Created by Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg, who were four years removed from their masterful collaboration on the WWII epic “Saving Private Ryan,” “Band of Brothers” is based on Stephen A. Ambrose’s meticulously detailed history of Easy Company, which belonged to the celebrated 101st Airborne Division. Despite its pedigree, it was a risky undertaking at the time. The entire miniseries cost $125 million, making it the most expensive undertaking of its kind in television history. If the show flopped with critics, it would be a massive black eye for HBO, which had just unwittingly kicked off the “peak TV” era with the 1999 premiere of “The Sopranos.”
As a result, Hanks and Spielberg put their best available men on the series. The great Phil Alden Robinson, who gave us bonafide big-screen masterpieces in “Field of Dreams” and “Sneakers,” helmed the pilot, while battle-tested industry pros like David Nutter, Richard Loncraine, and Mikael Salomon (the genius cinematographer of “The Abyss,” “Always” and “Backdraft”) picked up episodes along the way. The writing staff included Graham Yost (“Justified”) and E. Max Frye (“Something Wild”).
And that B-list cast turned in A-plus, compellingly authentic performances. Damian Lewis owes his Hollywood career to his portrayal of Major Richard Winters, while familiar faces like Ron Livingston, Neal McDonough, Scott Grimes, Michael Cudlitz, and Kirk Acevedo are all exceptional. “Band of Brothers” is a harrowing experience (though not quite as harrowing as its follow-up “The Pacific”), and as satisfying a journey as you’re likely to find on Netflix. In this case, follow the crowd. You can’t go wrong with this essential piece of television.