CATCH 22 is the brand-new satirical drama to hit Channel 4, directed by George Clooney and Grant Heslov.
Based on Joseph Heller’s 1961 novel about a US Bombardier from the 1940s, many were concerned that this series would ‘bomb’ too. Both the book’s high status in literature and its jumpy narrative have given it a reputation for being difficult to film over the years. As much as I love the book, I’m going to love it and leave it in this section of the review, as I want to offer you a fresh perspective.
In this satirical wartime drama, ‘Yoyo’ or John Yossarian (Christopher Abbott) is an ambivalent and highly cynical bombardier based in a fictional Pianosa. We first meet Yoyo in a bizarre but powerful scene when he walks bloody faced and naked towards his Squadron.
Episode one is darkly comical with none other than Clooney himself playing a rather hysterical Lieutenant Scheisskopf. Clooney sets the precedent for this tone when his character asks a rhetorical question to his officers which is answered by Yoyo’s friend, Clevinger (Pico Alexander). Together, Clevinger and Yoyo form an amusing double act which briefly lulls us into a sense of false security.
We soon learn that the comedy is paralleled by the dark undertone of a ‘horror’ that only Joseph Conrad himself would be proud of. The wartime horror is often craftily interwoven with comedy, emphasising the sporadic but volatile nature of war. This was done brilliantly.
The entire premise of the classic lies in Yoyo’s dialogue with the Squadron Psychiatrist Doc Daneeka (Grant Heslov) about ‘The catch’ (Catch 22). In this pivotal moment, Daneeka explains that in order to escape air force duty one must be declared ‘insane’. Yet to request a mental evaluation would render you ‘sane’ enough to fly. This damning logic will give us some insight into what might unravel later in the series.
From the very start, Yossarian is surrounded by various comrades and Colonels. I won’t go into them all because we’d be here all day, but I will introduce you to some major ones. As previously mentioned, Clevinger is one of Yossarian’s many comrades but also his loveable sidekick. The dynamic between him and Yoyo is priceless. Then there is embittered Psychiatrist Doc Daneeka.
We are also introduced to a rather dynamic Lieutenant Scheisskopf (George Clooney) who spends most of his time in the episode shouting and then punishing Yoyo and Clevinger. Hugh Laurie plays Major De Coverley, a fearsome official who appears to have a taste for the finer things in life (despite the war).
I honestly thought I would be gritting my teeth, but I don’t think I could have liked episode one more.
The quirky style and the light-hearted touches made the horrors that the young men were facing even more chilling. The boring ‘macho-man’ approach to fighting was instead replaced with boyishness, ambivalence and a huge side portion of realism which shook me to the core. Bring on episode two!
- You can catch up on All 4.