Riding the Catch-22 Train

Catch-22 tells the story of Yossarian, a bombardier with the US Army Air Corps during WWII. Yossarian becomes convinced that the military will never let him go home as they keep raising the required number of missions – so he seeks another way out. In 2011, we finally found my grandfather’s war diary; this was the diary my father always said I should compare to Catch-22. What followed was years of research and a realization that Papa Julie’s World War II story was known by millions, but somehow eluded those of us closest to him. 

Hulu is set to release a 6-part miniseries of Catch-22 on May 17th.  The show was written by Luke Davies, who was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay in 2016 for the film Lion, and features a cast including George Clooney as General Scheisskopf, Hugh Laurie as Major_de Coverley, Kyle Chandler as Colonel Cathcart, and Christopher Abbott as Yossarian.    

Hulu has released two trailers to date, but I hadn’t seen any advertisements until my ride home on the NYC subway earlier this week.  As I walked off the S train in Times Square, I was hit with images of B-25 bombs and the tagline “there’s only no way out”.  Every advertising space in the station was plastered with Catch-22 posters. 

Catch-22 has been adapted on screen previously, including:

  • In 1970, a Catch-22 movie hit the theaters, directed by Mike Nichols, written by Buck Henry, and starring Alan Arkin as Yossarian, Jon Voight as Milo, and featured Orson Wells, Martin Balsam, Jack Gilford, Art Garfunkel, Bob Newhart, Anthony Perkins, and Martin Sheen among others.
  • In 1973, a TV series was piloted featuring Richard Dreyfuss as Yossarian, however no additional episodes were produced.  See the pilot episode below.

About the 1970 movie, Joseph Heller commented that he “was prepared not to like the movie…It’s a matter of vanity. My feeling is that complex novels don’t make good movies. I never expected anything of a movie of my novel. It wouldn’t have bothered me if a movie had never been made.” However, upon the conclusion of a private screening, Heller caught up with Director Mike Nichols, took him by the arm and said, “I guess maybe it’s the best movie I ever saw.” According to Heller, “that broke the ice and we went out and had a sandwich together.”

In the Hulu project’s early stages, Richard Brown, the original producer of the series said, “I love the movie. I think it was great but I wish it was six hours long – I think it needs to be to get all the important bits in there… There is too much there to condense into a two-hour film.”

Looking forward to seeing Christopher Abbott’s take on Yossarian. More to come on this as the show is released.

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