I will probably be hexed by any Hitch-hiker's fans reading this, but when I think Douglas Adams, I think Dirk Gently. I really do. Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency, The Long Dark Teatime of the Soul, and even the unfinished Salmon of Doubt are some of the most enjoyable books I have ever read. Hitch-hiker's Guide to the Galaxy always got sort of depressing for me after The Restaurant at the End of the Universe, but it seemed like, when Adams was writing Dirk stories, he was having the most fun.
That's why I was excited to watch BBC Four's adaptation of the first Dirk Gently book. (It premiered last year as a one hour television pilot.) I was doubly excited when I found out Stephen Mangan (who co-starred in Confetti, if you haven't seen it, check it out,) was starring as Dirk. It's been a while since I've read the first book -- I'm currently in the midst of Teatime of the Soul again -- so as far as comparing it to the original Adams text, I can't play the expert.
I just realized the iPhone thing was actually a huge plot hole. Wait, nevermind. There was no plot hole. *Jedi hand wave*
There are the obvious differences, of course. The original book was published in 1987, so iPhones and laptops have been added in here in what I think is an organic way. It's definitely an updated world that Dirk lives in, even if Dirk himself is still chaotic and unchanged from his original form. Mangan, for the most part, does a terrific job of bringing the character to life. At times he appears to be playing it too big, but since he succeeds at more subtle timing and delivery in other scenes, writing and direction may be to blame for that bit of unevenness.
The Dirk Gently novels win my devotion due to their incredibly complex plot lines, which only come untangled to reveal their brilliance in the final chapters. That sort of "Oh my God, THE SOFA!" moment is lacking from the pilot, although it does try. That's the best you can say for the parts of this that don't work as well as the others: It's trying. The television adapation's plot was nowhere near as complex as the novel, but how could it be? I feel they got the tone and the main character right, and, given a chance, could spin this in to a terrific series.
I mean, any series that pays off grade school children with a carton of smokes deserves a chance, right?
BBC announced that it will be picking up Dirk Gently for three more one hour episodes, all written by the scribe of the pilot, Howard Overman. They will begin filming later this year. For those of you that are Stateside, BBC America has informed me they have no plans to air the pilot. Do yourself a favor and find it by "other means." It's worth an hour of your time.