Twenty five years after ER made George Clooney a star, the Kentucky native returns to TV on May 17 in the war satire Catch-22 on Hulu.
Clooney also directed some of the six episodes while playing Scheisskopf, an "aggressively crazy" U.S. Army Air Force commander in Italy during World War II.
A preview of the series was posted on YouTube as Clooney, producing partner Grant Heslov, star Christopher Abbott (First Man, Girls, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot) and co-writer Luke Davies met with TV writers at the Television Critics Association's winter press tour in Pasadena, Calif.
Clooney said his next project will be an eight-part series on Watergate with Heslov, with whom he produced The Ides of March here in 2011.
Adapted from Joseph Heller's 1961 novel, Catch-22 stars Clooney, Abbott, Kyle Chandler, Hugh Laurie, Martin Delaney, Graham Patrick Martin and Jay Paulson.
When the miniseries was announced at the TCA a year ago, Deadline described it as the story "of the incomparable, artful dodger Yossarian, a bombardier for the U.S. Air Force, which keeps increasing the number of missions the men must fly to complete their service. If Yossarian makes any attempt to avoid the perilous missions he’s assigned, he’ll be in violation of Catch-22, a hilariously sinister bureaucratic rule which specified that people who were crazy were not obliged to fly missions, but anyone who applied to stop flying was showing a rational concern for his safety and was, therefore, sane and had to fly."
In 1970, during the Vietnam War, director Mike Nichols filmed a version of Catch-22 starring Alan Arkin and Martin Balsam. Clooney, a 1979 Augusta Independent High School graduate, told critics he and Nichols were "good friends," and acknowledged that "we stole a couple things from him along the way," Deadline reported. However, the six-part miniseries allows for character developments not possible in a two-hour movie, he pointed out.
When a TV critic compared his over-the-top Scheisskopf to Monty Python's John Cleese, Clooney said: "You have to take a swing and hope you hit the ball. There is no way you can do this half-assed … If you read the scrip t… you can't subtly yell at people ... and can't subtly kill these people."
Davies, also an executive producer, told TV critics that Catch-22 was a "beautiful and hilarious novel about the relationship between war and insanity and capitalism and bureaucracy."
Heller's message was very timely today. "We all wake up every morning these days in a shared global anxiety condition and this novel is a great distillation of that," Davis said.