In this post I wrote about five of my favorite DVD series and promised five more. Here are those five.
Band of Brothers
The first is Band of Brothers, the quintessential HBO series from 2001 that does a fantastic job telling the story of the men of Easy Company during World War II. My oldest son and I have watched this more than a few times and along with a friend of mine a few years ago were able to meet some of the surviving men from Easy Company when they came to the SAC Air Museum just 20 minutes away. I don’t subscribe to HBO so I missed this during its original run. When I watched the series for the first time over the course of a week I sat in stunned silence at the end of almost each episode. From the opening interviews with the surviving men of Easy Company, to the opening music and credits, I watched each episode with a solemnity usually reserved for church. It’s perhaps the most powerful series I’ve ever seen, and the ending was about the most sublime piece of filmmaking I’ve ever watched.
I watched The Pacific, another HBO series, a year ago after Nolan and I decided it was a must-have. By itself it is a powerful and often brutal look at the Pacific Theater during WWII. If not for the long shadow of Band of Brothers I believe it would be much more heralded. My son and I both agree that we liked the decision of the producers to devote an episode to what was in store for the men after they returned from war. Band of Brothers did not do this, and I think it was a welcome addition in The Pacific.
The Civil War
The last two I wanted to include here were both on PBS originally and produced by historian Ken Burns. When The Civil War came out it almost single-handedly and seemingly overnight introduced new generations of Americans to the era and its people. The technique he used to tell the stories of that war were revolutionary and did a great job of bringing the stories to life. Before this series history was just a bunch of dry dates and old musty photographs to many people. After The Civil War, it was much more. This is the most famous part of that series and the one everyone seems to remember: Sullivan Ballou’s letter to his wife, Sarah.
Burns followed much of the same formula for his wonderful series Baseball. When this was first shown on PBS in the early 1990s I recorded it on VHS cassette. Nine episodes representing the nine innings and (then) nine plus decades of baseball history and eras. Unfortunately one of the episodes was ruined when our cable in western Nebraska went mysteriously blank while I was recording it and the wait was on for the DVD release, which occurred, but with a very steep initial price of $200. Finally a few years ago I was gifted the set by my family when Burns re-released his original series with a new episode The Tenth Inning, and at a much lower price. Basically a series that covered the history of the game from the 1840s through 1994 was updated with an episode to bring us to 2009. About once a month I’ll put in an episode, sit back and get lost in the stories about the game I love and the men who played it. I’m most grateful to Burns for his tenth episode. Inning Eight spent 20 minutes making me cry over the Red Sox loss to the Mets in 1986. Inning 10 in part celebrates the Red Sox at long last bringing to an end the 86-year drought in storybook fashion by winning the 2004 World Series.
Several years ago Fr. Robert Barron, a priest in the Archdiocese of Chicago, decided to put together a visual tour through the Catholic faith that could be accessible to all. With no funds and a basic outline for a script, he set out to make it happen. He was able to put it all together and the end result was the absolutely stunning 10-part video series Catholicism, the final entry on my list. When I purchased the series for my family last September I immediately decided to have a viewing each Tuesday night for 10 weeks with some men in my prayer group. We’d get together, watch each episode and talk about it a little (or a lot) afterwards over a beer and/or some deer jerky. When we finished prior to Thanksgiving I approached our pastor about hosting a larger audience at our parish social hall beginning in Lent of 2012. This was being done in Catholic churches across the country and Fr. Lyle agreed that we should do the same. I’d hoped for about 20-25 people because asking busy people to commit to two hours for ten weeks is tough. But I was blown away by the response as just short of 100 people registered to watch the series and participate in the study guide and discussions and for ten weeks we consistently held the vast majority of those registrants. You do not have to be a Catholic to enjoy this series and Fr. Barron produced it so it would be accessible to Catholics and non-Catholics alike. Indeed we had a few Lutherans and an Anglican register for our series last winter. It’s simply a beautiful walk and explanation of the faith and takes you to see people and places all over the world that you may not otherwise be able to see.