In terms of production values, scale, scope and sweep, "Winds of War" and it's sequel "War and Remembrance" are unparalleled. WoW consists of two compelling narratives: The larger back story of WWII itself (propelled by the leaders of the era, Hitler, Roosevelt, Churchill, et al), and the smaller, personal stories of the Henry family and friends. The former far more interesting than the latter.
These two story threads are seamlessly woven together by the Henry Patriarch, Victor 'Pug' Henry (Robert Michum) who conveniently Forrest Gumps his way into a half dozen major policy meetings of both the Allies and Axis powers. Believing that a Navy captain could (in the span of 2 years) befriend Roosevelt, chat up Churchill, negotiate with Hitler & Mussolini and toast Stalin...is a bit of a stretch, but here, it works. This is due in no small part to the credibility Robert Michum brings to the role, carrying himself with the kind of dignity and charisma that could indeed curry the respect of these world leaders.
Scenes set within the upper echelons of power (White House, 10 Downing, Wolf's Lair, etc) are far and away the best of the series. While Roosevelt, Churchill and Mussolini all receive effective portrayals, the interpretation of Adolf Hitler by Gunter Meisner tops them all. Balancing the cagey, political brilliance of Hitler with the twisted, maniacal evil has always been a challenge for actors, but Meisner pulls it off nicely. Yes, we see screaming, red faced rants, but they are usually accompanied by creepily engrossing soliloquies (outlining his rational for invading France, and later the USSR) that add depth and dimension to the madness.
The story of the Henry family is only interesting in so far as it connects to the larger WWII narrative. Seeing the direct, human impact that Hitler's aggression and tyranny has on the Henry circle is effective and instructive. However, almost every other aspect of their family story is inconsequential and trite.
Which brings me to the loathsome of WoW: Ali MacGraw. As Natalie Jastrow, the love interest for Pug's son Byron (Jan-Michal Vincent), Ali delivers quite possibly the worst acting performance ever filmed opposite Jan-Michael (and yes, I am including the Airwolf helicopter). Her performance manages to be both bland and shrill, sucking the life out of every minute she's on screen (which, when added up, sadly accounts for about 1/3 of the 15 hour running time). Watching her slack-jawed, one-note performance, I felt pity for the other actors dragooned into her orbit and mourned for the movie that could have existed in her absence. For a glimpse of that movie, you need only rent "War & Remembrance" where her character was thankfully recast with Jane Seymore.
However, one long, grating, bad note cannot spoil what is still an impressive achievement and worth the investment in time.