Saturday, December 18, 2010

The Dirk Gently TV series pilot, my review

I'm one of those Douglas Adams fans who always thought that Dirk Gently would be a great TV series. In a world dominated by insipid detective shows, Dirk Gently would be like a breath of fresh air.

Dirk Gently is a fascinating detective who believes in "the fundamental interconnectedness of all things" to solve the whole crime, and find the whole person. He's a dishonest, but poor, sod whose most regular income comes from the old and lonely women who are looking desperately for their cats. But even if he's a failure, Dirk Gently has certainly a kind of panache.

As you know Dirk Gently appeared in two and a half novels. Some would believe than a pilot would be based on the first book but…. no.

The screen writer Howard Overman (who created the rather good « Misfits » but also wrote for the not so good TV shows « Merlin » and « Hotel Babylon ») has chosen a different path. The TV pilot has its
fair amount of veiled messages to the books and mainly the first one (Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency). Yes, Richard Mac Duff, Susan and Gordon Way are all here. But they are not really what they are in the book.

OK, Gordon way is a millionaire, but he doesn't meet his end thanks to an electric monk's erratic behavior (there is no monk, some of the characters lives in Monk Street and we see Dirk painting on a board where there is a kind of a plot involving an electric monk and Coleridge – wait it rings a bell !). Gordon is deeply in love with Susan (who is not his sister). Richard MacDuff is not Susan's brother
neither. In fact he is also love with Susan. He is her long time boyfriend since the university. Oh and they all were student in the same college. Sadly for them, Dirk was there too.

The story involves murders, cats, a time machine, tea and a exquisite old lady. So yes, it's a Dirk Gently story. But is it a good one?

MMhh, yes. In fact I quite enjoyed that TV pilot. Of course Stephen Mangan is not the Dirk Gently you would have chosen at first sight. But he's quite good as a self confident, tricky and dishonest
detective who uses others (the poor Richard McDuff who is a stooge, and Janice, the secretary - who first quits before coming back, too afraid he doesn't even care).

The only one to mock him is Susan.  But she isn't absolutely right about him. She knows he's a crook, but not that he is a genius in his own right.

The plot is enjoyable, there are some good gags, and the realization is dynamic, even if some could think there's a lot of talking and not so much that make really sense (but that’s very Douglas Adamsy, isn’t it ?).

Of course there are a few weakness : the characters are just sketched out (Gordon, Gilks and Janice are truly ghost-like) , the plot has its faults (come on, an iPhone battery that will still work 15 years later - it's even less realistic than a time machine!), the realization doesn't avoid some (quite fashionable) flashy effects (that will look old in a few years) - presumably to hide the effects of a tight budget
- and even at least one obvious goof (the half full then quite empty beer glass when Dirk and Richard take a sip of beer in a pub).

But what are these few weak points, when you enjoy so much a TV pilot that could really become a great TV series. Give some depth to the characters, create a few tricky plots, give more money to the
production, then you'll be able to create a classic.

TV productions can be such a bore. Give Dirk a chance!


  1. Hah, yes, the iPhone battery was a bit incredible! Err, time machines aside ... *cough* I was disappointed by it. I didn't know it was going to be a one-off sort of thing and that it was based on the characters rather than the book, and had I know that, I probably would have liked it better. I think they could've just invented a bunch of new characters, rather than taking a few names from the books and re-written them completely. It could make for a really interesting show.

  2. Yes i think you're right about the characters. I think that many viewers who knew the book were disapointed to find the same characters that in the book but so heavily changed.