Plenty of decisions go into whether or not a book becomes a TV show. Pros: If it’s a classic of American literature; if it presents some distinct challenges of narrative perspective. Con that’s maybe a Pro: If there is a competing classic half-century-old film adaptation. Weighing it all eventually resulted in Hulu’s update of the classic tale “Catch-22.”
Hulu released a featurette to tease its upcoming six-part adaptation of the Joseph Heller novel, complete with making-of insights from all three of the series directors (Ellen Kuras, George Clooney, and Grant Heslov). Christopher Abbott also shares some choice insights into his version of Yossarian, the novel’s protagonist, and helps frame the World War II-set story in a modern context.
Clooney opens his part of the interviews reiterating that he and Heslov once turned down the chance to head up the Hulu adaptation. By his account, it was the chance to see how the book translated to the pages of this particular script that eventually convinced them that the project was one worth taking on.
There is plenty of discussion about how the show handles the various swings in tone between satire and the more unnerving realities of fighting a war in the first half of the 20th century. Clooney’s Lieutenant Scheisskopf is a gleefully unhinged authority figure – he wonders how far, exactly, he could push the character’s eccentricities – while Abbott, by contrast, talks about his efforts to make Yossarian’s struggle to leave the service feel more grounded.
With that balance of tone comes a consideration of how far outside the realm of armed conflict this story extends. Kuras explains that the intent of the show is to demonstrate that characters like Colonel Cathcart and Lieutenant Scheisskopf represent more than just the military. As “Catch-22” looks at what it takes to escape the grueling nature of battle (in the air or on the ground), there are themes of submitting to the whims of a faceless bureaucratic giant pursuing power that is still relatable to viewers in 2019.
And, if nothing else, the clip offers the opportunity for audiences around the world to get the chance to see Kyle Chandler shout maniacally at a crowded room. Watch the full interview clip below:
“Catch-22” premieres Friday, May 17 on Hulu.