces were continuing to guard prisons, and the Pentagon had not "seen this big prison break that we all expected."
Well, I feel better. How about you?
On Wednesday, the top U.S. envoy in charge of the global coalition to defeat ISIS said much the same, while adding another cherry on top: The United States has no idea where those 100+ fighters went.
A senior administration official told reporters on Wednesday the White House's understanding is that the SDF continues to keep the "vast majority" of ISIS fighters under "lock and key."
"It's obviously a fluid situation on the ground that we're monitoring closely," the official said, adding that released fighters will be "hunted down and recaptured." The official said it was Turkey's responsibility to do so.
President Trump expressed optimism on Wednesday about what was happening on the ground in northeast Syria, when he announced that a ceasefire between Turkey and the Kurds was expected to be made permanent.
"Turkey, Syria, and all forms of the Kurds have been fighting for centuries," Trump said. "We have done them a great service and we've done a great job for all of them — and now we're getting out."
The president boasted that the U.S.-brokered ceasefire had saved the lives of tens of thousands of Kurds "without spilling one drop of American blood."
Kade Kurita, the 20-year-old West Point cadet who had been missing since Friday evening, was found dead on Tuesday night, the U.S. Military Academy announced early Wednesday morning.
"We are grieving this loss and our thoughts and prayers go out to Cadet Kurita's family and friends," Lt. Gen. Darryl Williams, superintendent of West Point, said in the release.