A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Catch-22 is a comedy-drama about a group of U.S. Air Force soldiers during World War II. The title refers to a contradictory situation like when the main character, Yossarian (Christopher Abbott), pretends to be crazy in order to avoid combat --but then the fact that he wants to avoid combat proves him to be sane. Fittingly, the show's main focus is how bureaucracy and other forms of institutionalism can create these types of contradictions throughout the military, causing soldiers to suffer and die within a broken system. Many aspects of the show feel dated -- for example, the lack of diversity within the almost all-male cast, and the characters' use of offensive insults such as "mentally retarded." The show features other harsh language, including "f--k" and "s--t," lots of female nudity, and simulated sex.
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What's the story?
In CATCH-22, Yossarian (Christopher Abbott) is a bombardier in the U.S. Air Force during World War II. When he's forced to continue flying on life-threatening missions, he tries to con his way out of service by faking injury and mental illness. This is the story of Yossarian's experiences in the military, including how he and his fellow soldiers (including George Clooney, Kyle Chandler, and Hugh Laurie) can get trapped in an endless cycle of war, largely because of the contradictory protocols that guide the armed forces.
Is it any good?
Hulu's adaptation is well-made and well-acted, with a battery of incredible guest actors, as well as a rising star in Christopher Abbott in the lead role. Joseph Heller's best-known novel has been so widely imitated and deeply influential that it's fair to wonder what new insight it might have to offer in 2019. Unfortunately, that's the thing that keeps Catch-22 from being a capital-G great show: It doesn't seem to have anything to say about our present. The satirical tone keeps us at an arm's distance emotionally from Yossarian and his fellow soldiers' stories, and -- even though the show nails some of the jokes and snappy dialogue -- what was once biting commentary on war and the American military now feels toothless.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about examples of catch-22s. When did you learn what the show's title means? How are catch-22s used throughout the show?
How does Catch-22 portray life in the military? What do you think the show's opinion is on life in the military?
How do you feel about Yossarian? Do you understand his desire to fake injuries and mental illness? What do you think drives him?
Our editors recommend
For kids who love drama
Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.
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