BETWEEN Rob Lowe in Wild Bill, Meryl Streep in Big Little Lies and now George Clooney in Catch-22 (Channel 4, Thursday, 9pm), it is hard to throw a baseball on British TV at the moment and not clip an American movie star. Oversexed, overpaid, and now over here. Ain’t it great?

Joseph Heller’s satirical masterpiece has never had an adaptation to do it justice, but one episode in to Clooney’s production, and things are shaping up nicely.

You can almost smell the money as the tale homes in on a group of new US recruits flying bombing missions over Italy during the Second World War. Even when a scene was small it was perfectly formed and thought through, as with the shot of a soldier smoking next to a no smoking sign.

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What makes Catch-22 sing on the page, though, are the strong characters and the free-wheeling use of language. It’s a joyfully gabby book, full of wisecracking young guys and crazed, dictatorial officers who really like the sound of their own fury. Writers Luke Davies and David Michod, both movie men, let the dialogue run and jump just as in the novel, while never letting speeches canter on too long.

The cast, likewise, is just so, even if some of the younger ones, strutting around in towels or diving into the sea, look more like male models than your average grunt. Christopher Abbott is perfect as the crumpled, world-weary Yossarian, who never wanted to be at war in the first place and just wants to go home. Clooney, in full, Coen brothers movie mode, has a lot of fun as spittle-flecked General Scheisskopf, while Hugh Laurie has found another happy home in US drama with the role of Major Coverley, officer and gourmet.

Between the comedy, the music, and the upbeat tone, this is war as MASH, not Saving Private Ryan, but as the first hour ended, with a well-executed explanation of the title (another good sign) the storm clouds were gathering, even over sunny Italy.

A minute into The Family Brain Games (BBC2, Monday, 8pm) it was obvious we were a long way from Ask the Family territory. The most high-tech gizmos Robert Robinson and his teams of families had to hand were doorbells for buzzers. The Dara O Briain-hosted show was set in shiny, space ship style labs with teams of scientists, led by a neurologist no less, to help explain what was going on as the Ross family from London and the Griffiths from Woking were out through a series of verbal, visual, and maths challenges.

Otherwise, not much had changed from the 70s show, including the presence of a lot of chunky spectacles and some scarily smart children. It all seemed to come down to communication skills, with the family that did things together performing better. So there you are: if you want your kids to succeed everyone has to put away the screens and start talking. Good luck.

There was no shortage of loquacious types on Mirror Mirror (BBC Scotland, Thursday, 10pm), the show where cameras capture the conversations between hairdressers and their clients. Made by production company Very Nice for the new channel, this was a simple idea well executed. It bounced around the country from Dundee to Glasgow to Edinburgh, with one particularly charming segment from South Uist where Peter, 52 years in the business, was cutting hair in his kitchen. That would have made a programme in its own right in the hands of lazier producers.

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Some of the subjects, social media, online shopping, were predictable, and one or two of the “characters” became tiresome very quickly. It felt odd, too, that there was no music blaring, as is usually the case in a salon, but then you would not have heard the conversations. This was a slick, nifty piece of television that was uniquely Scottish but could transfer anywhere. Exactly the kind of programme the channel should be backing.

Top Gear (BBC2, Sunday, 8pm) was back with yet another change of personnel. Now, incredibly, on its 27th series, the motoring programme has been stalled since the departure of Jezza “South Paw” Clarkson and his sidekicks. After failed attempts to reproduce their chemistry, this is probably the last chance to get it right.

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It wasn’t perfect, with too few items and one on super cars that managed, against the odds, to be spectacularly dull. But in choosing comedian Paddy McGuinness (Phoenix Nights) and former cricketer Freddie Flintoff to partner pro driver Chris Harris, the show has played a blinder.

The two big daft northerners and the southern softie Harris laughed a lot and ribbed each other mercilessly. There was a genuine, infectious, air of fun being had, something you could never entirely say with Clarkson, Hammond and May, or as they will now be known, “Who?”