Douglas Adams’ second famous fictional series, Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency has recently reappeared on the small screen on BBC America. This series created by Max Landis (American Ultra and Chronicle) stars Samuel Barnett as the titular character and Elijah Wood is his reluctant assistant along with a long list of potentially not as well-known actors and actresses, but none-the-less not as talented. It airs Saturday evenings at 9pm (EST) and is also available digitally as episodes air on whatever platform you prefer.
This series, in case you are sadly unfamiliar with the source material, is about a Dirk Gently who is a holistic detective (you probably should’ve already figured that out). Gently’s holistic detective style makes use of “the fundamental interconnectedness of all things,” as in desiring to get rid of his old refrigerator and somehow becoming intertwined with the Norse god Thor. It’s all connected even when there seems to be no inconceivable way it is all connected.
The book series read incredible well in parts to Adams’ quick and seemingly random wit, along with his unique deconstructive philosophical expositions and descriptive talents. The same goes for Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, which have always made the two of them somewhat difficult to present on television or film. Hitchhiker’s was given a slightly better shot by starting out as a radio drama, and being that The Guide itself was a character allowing for the unique perceptions of Adams to shine. The difficult part with Dirk Gently has always been bringing the expositional insight, which truly makes for the some of the best humor in the books, to life in any form other than novel.
The show revolves around a murder, a missing person, a corgi, group of awkward bald men, a kitten, and a holistic hitwoman. And that’s just scratching the surfacein the first episode. This series (of which four episodes have aired at the time of writing this review) was able to gravitate towards the humor capable of being presented best in its format and excels at replicating the other great factors of Adams humor.
The show understands the quick pacing of Douglas Adams’ wit, one thing sorely missing from the most recent Hitchhiker’s movie. The show is not scared to make as many jokes as possible in side of the shortest spans. This quick and relentless pacing, when the show is in this particular tone, allows not only some of the greatest laughs, but also highlights the absurdity and randomness that are also hallmarks of Adams’s humor. There is a connection to the staggering dumbfound moments with characters as we the viewer are as much life entertained as confused.
And the confusion is another brilliant factor in this show. Those who maybe watched one episode and gave up are missing on the slow building of the puzzle as pieces slowly week-to-week coalesce into a complete picture. This slow burn of the plot and the confusion are part of the reasons why you won’t see much of a plot synopsis. Part of the brilliance of the books is reading the many seemingly explicably variable plot threads and seeing how they slowly come together in some holistic fashion, and this show seems to have that tackled exceedingly well so far.
Apart from being funny, the show understands that with each episode being an hour long, it is difficult to constantly and brilliantly deliver jokes for that long. It does allow for slow moments of genuine character interactions and insight, to elevate everything above basically a sitcom level approach to comedy. You care about the characters, and even the most absurd characters somehow still seem real and human.
All of the actors are brilliant, and writing is sharp and witty, and the plot feels like managed chaos. I really feel this is the best you could hope for in terms of bringing Dirk Gently to life on the small of big screen. There are the small expositional witticisms in Douglas Adams’ writings which are still missing, but again, I think that’s impossible to present in a realistic manner in this medium. If you’re a fan of the source material, understand that’s a limitation coming into the series, and I think you’ll still enjoy it quite a bit. If you have no familiarity to the source material, just understand that you have to jump in, enjoy the ride, and by the end things will make sense… mostly… hopefully.
The Bottom Line:
Overall, Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency is a very good show that does its source material justice. Absolutely essential to any fans of Douglas Adams, a definite must-watch for fans of British humour, and really anyone who just enjoys good TV. – 8.0/10
Staff Writer: Nerd Nation Magazine