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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Wednesday, July 23, 2014

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In Movies & TV Commentary

Bookish Robert Leckie (James Badger Dale) sees war up close on Guadalcanal in the premiere of HBO's "The Pacific."

In Movies & TV Commentary

From the first episode, there's a taste of battle in the 10-part miniseries.

In Movies & TV Commentary

Executive producers Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg have pioneered a new realism in war stories.

OnMedia: "Pacific" adds a chapter to TV history


One of the year's biggest TV events kicks off this weekend with the premiere of the latest HBO historical epic from Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg: "The Pacific."

The first hour airs at 8 p.m. Sunday, with numerous repeats on the various HBO outlets through the week.

The sprawling story of the island hopping campaign the U.S. waged in the Pacific during World War II, like its HBO predecessor, "Band of Brothers," focuses on the small picture of individual warriors in a vast struggle.

The stories are punctuated by the loud, painful, frightening realism that Spielberg used to turn "Saving Private Ryan" into something far beyond its melodramatic plot. On a big TV screen, with the sound cranked, "The Pacific" creates an experience that's as close as we'll come to combat in our living room.

Big-screen war films made a splash in the Oscars this year, both Quentin Tarantino's fantasy "Inglourious Basterds" and Kathryn Bigelow's Iraq war drama "The Hurt Locker."

"The Pacific" of course, will unfold differently. Tarantino created an alternate ending to World War II, Bigelow consciously avoided the questions that surround our invasion and occupation of Iraq.

I've only screened the first hour of "The Pacific," so far, and I don't think it's spoiling anything to say that you'll see combat by the time the credits role. Americans got into the fight far sooner in the Pacific than in Europe. And after the attack on Pearl Harbor, which occurs just before the start of this miniseries, there were no questions about why we were in the fight.

The last Hanks-Spielberg HBO miniseries, "Band of Brothers," spent extensive time prepping its boys for the D-Day landing in 1944. In "The Pacific," there's little time to get ready. Combat had begun by 1942.

Don't expect the same focused storyline as the one that drove "Band of Brothers." This was a very different war than the one in Europe. Instead of one specific military unit, "The Pacific" interweaves the stories of several soldiers whose paths cross.

For the next 10 weeks, their stories will be unfolding with an intensity that television rarely reaches.

Lots of lesser TV: The premiere of some other network shows Sunday night demonstrates just how forgettable most television is:

  • NBC's "Minute to Win it." 6 p.m., Channel 4 -- This one-hour game show features Food Network standby Guy Fieri as ringmaster over a bunch of stunt-like games.
  • Fox's "Sons of Tucson," 8:30 p.m., Channel 6 -- Another one of those mean sitcoms about a slacker. In this case, kids are involved.
  • NBC's "The Apprentice," 9 p.m., Chanel 4 -- The latest edition of Donald Trump's "reality" show features disgraced former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich apparently trying to earn money for his legal defense.

There are also a handful of other "reality" premieres and season premieres over the cable spectrum.

The only thing worth scheduling your night around this weekend is "The Pacific."

Speaking of Blago: The ex-Illinois governor showed just how shameless he is, reading David Letterman's top 10 list on Thursday night about his own debut on "The Apprentice."

In many cases, self-deprecating humor can be charming. In the case of Blagojevich, it's pathetic.


Talkbacks

Hitcliff | May 26, 2010 at 8:43 a.m. (report)

can't wait to watch the movie! truly enjoy all the videos and interviews so far [url=http://www.videorolls.com/watch/Steven-Spielberg-and-Tom-Hanks-at-White-House-The-Pacific] http://www.videorolls.com/watch/Steven-Spielberg-and-Tom-Hanks-at-White-House-The-Pacific [/url] it must be smth really worthy. Spielberg, Hanks and company have once again managed to delve beyond the mythic layers of WWII to find a beating heart. Ultimately, that's their greatest gift to the Greatest Generation.

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Hitcliff | May 26, 2010 at 3:46 a.m. (report)

can't wait to watch the movie! truly enjoy all the videos and interviews so far http://www.videorolls.com/watch/Steven-Spielberg-and-Tom-Hanks-at-White-House-The-Pacific it must be smth really worthy. Spielberg, Hanks and company have once again managed to delve beyond the mythic layers of WWII to find a beating heart. Ultimately, that's their greatest gift to the Greatest Generation.

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kinnickinnic | March 13, 2010 at 1:00 a.m. (report)

Band of Brothers was one of the greatest programs in the history of TV. If "The Pacific" comes close, it will be greatly enjoyed. If you still have not seen Band of Brothers, it is available at the Milwaukee library.

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cuprisin | March 12, 2010 at 4:18 p.m. (report)

Hmmm... I just re-read the Newsweek review, which was really a broader look at recent World War II movies, and Caryn James described it as "well-crafted" and said it was nostalgic. She wasn't raving over it, but I wouldn't condense that into your description.

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High_Life_Man | March 12, 2010 at 3:41 p.m. (report)

Newsweek basically said "the Pacific" sucked. Too bad.

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