Considering the topsy-turvy nature of the times we live in, a new adaptation of Joseph Heller's iconic 1961 satirical novel Catch-22 feels very appropriate.
The World War II-set book made such an impact that it introduced the term, still widely used, into the general lexicon, referring (in a general sense) to a situation in which maddening, contradictory, often (but not necessarily) bureaucratic rules prevent any kind of satisfactory outcome or even progress. It doesn't feel like much of a stretch to see modern life as one giant Catch-22.
That degree of contemporary resonance doesn't seem lost on George Clooney, the man responsible for the new limited series version of Catch-22.
"I think the reason the book is a classic is because the basic standard tenets remain," Clooney tells TimeOut.
"Which is, s*** rolls downhill, authority is to be made fun of, red tape and bureaucracy, particularly war, is insane. All those things. This would play just as well in Ancient Rome as it would 50 years in the future."
Ellen Kuras (Ozark), Grant Heslov and Clooney joined forces as executive producers for the limited series and the Oscar-winner directed two of the six episodes.
"We thought it would be terrifying to take on and for us that's that best kind of thing to take on," says Clooney.
He also plays a supporting role in the series, which has assembled a murderer's row of acting talent: Hugh Laurie (Blackadder), Kyle Chandler (Bloodline) and rising star Christopher Abbott (Girls, First Man), who plays the lead character Yossarian, a US Air Force bombardier during World War II.
Yossarian's precarious position aboard a B25 bomber will likely get him killed by the enemy, but he's more concerned about the military bureaucracy that keeps increasing the number of missions he must fly.
"A bombardier, it's kind of beautiful and terrifying at the same time," Abbott tells TimeOut. "You're encased in glass and you're flying through the sky while people are shooting at you and the only way in or out is through this incredibly narrow tunnel. So it made sense why Yossarian is the way he is."
The (fictional) Catch-22 in the story refers to how a man can be relieved of duty due to insanity, but to request such a relievement indicates a concern for one's own life, thus proving the presence of sanity. Catch-22.
"I read it because you had to in school," says Clooney. "It was one of the must-reads and it's dense, hard reading. It's nice when you go back and read a book 40 years later and it doesn't let you down. That doesn't happen all that often. The experience I had with it as a young man was: you're supposed to read it. And the fun part as an old man, it's nice to read it."
The new limited series isn't the first time the book has been adapted – Mike Nichols released a movie version in 1970 starring Alan Arkin as Yossarian. The film's "war is crazy" satirical thunder was somewhat stolen by Robert Altman's M.A.S.H, which was released a couple of months earlier.
Clooney's creative rationale for the new version is tied to the extended running time.
"It's a way to tackle this story that you couldn't do it in two hours," says Clooney. "We kill a lot of people and it's not always so nice, the way they die. In the movie, you don't get to learn who Art Garfunkel's character is, or who Martin Sheen's character is, so when you kill them it doesn't really have the same resonance as you can do with a six-hour piece, where you get to learn about the characters so their deaths actually have some resonance. And it's not, 'Oh isn't it funny that the guy got his legs cut off by a propeller.' It's like, 'Oh, I liked that kid and he had a family and a life.' So the beauty of being able to tell it in a longer form is why we wanted to do it."
Clooney also admits to the appeal of the World War II setting, a period he previously explored in films The Good German and The Monuments Men.
"There's a clarity to World War II that we all understand," says Clooney. "If I'm flipping through the channels, it's the History Channel I end up on, just to watch old documentaries."
Catch-22 is the first TV project in a while for Clooney, who famously came to prominence in the hit TV series ER.
"I've always sort of kept my foot in television," says Clooney. "We did Fail Safe live, and we did a couple of television series along the way. Television's really allowing you now to do the same kind of interesting work I was able to do in smaller independent films before. The medium doesn't matter so much, what really matters is the content."
Who: George Clooney
Where: TVNZ OnDemand
When: Available from Saturday