We Recommend: Dirk Gently
Last year, BBC Four aired a pilot for Dirk Gently, a loose adaptation of Douglas Adams’ novels starring Steven Mangan as the shifty zen detective and Darren Boyd as his long-suffering sidekick Macduff. The series is also written by Howard Overman, who created Misfits and wrote many of the better episodes of Merlin.
It was a predictably tangled and funny web, making it pleasant to report that the show returns on BBC Four tonight for a three episode series. We checked out the first episode to see if they’ve kept the quality up.
Of course, gimmicky detective shows are not uncommon, from Sherlock to Castle, and it’s hard to deny this is another one, although the quality writing/acting talent involved in Dirk Gently makes it more acceptable to like, not to mention the literary roots.
Still, it’s worth pointing out that this is reportedly not a faithful adaptation of the novels, which use more complex mysteries and less banter and punchlines. Still, needs must; I haven’t read them, so am in no position to get offended. Judged purely on its own merits, this is still a slick, funny detective show.
Dirk’s blatant lying and opportunistic linking together of coincidences, which just happen to come together and solve the mystery, is a very funny take on the “seemingly irrelevant information solves case” attitude of most detective shows, and despite it being a broadly funny show, the mysteries are genuinely mysterious, which helps. Stephen Mangan is also very good at playing hopeful chancers, as evidenced by his Green Wing character.
Darren Boyd does exasperated Watson-esque accomplice very well too, and the underlying surrealism of the whole thing is hard to watch without smiling. It also toys with science fiction, yet doesn’t throw it full force at the viewer, with similar dexterity to Overman’s work on Misfits.
It’s not as much of a crowd-pleaser as Sherlock, but if you’re looking for an off-the-wall, quirky example of this genre, Dirk Gently is the best attempt for a while. If you’ve not ventured onto BBC Four, this could be their most accessible show (no subtitles or anything!), so give it a try. Unless you’re a hardcore fan of the original Gently novels, you might really like it.
Check out Dirk Gently on BBC Four tonight at 9PM, and see more information on the BBC's official site.