Into “The Pacific”

If you have HBO and aren’t yet watching “The Pacific,” I highly recommend it.

I watched “Band of Brothers” on HBO when it aired eight and a half years ago, right before the Sept. 11 attacks. I remember it feeling larger than life, sprawling and “important.” On the other hand, I also remember losing track of the characters and having a difficult time forging connections with many of them, just because of how many of them there were.

“The Pacific” succeeds in that area where “Brothers” faltered. Rather than following an entire company, “The Pacific” focuses on three specific men: Robert Leckie, John Basilone and Eugene Sledge. That makes it feel much more intimate and personal. It’s easier to become engaged in and committed to the three men, who are all interesting and unique in their own ways.

It also helps that the three leads (James Badge Dale, Jon Seda and Joe Mazzello, respectively) have all so far been pretty outstanding. You’ll probably find yourself favoring one guy above the others, and for me it’s Badge Dale, whose Leckie is smart, cynical, ornery, just a shade less than insane and deeply poetic. (For my film geek friends, Badge Dale played a significant role in the elevator scene at the end of “The Departed;” yes, that elevator scene. He’s also quite cute and may follow me on Twitter at any time.)

Speaking of film geekery, if Joe Mazzello looks vaguely familiar, it’s because he played little Timmy in “Jurassic Park” back in 1993. And for my fellow “Eurotrip” lovers (it’s one of my favorite guilty pleasures), try to spot Jacob Pitts, aka Cooper, among the Marines in Leckie’s company.

The series is about halfway done. Guadalcanal, Melbourne, Cape Gloucester and Pavuvu are behind, while Peleliu, Iwo Jima, Okinawa and the endgame are ahead. Even knowing what happens, who lives and who dies, I’m eager to see how it unfolds.

I make no secret of being a military history enthusiast, and WWII in particular. It’s something I can share with my dad — we’re watching the show together — and I believe it’s something people my age know appallingly little about. In the end, though, I don’t read and watch WWII material out of patriotism or duty or anything like that. At its heart, it’s a series of great stories that need to and deserve to be told. And I’m a sucker for good stories.

“The Pacific” airs new episodes at 9 p.m. ET/8 p.m. CT Sundays on HBO. Older episodes are available on demand, and repeats air throughout the week. April 11 will be the show’s fifth episode of 10. Here’s the official trailer from HBO.

If you’re interested in reading more about the individual men, you can pick up “Helmet For My Pillow,” written by Leckie, and “With The Old Breed,” written by Sledge. Right now I’m reading “Guadalcanal Diary,” by embedded journalist Richard Tregaskis. There’s plenty of good reading material out there.

Semper fi.

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