It is not often that a TV series has grabbed my utmost attention but, in the case of the World War 2 drama Band of Brothers, it did so with a vengeance.
Usually the commercial hype puts me off, but this show had two strong drawcards.
One being the pairing of Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks as executive producers, the second was a cast of semi-unknowns.
The latter on big-budget productions tends to point towards strong content not needing 'big-name' sellability. In fact the biggest name on the cast was David Schwimmer from Friends.
There was a lot of flak from critics about his use as a bully-boy, however, I thought he played the role particularly well. (Not being a watcher of Friends probably helped too!)
Anyway, putting aside the need for an early night on Mondays became a ritual as I got caught up in the adventures and lives of the men of Easy Company, in the 506th regiment of the 101st airborne division.
Band of Brothers is very similar in style to the brilliant Saving Private Ryan and it doesn't shy away from blood, guts and killing off characters. (Mind you, is it based on real life people so I guess there was little room for sentiment.)
It is exciting viewing and has the best battlescenes ever made for TV.
And that's not surprising as the series cost about $250million to produce and looking at the imagery leaves you in no doubt about where the money was spent.
The use of digital effects - particularly during the parachute jump scenes - is cinema quality. Spielberg and Hanks did not muck around when spending what they thought necessary to get the desired result and the reward was not only stunning TV - but a bucketful of Emmys.
The photography is utterly superb and the subtle use of grain and muted colours adds a period-quality to the look.
Another very likeable thing about Band of Brothers is its refusal to paint all the Americans as good guys.
There is Allied pillaging, robbing, even the shooting of prisoners and civilians, and the characters are well-rounded and involving. Many of the incidents portrayed come from the diaries, letters and interviews with survivors, and both Spielberg and Hanks have gone a very long way to serve up a thoroughly believable set of men.
The 10-episode series covers four years of WW2 from parachute training, through D-Day and the assault on the Normandy beaches, the battle to liberate France, Operation Market Garden (a Bridge Too Far), the Battle of the Bulge, freeing concentration camp prisoners and capturing Hitler's Eagle's Nest.
Two of the key characters are the young officers Richard Winters (Damian Lewis) and Lewis Nixon (Ron Livingston) and it is mainly through them you see the war unfold.
There are no weak links in the cast and the full-on action and drama will have you absolutely riveted to your screen.