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Sky Italia, Britain’s Channel 4 Board George Clooney’s TV Adaptation of ‘Catch-22’

Sky Italia and Britain’s Channel 4 have boarded George Clooney’s “Catch-22” TV series, which is set to start shooting in Italy this month.

Sky Italia, part of pan-European pay-TV service Sky, will co-produce the adaptation of Joseph Heller’s anti-war classic and air it exclusively in Italy. Channel 4, which is an advertiser-funded pubcaster, has acquired British rights to the limited series, which marks Clooney’s first regular TV role since NBC’s “ER.”

Sky is joining Paramount Television, Anonymous Content, and Clooney and Grant Heslov’s Smokehouse Pictures as a “Catch-22” co-producer. The hotly anticipated series, planned to be ready in 2019, will air in the U.S. on Hulu, which commissioned the show. 

“Catch-22” is produced by Clooney and Heslov along with Richard Brown (“True Detective”) and Steve Golin (“Spotlight”) from Anonymous Content. Luke Davies (“Lion”) and David Michod (“Animal Kingdom”) are co-writing and executive producing the series alongside Clooney. Ellen Kuras (“Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”) will be co-directing the series with Clooney and Heslov.

The six-episode show, set in Italy during World War II, centers on Capt. John Yossarian, a U.S. Air Force bombardier who while trying to complete the number of flight missions required to go home, must contend with an absurd bureaucratic rule. The so-called Catch-22 rule specifies that a man is considered insane (and therefore ineligible for combat) if he willingly continues to fly dangerous combat missions, but a request to be removed from duty is evidence of sanity and therefore voids the ineligibility. The term has become synonymous with an illogical or paradoxical situation. 

As previously announced, Yossarian will be played by Christopher Abbott (“The Sinner,” “Girls”). Hugh Laurie (“House,” “The Night Manager”) has been cast as squadron officer Major de Coverley, who “dances to the beat of his own drum” and spends his time pitching horseshoes, listening to jazz, and mixing himself martinis, according to promotional materials.

Kyle Chandler (“Bloodline”) will play Colonel Cathcart, the commander who repeatedly increases the number of combat missions that are required before a soldier can return home. Clooney was originally set to play this part, but then decided to take the smaller role of Scheisskopf, the training commander at Yossarian’s cadet school, in order to focus more on his duties behind the camera. 

Scheisskopf is being described as not very likable. “He’s not the type of person who puts his cadets’ interests before his own career. He’s ambitious, but also inept,” the materials said.

Sky Italia’s executive vice president of programming, Andrea Scrosati, said in a statement that his company is particularly proud a high-profile project such as “Catch-22” will be shot almost entirely in Italy. He added that the country “in recent years has been able to fully show its creative and production potential, even at an international level,” and said Sky was the first broadcaster to tap into this potential by producing shows, such as “The Young Pope,” that “are now recognized and appreciated abroad.”

The “Catch-22” shoot, which is being serviced by Leone Film Group’s Lotus Production arm, will take place in Sardinia and Rome.

Channel 4 Director of Programmes Ian Katz described “Catch-22” as extremely timely. “It’s hard to imagine a work that speaks more directly to the frequently absurd times we live in, and to the growing sense of individual distrust of institutions,” he said in a statement. Michod and Davies’ script “crackles with irony, anger and humanity,” Katz said. 

Channel 4, which is the British home of “The Handmaid’s Tale,” is contributing to some aspects of “Catch-22’s” development.

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