Catch-22 should suit viewers who don’t care for those in authority
Make a note in the diary – Channel 4, June 20, 9pm. Why? Well, that’s the time the first of six episodes of Catch-22 will be screened.
Catch-22? What’s that got to do with London? you might be asking. In truth, very little. No, even that is an exaggeration – absolutely nothing to the best of my knowledge. And, given I have read the book at least four times, I should know.
So, why am I writing about it for London Inspire? Well, there’s an element of self-indulgence, I concede. However, I will take great satisfaction if just some of you reading this go on to watch the series and enjoy it.
I should lob in a caveat here. I haven’t seen any of the series – just the trailer which we show here.
So it could be a duffer. But, somehow I doubt it. It has George Clooney as executive producer and he directed two of the episodes. I like Clooney’s sense of humour.
Clooney plays General Scheisskopf (German for sh*t head) and the cast also features Hugh Laurie as Major de Coverley. The main role of Yossarian is played by Christopher Abbott best known for his role as Charlie Dattolo in the HBO comedy-drama series Girls.
Catch-22 is the best book I have read. Hands down. Back in 2003 the BBC ran a series of programmes called The Big Read in which personalities put forward the case for their favourite book to be voted the best of all time.
Catch-22 featured alongside such iconic books as Great Expectations, 1984, War and Peace, Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights and eventual winner of the public vote The Lord of the Rings. Catch-22 finished a creditable 11th.
I read the Joseph Heller book before I saw the 1970 movie based on it. For me, the film, which starred Alan Arkin and John Voight, didn’t measure up to the book. I often find a mismatch between book and film although I would make an exception for the first two Godfather films (the third was crap).
Catch-22 was a critically-acclaimed movie which lasted a little more than two hours. It was a big ask to do justice to the complexities of the book in that time. Indeed, some critics wonder if it is possible to put the book on screen successfully. The TV episodes each last about three-quarters of an hour, about four-and-a-half hours in total, more than double the time of the feature film. This makes me more confident that it will be a better representation of the book.
Author Heller achieved something few can ever do. His book’s title has become part of the English language. Catch-22 has its own place in the Collins Dictionary which lists its meaning as … if you describe a situation as a Catch-22, you mean it is an impossible situation because you cannot do one thing until you do another thing, but you cannot do the second thing until you do the first thing.
In the book, the main character Yossarian asks the squadron medic, Doc Daneeka, to ground him because he has gone crazy. Yossarian hasn’t lost his mind, but he wants to avoid the possibility of being killed in action. Daneeka says he must ground crazy people, but, because Yossarian has asked to be grounded, that is the act of a sane man, so he can’t ground him. That’s the catch!
Catch-22 is a dark comedy that proves to be an uplifting book. It spends virtually all of its pages explaining why you can’t beat the system or rail against authority, but in the end Yossarian’s tent mate, Orr shows, that if you think outside the box you can beat those who are trying to keep you down. I’ve always regarded that as a life lesson.
It doesn’t make a difference who wins the war to someone who’s dead, says Yossarian. He has a point. I hope the TV series is something you will want to catch.