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Series / Catch-22

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Catch-22 is a six-episode miniseries adaptation of the novel of the same name that premiered on Hulu in 2019. The series was written by Luke Davies and David Michôd, and features George Clooney as an actor, executive producer and director. The series stars Christopher Abbott as Yossarian, leading an ensemble cast.

John "Yo-Yo" Yossarian is a lieutenant in the US Army Air Force serving in the Italian theatre of World War II, struggling to survive an Army bureaucracy that seems to have it out for him personally as much as German flak. The more missions he completes as bombardier of a B-25 Mitchell medium bomber, the more his superiors raise the number he has to complete before he can muster out and go home.

The miniseries features examples of:

  • Abled in the Adaptation: Major —— de Coverley (played by Hugh Laurie) does not have an eyepatch, as he does in the book.
  • Adaptation Distillation: Most of the sideplots of the original novel have been excised to focus on Yossarian.
  • Adaptation Name Change:
    • Downplayed Trope: While John Yossarian is still the lead character's name, he's almost exclusively referred to as "Yo-Yo." He was referred to as such late in the book by some New Meat that had moved into his tent, but disliked the nickname; Yossarian is, however, consistently referred to as "Yo-Yo" throughout the novel's sequel, Closing Time.
    • The mess officer before Milo (played by Daniel David Stewart) is Schultz (played by Shai Matheson) instead of Corporal Snark.
    • The base leader before Colonel Cathcart (played by Kyle Chandler) is referred to as Colonel Copeland instead of Colonel Nevers.
    • A character with a similar function to the novel's Major Metcalf turns up known as Peele (played by Ian Toner).
    • While Snowden's first name is revealed in Closing Time to be Howard/Howie, here it is Christopher.
  • Adaptation Personality Change:
    • In the books, Major —— de Coverley is The Voiceless and cuts such an impressive figure that no one dares speak to him even though he doesn't seem to do anything useful. When he does speak, it's in broken English, suggesting that he's actually dimwitted. In the series, however, he's an erudite man who holds regular conversations with people and conducts military business around the local community.
    • In the book, Nately's whore (played in the miniseries by Valentina Bellè) is always tired and behaves coldly and mechanically around him, resenting his attention. After she finally gets some sleep, she falls in love with him. In the series, she is always charming and vivacious, milking Nately (played by Austin Stowell) for as much money as she can while caring nothing for him one way or the other.
    • In the novels, the soldier in white never speaks, implying that he's unwilling or unable to speak, possibly because he's unconscious. Yossarian yells at the Texan for uselessly talking to him. In the series, when Yossarian starts yelling at the Texan (played by Joe Massingill), the soldier in white casually pipes up that he's perfectly happy listening to the Texan.
    • Scheisskopf, while still obsessed with parades, is presented as having a bit more intelligence than his book counterpart in that he isn't prioritising the parades over the flying of combat missions and that he's actually aware that Yossarian had been sleeping with his wife.
  • Adaptational Alternate Ending: In the original novel, Yossarian goes AWOL and resolves to live a life of adventure on his own terms, while in the series, Yossarian stops wearing clothes and effectively becomes "insane," with no remaining desire to leave the military.
  • Adaptational Karma: Inverted: Milo Minderbinder never suffers any setbacks in his running of the syndicate, while in the novel he starts having problems later in the story, such as buying too many cotton balls and desperately trying to pass them off as candy by dipping them in chocolate.
  • Adaptational Late Appearance: General Dreedle (played by Peter Guinness) only appears at the end of the very last episode.
  • Adapted Out: Much of the supporting cast, given the novel's number of characters. Some of the notable cuts to the cast include Hungry Joe, Chief White Halfoat, General Peckem, Ex-P.F.C. Wintergreen, and Appleby.
  • Adaptational Nice Guy: All of Doc Daneeka's negative qualities are removed from the series. In the books, he's purely self-interested, a liar who breaks rules whenever it benefits him. In the series, he's morally committed to following the rules and doing the right thing.
  • Ambiguously Jewish: Daniel David Stewart has a vaguely Jewish look and accent as Milo Minderbinder, which combines with his extremely mercantile drive, but his actual background and faith are never addressed.
  • Artistic License – Military: Very little about the story follows real military rules of the age. The whole point was making war seem absurd.
    • There's no such thing as Catch-22.
    • Local officers could not arbitrarily raise the mission quota. That was decided at the very top.
    • There actually are specific rules for returning to base with broken comms, so no pilot would be pilloried for doing so, though the mission would not count against his quota.
  • Catch-22 Dilemma: The series is an adaptation of the Trope Namer. Yossarian is caught in the namesake example when he tries to claim that he's insane and therefore unfit for duty, only to be told that only sane people would ask to be relieved of duty.
  • Composite Character: A couple examples due to the miniseries' Compressed Adaptation status:
    • While he is more or less the same character, Nately is given traits of the novel's character of Kraft in his death weighing on Yossarian due to being partially caused by Yosssarian ordering the planes back over the bridge at Ferrara because they missed the first time.
    • Doc Daneeka (played by Grant Heslov) seems to take on traits of the novel's Major Danby.
    • Colonel Korn (played by Kevin J. O'Connor) is seen purchasing Nately's whore to intentionally needle Nately as Captain Black did in the novel.
  • Compressed Adaptation: Even with almost six hours of running time, the series is a very brief retelling of the novel's plot.
  • Corrupt Bureaucrat: Lieutenant Colonel Korn. Yossarian attempts to beat the ever-rising mission quota by taking other bombardiers' missions in their place, flying eleven runs in six days to get fifty missions total. Korn responds by conveniently mislaying the documents in a stack of papers; he and Cathcart promptly raise the quota.
  • Cuckold: Scheisskopf (played by George Clooney) knows that Yossarian slept with his wife (played by Julie Ann Emery). He takes his revenge by explicitly forbidding Yossarian from getting discharged for any reason.
  • Darker and Edgier: A larger portion of the series is devoted to the story elements of drama and violence, in comparison to the novel, which has a much higher proportion of cartoonish and absurd elements. The fact that we can see the blood and gore also helps.
  • Demoted to Extra: Many characters outside of Yossarian's flight crew (most notably Dunbar [played here by Josh Bolt]) have significantly smaller roles or are outright absent.
  • Driven to Suicide: McWatt (played by Jon Rudnitsky) promptly flies his plane into a hillside after accidentally killing Kid Sampson (played by Gerran Howell).
  • Insane Troll Logic:
    • Catch-22. If a soldier is too afraid to fight, then he's sane and fit to fight. If he's unafraid to fight, then he's insane and unfit to fight. It's the best catch there is.
    • Major Major Major (played by Lewis Pullman) is only available when he's not available. Whenever he's available, he's not available.
    • Milo's syndicate. Everything it does profits everyone, because everyone has a share. This includes allowing Germans to bomb the base, because they're part of the syndicate.
  • Language Barrier: Barely any Italians speak English, and no Americans speak Italian. In one scene, Nately's whore's kid sister (played by Viola Pizzetti) thinks that Yossarian is trying to proposition her, but he's actually trying to ask where her sister is.
  • Male Gaze: Perhaps as a nod to the book's Ho Yay moments, there are a few shots of the Chaplain that can only be described as this—especially the funeral scene, if only for a brief moment.
  • Meaningful Name:
    • "Scheisskopf" literally means "shithead," and he's the most odious character in the series.
    • Snowden (played by Harrison Osterfield) repeatedly states that he's cold.
    • The new recruit in the final episode is named Newman (played by Preston Nyman).
    • Averted by Orr due to an adaptation change. Now he flies away rather than oars away.
  • Named by the Adaptation:
    • Orr (played by Graham Patrick Martin) is given the first name of Ivor.
    • Clevinger (played by Pico Alexander) identifies himself to Scheisskopf as Timothy Clyde Clevinger.
    • Nately's whore and Nately's whore's kid sister both receive names — Clarina and Ines, respectively — and are usually referred to by them.
    • The old man in Rome is named Marcello (played by Giancarlo Giannini).
    • Scheisskopf's wife is named Marion.
    • Lieutenant Mudd (played by Freddie Watkins) is given the first name Henry.
    • The Texan's name is given as Private James Marsh during the medal ceremony.
  • Obstructive Bureaucrat:
    • Lieutenant Colonel Korn intentionally delays filing Yossarian's release papers until after the required mission number is raised.
    • Major Major instructs his secretary, Sergeant Towser (played by Martin Delaney), to refuse audiences with everyone on the base.
  • Poor Communication Kills: How Lieutenant Mudd ends up dead on his first day at the base, thanks in part to Yossarian and Colonel Korn.
  • Running Gag: Milo explaining how his business ventures work is usually drowned out by something incredibly loud in the background.
  • Stepford Smiler: McWatt is implied to be one as he chants, "Happy, happy, happy, happy," while flying his plane into a hillside.
  • Testes Test: Yossarian takes a piece of shrapnel across his scrotum when he's shot down flying with Orr. When he's being patched up later by a village doctor who doesn't speak English, he ends up using knickknacks from the end table to ask the doc through pantomime if both his testicles are still intact. He and Daneeka later try to use the (healed) injury as a reason Yossarian should be medically discharged, only for Scheisskopf to order Yossarian to drop his pants and personally check whether his genitals are intact.
  • Third-Party Deal Breaker: Yossarian manages to blackmail Colonel Cathcart into agreeing to let him rotate home to the States in exchange for keeping mum about Aarfy raping and murdering a woman in Rome, only for General Scheisskopf to override Cathcart his first day on base in petty vengeance for Yo-Yo cuckolding him at the start of the series. (In the book he never found out about the affair.)
  • Those Two Guys: Milo's two young Italian assistants, Lorenzo and Leonardo (played by Domenico Cuomo and Giovanni Stocchimo, respectively).
  • Truer to the Text: Due to its longer run-time, the series is a more faithful adaptation than the 1970 film.
  • Turbine Blender: Kid Simpson gets blended when McWatt mistakenly hits him head-on while making low-altitude passes over the swimming hole.
  • Walking Shirtless Scene: The series has a lot of its running time devoted to the airmen swimming at the local beach, so the characters spend a lot of their time without shirts. In the end, Yossarian spends the bulk of the final episode naked.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: We never find out what happens to Major de Coverley after he stumbles into the Nazi base. Presumably he was captured and will spend the remainder of the war in a POW camp.

Alternative Title(s): Catch 22