Hulu’s ambitious slate of original content continues with the release of the Catch-22 6-part miniseries which is produced by George Clooney. The film star also appears in a supporting role and directed several episodes. The miniseries is based on the seminal novel by Joseph Heller and stars Christopher Abbott as John Yossarian.
While the show is presented in a more straight-forward way than the novel, it maintains the contrast of balancing the humor of bureaucracy against the horrors of war. For those unfamiliar, the story centers around US Air Force bombardier John Yossarian who is serving in Europe during World War II. Yossarian, who is trying to get through his military service unscathed, goes to great lengths to avoid dangerous missions. But despite his efforts and bureaucratic ineptitude, Yossarian is forced to complete his missions. In fact, his efforts often directly lead to his superiors increasing the number of missions he must fly to complete his service.
The novel is the origin of the expression “Catch-22.” In the context of this story references a rule which specifies that a concern for one’s own safety in the face of dangers which are real and immediate is the process of a rational mind while a person is insane if they are willing to fly dangerous missions. However, a request to be removed due to insanity must come from the serviceman, which is a sign of sanity. Therefore, as Yossarian finds out, it is impossible to be removed from duty for insanity.
Entertainment history is filled with examples of those who tried to mix genres and have failed miserably. Therefore, one must appreciate the craftsmanship of the writers and directors of Catch-22. There are able to segue from broad comedy to emotional loss at the drop of a hat. The acting is also strong as the performers have a wide range which they need to play in. In addition to Abbott, Kyle Chandler gives a strong performance as a tough colonel which could easily be played as one-dimensional, but is performed with much more than may have been on the page.
In a world filled with content choices, Catch-22 stands out as one of the best offerings released this year on any streaming platform. The production team created a strong narrative that is supported by strong acting. With many more original series coming to Hulu in the coming months, I would be thrilled if they even come close to the quality of Catch-22.
I give Catch-22 5 out of 5 stars
Catch-22 debuts exclusively on Hulu on Friday, May 17. For more on Hulu visit our page.