George Clooney is the commander you don’t want in the new Hulu series “Catch-22.”
Cast: Christopher Abbott, Kyle Chandler, Hugh Laurie, George Clooney
Airs: Six-part limited series premieres Friday on Hulu
Premise: John “Yoyo” Yossarian (Abbott) is a World War II U.S. Air Force bombardier frustrated by every aspect of the war. He desperately wants to go home, but his commander continues to increase the missions his squad must fly to complete its service.
The series is based on Joseph Heller’s novel of the same name. Clooney stars and also serves as an executive producer.
Highs: For a man of his time, Yoyo looks at military life from an unusual lens. Most World War II soldiers are portrayed as gallant men of honor, willing to sacrifice for the greater good; it’s the image most think of when the Greatest Generation comes to mind. Yoyo is far from that ideal. He’s scared, questions authority and doubts himself and the purpose of the war.
Yoyo’s not afraid to die, but he doesn’t want to perish while serving a military bureaucracy. He epitomizes every fear and doubt likely experienced by anyone who has been in combat, so his occasionally aberrant behavior is understandable.
Existing in conditions where all emotions are heightened doesn’t make “Catch-22” only a drama. Viewers will see the brotherhood formed by men at war with a mutual understanding only they can share. And acts of cruelty, kindness and humor resonate more loudly than they likely would under regular circumstances.
Set in a life-or-death environment, themes of integrity, greed, justice and irony are all over this series. It’s an unusual combination, but they blend well, making “Catch-22” a great viewing experience.
Lows: Initially, Yoyo is a hard character to support. Audiences have been trained to see soldiers as heroic, so part of you will wish he’d just put on his big boy pants and do his job. It’s not until episode three that he can be viewed as a sympathetic character.
Grade: “Catch-22” was published in 1961 to a mixed reception. Reviewers either loved or hated it. I can see this series generating a similar response as it mocks and honors military life. The novel went on to become a modern classic, but only time will tell if viewers see the TV program in the same light.
Gazette TV critic Terry Terrones is in the Television Critics Association and the Broadcast Television Journalists Association.