My Obligatory Post on That New Civil War Series….

UPDATEMaybe HBO, maybe not.  About the only thing floating out there close to a press release is an article referencing to the band “Rascal Flatts” and an HBO series with the same name.  Who knows, maybe Andy is right…. But again, let me stress that my concern is not for success or failure of the series from a production standpoint, rather that the theme appears to play upon the same worn out paths (and the reaction to the series has also followed some rather worn out paths).

Just got off the phone with the Chairman of the Civil War Blogger’s Board, who directed me to post something about this New HBO Civil War series in the works.

No not really.

But we’ll see a batch of posts on the Civil War blogs.  Then eventually Dimitri will step down from the mount.  This goes around anytime the Civil War subject arises in the popular media in some form.  (And right now the series producer is there, looking like Les Grossman in the goodie room, saying “Yea, baby!  Free publicity!  I love it!”)

Other commentators have thus far concentrated on the obvious point of order – a lack of color in the cast.  Yes, In the producers’s defense it is early in the process.  Wesley Snipes, currently involved in other important matters and otherwise detained, is a better fit for parts in Abe Lincoln – Vampire Slayer.  Still time to recruit Kanye West for a walk-in role.  Perhaps Ice T might steal the show as Frederick Douglass.

Personally, I’m still stuck trying to reconcile General Bethlehem with General Lee.

The premise of the series is, to quote the site, “JOHN ADAMS meets BAND OF BROTHERS”.  Yes “brothers.”  I don’t have the script handy, but I’m going to take a guess here.  By “brothers” the producers are looking at that wonderful fraternity on the Hudson… I mean West Point.  After all, looking at the site, fourteen of the twenty or so mentioned characters are alumni.  Given the lack of minority students at West Point in the antebellum years, the lack of leading African-Americans in this series might be explained, while standing on a thick rug.   Sort of like HBO’s Pacific, which lacked significant portrayal of Army troops.

Sad that writers can’t make a movie script on a topic as broad as the Civil War without focusing on that single worn thread.  Seriously, wasn’t that the whole undercurrent theme in Gettysburg-Killer Angels?  And a double dose in the prequel Gods and Generals?  You know… how all these generals were really friends driven apart by the angry winds of war?  Damn those politicians who started the war, then skip out of the movies.  For the life of me I can’t understand why Hollywood doesn’t capitalize on those giant, full-color characters like Ben Butler, Edward Baker, Nathaniel Banks, Franz Sigel….

Band of Brothers?  Yes, a great series.  Loved it.  In fact that set was among the finest work ever presented by HBO in my humble, un-professional-movie-critic opinion.  Perhaps the best handling ever on film about the complex relationships between soldiers.  My wife finally understood why I would go to extremes – like driving 200 miles in blizzard conditions to help with a computer problem – for people I’d worked with for just a few scant months, so many years ago.

But are we are really going to see that in To Appomattox?  Seems like a lot of suspended disbelief to conjure up.  Not much “brotherhood” between Buckner and Grant.  Or Sherman and Longstreet.  Familiarity, civility, and perhaps respect.  But the “brotherhood” left those relationships about April or May 1861, as I recall.  Sort of hard to work up to, much less exceed, the level of Band of Brothers in that aspect, given the characters chosen for the series.

Maybe I should propose “failure of the Fellowship of the Ring” as a subtitle.


3 thoughts on “My Obligatory Post on That New Civil War Series….

  1. I guess hatred just doesn’t sell, not when it was so commonly projected from both sides. Sounds like more Hollyweird hack work here. Something else to skip.

    I have been semi-aiding a London producer (via email) on some upcoming something (probably forgettable) on the History Channel concerning Gen. Barksdale. I will surely hope I do not get any sort of credit and I will be sure to miss it.

  2. I’m dubious about this “series.” It doesn’t seem to be based on any particular work (or works), like Band of Borthers, The Pacific, or John Adams all were, so I don’t get the sense that there’s any really unifying story guiding it. I looked through the PDFs of each episode’s “Research Photos/Art,” and they’re nothing but cut-and-pastes of period photos, illustrations and modern artwork, often without identification and with no interpretation or narrative whatever — it looks like a high-school intern’s afternoon project. More important, the cast is described as “(subject to making their deals)” which, in entertainment terms, means they’re not actually on board the project.

    This really looks more like a pitch of a project than an actual one.

    • Note that the web site I’ve linked is most definitely NOT the HBO official site. Looks like the site was used for the “pitch” to be made. And from the looks of things about three months ago. Do you think HBO, and those actors, would let the publicity stand if this were still just a bit of misty dreaming?

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