‘Dirk Gently’ review

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It may seem like sacrilege to some devotees of the late author, but not everything Douglas Adams produced was of the high quality as witnessed in the earlier instalments of The Hitch Hiker’s Guide To The Galaxy.

Although memorable and entertaining, the two Dirk Gently novels were a mess. Enjoyable, yes, but a mess nonetheless; too many wonderful and imaginative devices and tropes with little attention to narrative. Strange then that the new television adaptation should take the opposite route.

There are no flourishes, no sparks of imagination and little to wonder at. It’s surprising too, considering that this pilot is written by Misfits creator Howard Overman and directed by Damon Thomas (behind the camera on the marvellous First Men In The Moon, also on BBC Four). The budget allowed dispenses with all the traits that made the original novel such a treat (the Electric Monks, for an obvious example) leaving the audience with a rather predictable (ironically) and well-trod detective story, despite the inter-connectivity of all things trying to lift the show above its peers.

But this is just a pilot and one would hope that Adams’ works can be delved into for future episodes, if they are to appear.

Sadly, the main problem for Dirk Gently is the cast. The eponymous detective is played with extreme unlikeability by Stephen Mangan (Green Wing, Free Agents); who delivers a fairly one-note performance (much like everything else you will have seen him in). Likewise his “partner” MacDuff is played by his even flatter Green Wing co-star Darren Boyd, who has simply transferred his role from BBC 2’s recent “sitcom” Whites. Neither are characters one cares for or engages with – a bit of a misstep for two leading men.

Given that writer Overman did the impossible by making a bunch of hapless and revolting kids so enthralling in Misfits, it’s truly a shame that his touch couldn’t have been applied here.

Airs at 9pm on Friday 20th May 2011 on BBC Two.
Originally aired at 9pm on Thursday 16th December 2010 on BBC Four.