Director, producer and actor George Clooney takes a stab at "Catch-22," streaming as a miniseries on Hulu. Joseph Heller's novel is considered one of the best books to emerge from World War II. No less a filmmaker than Mike Nichols failed to capture it with his 1970 movie adaptation.
Philosophizing bombardier Yossarian (Christopher Abbott) enlists in the Army Air Forces in hopes his training will take so long he will miss the war entirely. He runs up against tyrannical officers, including Scheisskopf (Clooney) and cynical operators, including his friend Milo (Daniel David Stewart), who sees the war as an opportunity to build a black-market empire.
Yossarian knows that every bombing mission could mean death. His terror increases every time Colonel Cathcart (Kyle Chandler) increases the minimum number of missions he must fly.
Yossarian would feign madness to avoid duty, but for the Army's "Catch-22," which mandates that someone who fakes insanity to get out of danger is certainly sane.
"Catch-22" is beautifully shot. Scenes glide by in a dreamlike fashion. Hellish bombing runs give way to clever banter between Yossarian and Milo, followed by shots of men playing basketball or frolicking at the beach. Sometimes these can seem like an Abercrombie & Fitch fashion shoot, a bit of cheesecake to wash down the combat and gore.
This glamorous approach puts the characters at an odd distance. Not unlike the aerial scenes, it's a tad above-it-all.
Does "Catch-22" still speak to our times? Humor, particularly black humor, requires a degree of familiarity and comfort with its subject. World War II put tens of millions into uniform, creating an enormous market for comedic tales of bureaucracy in khaki, the kind that would appear on TV on "Sgt. Bilko," "McHale's Navy" and "M*A*S*H." Since then, a generation has grown up with a volunteer Army, leaving many distanced from the military experience and perhaps a bit nervous about ascribing self-serving cynicism to those in uniform.
- The acclaimed series "Fleabag" enters its second season on Amazon Prime. Phoebe Waller-Bridge created the show and plays the lead, a woman in her late 20s who has issues with sex, her body and her family, and is all too willing to talk about them.
As this season begins, she's trying to put her messy, promiscuous days behind her. But her attempts at virtue run aground when she develops a crush on the celibate Catholic priest (Andrew Scott) preparing the wedding of her passive-aggressive father and her former godmother (Olivia Colman, "Broadchurch," "The Crown"). Waller-Bridge also created "Killing Eve" and wrote its first season.
- Netflix's spoof baking-contest game show "Nailed It!" returns for a third season.
Tonight's season finales
- The Wright stuff on "Hawaii Five-0" (10 p.m., CBS, TV-14).
- Skirting disaster on "The Blacklist" (8 p.m., NBC, TV-14).
Tonight's other highlights
- "Megan and Harry Plus One" (8 p.m., CBS) profiles a royal family.
- Guests checking in check each other out on "Paradise Hotel" (8 p.m., Fox, r, TV-14).
- Jane Pauley hosts "No Exit!" (9 p.m., CBS), a glance at commuter woes.
A Broadway veteran (Bette Davis) adopts an ingenue (Anne Baxter) in the deliciously quotable 1950 drama "All About Eve" (9:30 p.m., TCM, TV-PG).
Earth to Sarge on "Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." (8 p.m., ABC, TV-14) ... A mentoring request on "Dynasty" (8 p.m., CW, TV-14) ... "Dateline" (9 p.m., NBC, TV-PG) ... "20/20" (9 p.m., ABC) ... On two helpings of "Whose Line Is It Anyway?" (CW, r, TV-14), Andrea Navedo (9 p.m.), Greg Proops (9:30 p.m.).
Olivia Wilde and Scott Pelley are booked on "The Late Show With Stephen Colbert" (11:35 p.m., CBS) ... Jimmy Fallon welcomes Gabrielle Union and DJ Khaled on "The Tonight Show" (11:35 p.m., NBC) ... Ryan Seacrest, Celeste Barber and Slipknot appear on "Jimmy Kimmel Live" (11:35 p.m., ABC).
Adam Sandler, Rep. Will Hurd and Valerie Franco visit "Late Night With Seth Meyers" (12:35 a.m., NBC, r) ... Ben Schwartz, Tim Roth and Leon Bridges appear on "The Late Late Show With James Corden" (12:35 a.m., CBS, r).