This week sees the start of 10-part miniseries The Pacific, Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks’ follow-up to their 2001 miniseries Band of Brothers. But while that show followed US troops in Nazi-occupied Europe, this one shows the battles that US marines waged against the Japanese army across, well, the Pacific Ocean. It focuses on three US marines, John Basilone (Jon Seda), Robert Leckie (James Badge Dale) and Eugene Sledge (Joe Mazzello), as they fight from 1942 to 1945, taking in the infamously bloody battle of Iwo Jima, among others. Such is the scale of the thing, in fact, that it cost an estimated US$200 million (Dhs735 million) to make. But Spielberg’s TV history hasn’t always been this epic, as you’ll see in these picks from his career.
United States of Tara (2009)
The show: Spielberg stepped in as producer on this sitcom, which was created by Juno writer Diablo Cody. It focuses on Tara, a housewife and mother whose multiple personality disorder results in her body being taken over by characters such as T, a wild teenager, and Buck, a crude-mouthed, gun-toting, male ex-soldier.
Star power: Golden Globe-nominated actress Toni Collette (The Hours) takes the lead(s) as Tara and her many personalities. My Big Fat Greek Wedding’s John Corbett also stars.
The show: In a call-back to his Close Encounters of the Third Kind days, Spielberg oversaw this wide-ranging 10-part sci-fi miniseries. It follows three families over six decades as they deal with alien abductions and government conspiracies.
Star power: Spookily mature child actress Dakota Fanning (pictured) narrates the series and plays equally spooky alien child Lisa. Julie Benz (Dexter, Angel) and Matt Frewer (Max Headroom) also star.
Band of Brothers (2001)
The show: After the success of Saving Private Ryan, the production team of Spielberg and Tom Hanks made this incredibly well-received WWII miniseries, based on the memoirs of real soldiers. Spielberg kept a close eye on the show, providing the ‘final eye’ on everything from episodes to trailers. Hanks did a directing turn as well.
Star power: The show stars a pre-Wanted James McAvoy and a post-Friends David Schwimmer. Simon Pegg (Hot Fuzz, Star Trek) also makes a cameo appearance.
The show: This animated series, which was a cross between a sketch show and a series of cartoon shorts, remains a much-loved cult classic. Spielberg himself oversaw every script, came up with story ideas and attended recording sessions. He also defended the show’s irreverent and anarchic attitude in the face of criticism from education-obsessed media watchdogs.
Star power: The cast was a who’s who of voice acting (including Simpsons stars Nancy Cartwright and Tress MacNielle), and gave regular work to Ron Perlman (Hellboy).
SeaQuest DSV (1993)
The show: One of Spielberg’s less distinguished shows, the sub-based SeaQuest DSV started off as a noble attempt to show off the wonder of the deep blue sea, but network interference saw the scripts turn into monster-of-the-week schlock. Spielberg left at the end of season two, which is when it got really bad. These facts are probably connected.
Star power: The submarine’s captain was none other than Roy Scheider, star of Spielberg’s Jaws. Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water, etc…
Amazing Stories (1985)
The show: This anthology series, kind of a lighter version of The Twilight Zone, was overseen by Spielberg, who also directed two of its episodes: pilot ‘Ghost Train’ and the well-remembered ‘The Mission’, in which a doomed WWII fighter plane gets some unusual help from above.
Star power: The show had many guest actors, but our favourite was Back to the Future’s Christopher Lloyd (above) as a ghoulish teacher in ‘Go to the Head of the Class’.