There’s a TV-related cover on the print TIME this week, though I didn’t write it; historian Douglas Brinkley looks at HBO’s The Pacific, Tom Hanks and the actor’s drive to become America’s celebrity-historian-in-chief. As Brinkley notes, the follow-up to Band of Brothers is similar and in significant ways very different:
Band of Brothers, HBO’s best-selling DVD to date, began airing two days before 9/11; The Pacific, his new 10-hour epic about the Pacific theater in World War II, plays out against a very different backdrop, when the country is weary of war and American exceptionalism is a much tougher sell. World War II in the European theater was a case of massive armies arrayed against an unambiguous evil. The Pacific war was mainly fought by isolated groups of men and was overlaid by a sense that our foes were fundamentally different from us. In that sense, the war in the Pacific bears a closer relation to the complex war on terrorism the U.S. is waging now, making the new series a trickier prospect but one with potential for more depth and resonance. “Certainly, we wanted to honor U.S. bravery in The Pacific,” Hanks says. “But we also wanted to have people say, ‘We didn’t know our troops did that to Japanese people.’ ” He wants Americans to understand the glories — and the iniquities — of American history. How did this shrug-prone comedic actor transform himself into our most ambitious champion of U.S. history? And how is his vision of history shaping the way the past informs and, yes, entertains us?
I’ve watched about half of The Pacific and should be writing more about it here before it debuts March 14, but to my eyes it’s better so far than Band of Brothers (I was in the critical minority that liked BoB but with reservations), in part because of its moral gray areas and a greater clarity of storytelling. Is Tuned Inland eager to watch it?