WHAT TO WATCH ON TV
Stream On: World War 2.0

By on October 17, 2019

Detective Chief Superintendent Christopher Foyle deals with the fallout of World War II on the south coast of England in 1940 in Foyle’s War. (IMDB.com)

Long-form streaming TV is closer to the literary novel in scope, while modern cinema, when it’s not based on comic books, is now more akin to short stories. One of our series today uses the same source material as a 1970 film but tells the same story in 270 minutes that the film did in 122. Another is the sequel to a recent film from a 1973 book, taking as its source a 1995 sequel from the same author that carried on the story. The first one we’ll examine, however, is new material written for television. All deal with World War II.

Foyle’s War

In Sussex, on the south coast of England during the Second World War, most of civic life is tied to the war and its fallout on local law enforcement. Detective Chief Superintendent Christopher Foyle is an unassuming but tenacious officer whose cases involve profiteering, the black market, and murder among criminals taking advantage of the confusion caused by the war.

Often he crosses paths with highly placed officials seeking to enrich themselves from the conflict or governmental agencies who are involved in extra-judicial activities, sometimes to achieve a “greater good.” British and American soldiers, and German prisoners or spies come under DCI Foyle’s jurisdiction. He has little patience for those who would circumvent the law for any reason and so has his hands full.

The 90-100 minute episodes are mostly self-contained with a few ongoing threads concerning Foyle’s son in the Royal Air Force, his driver, from the Mechanised Transport Corps, who is seconded to Foyle’s local constabulary to help relieve civilian staff shortages, and his own career. (Impressing MI5 after crossing swords with them, he signs on after the war to help with cold-war espionage.)

The historical accuracy of this 2002 series is stunning, the drama is ingenious and the characters well-rounded, producing an enjoyable and usually thought-provoking entertainment. Foyle’s War can be seen with a subscription ($4.99/month or $49.99 annually) on Acorn TV or the Roku Channel. Here is a 1:23 trailer.

There are hidden depths to Nazi Germany’s submarine service in Das Boot. (IMDB.com)

Das Boot

Taken in part from the novel that produced the film, this ongoing 2018 series extends the story using the book’s sequel Die Festung (The Fortress), about drama surrounding Germany’s WWII submarine service in occupied France. One of its protagonists comes from Alsace-Lorraine, born there when it was part of Germany. (It was annexed to the French Republic in 1918.) She is a young woman who travels to La Rochelle to work as a translator in the German submarine base there, joining her brother who is a radio operator on U-612. When he is called to sea unexpectedly he requests her help in delivering a package later that night, and she discovers her brother is involved in the French resistance. Her boss, a Gestapo Inspector, becomes attracted to her. Her brother’s U-boat is suddenly tasked with the transport of a mysterious American businessman (Vincent Kartheiser, Mad Men) who is doing business with the Reich. The exciting series, which is being favoriably compared to the 1981 movie, is on Hulu, with a second season in the works. Here is a 2:21 trailer.

Orr was crazy and could be grounded. All he had to do was ask; and as soon as he did, he would no longer be crazy and would have to fly more missions. That’s some catch, that Catch-22. The best there is. (IMDB.com)

Catch-22

This audacious 2019 Hulu miniseries is brought to the small screen by Richard Brown, who had executive produced True Detective. He and writer Luke Davies and writer-director David Michôd thought that Joseph Heller’s 1961 novel could stand a longer treatment than it received in the 1970 film. Six 45-minute episodes long, it succeeds in distinguishing itself from its excellent cinematic forbearer by extended storytelling and the talent involved. George Clooney directed two episodes and appears as Colonel Cathcart; Hugh Laurie (House, M.D.) and Kyle Chandler (Bloodline) have major parts. Giancarlo Giannini plays an avuncular Italian pimp.

The big news, though, is Christopher Abbott (Girls), who makes a fine intelligent and paranoid Captain John Yossarian, B-52 bombardier. He will try anything to avoid flying the dangerous missions over Italy in which his squadron is involved. His enemy is not necessarily the Luftwaffe, rather, he believes, it’s the bureauracy that arose in the prosecution of WWII. He and his associates deal with the madness of war in their own mad ways. An airman named Major Major Major is given the rank of Major by an impatient officer who doesn’t want to deal with a Captain Major, becoming Major Major Major Major. Unprepared for his new rank, he directs his aide to allow visitors only when he’s not in the office. Capitalist Milo Minderbinder can supply the base with anything given enough time, and is given the mess service. His wheeling and dealing includes buying aircraft for his “Syndicate” from the Luftwaffe, but goes too far when he sells the German air force bombs with which his base is subsequently attacked. “What’s good for the syndicate is good for everyone,” he declares.

Here is a 1:55 trailer.


Next time I’ll continue my survey of lesser-known streaming TV gems. Email me here and follow Stream On OBX on Twitter.

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