With HBO’s latest war mini-series The Pacific due to start this week (for those who are willing to pay Sky for the right to watch a TV series on one of their movie channels…), I’ve decided to do a fairly arbitrary and unnecessary comparison of the two previous big HBO war shows; Band Of Brothers and Generation Kill.
On the surface, they’ve got a lot in common. They were both HBO productions and were therefore free from the constraints of network TV when it comes to swearing and violence. They were both based on true events, having been adapted from books either written with firsthand accounts from those who were there or by an actual witness of the events. Most of all, they were both really very good, which is why this comparison shouldn’t be taken too seriously.
What sets BoB and GK (as they will now will be known) apart is summed up by the different wars they depicted. BoB showed one unit’s passage through the Second World War, and no matter how unflinching a depiction of the flaws of American soldiers and the military in general, there can be no doubting that their was a just mission, so the moral highground is always there and the tone is suitably reverential, right down to the sweeping music and the look of the whole show.
GK shows a far more divisive war, set in Iraq around the time of the invasion and the fall of Saddam, events that had even taken place after BoB had been made, and events that have changed how this generation sees war in the same way that Vietnam did in the 60s and 70s. Unsurprisingly, this makes for a far more cynical and nihilistic view of the actions of the soldiers, as well as making GK a lot funnier than BoB, as well as more willing to show ‘heroes’ who are as evil, if not more so, than the ‘baddies’.
You can’t deny the power of BoB, particularly in its use of interviews with surviving members of Easy Company, and you certainly can’t deny that it is an astonishing piece of television as well as one of the very best dramatic portrayals of WWII, with Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks removing some of the treacle that weakened Saving Private Ryan. However, simply because I’m a cynical type, I’d probably opt for Generation Kill as my favourite of the two.
See, I told you it’d be arbitrary and pointless. Bring on The Pacific!
- Band of Brothers_Baseball Scene (broeder10.wordpress.com)
- ‘Band of Brothers’ Soldier Dies At 90 In Washington (npr.org)
- The Pacific: A Must See (pennosrandomness.wordpress.com)