Dirk Gently (2010)
What It Is: No, not Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency, that’s the name of the book series it’s based off of, as well as the name of a previous adaptation by BBC Radio 4 in 2007, and yet another US adaptation in 2016 starring Elijah Wood. Now I won’t speak to the quality of those other adaptations, as I’ve not personally seen them. But I already feel confident enough to say that this one is the best.
Based off of the books written by Douglas Adams (author of the The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy), Dirk Gently was a distressingly short-lived British series (four episodes about the length of a TV movie each). It quite naturally followed the exploits of Dirk Gently, as well as his trusty sidekick Macduff, as they utilized his rather unconventional method for solving crime: the fundamental interconnectedness of all things. It’s based on a similarly named principle in quantum physics stating that every single thing in the universe is affected, however minutely, by every other thing. Therefore, by following the trail of interconnectedness, one would inevitably (eventually) be led to the answer they seek. It’s an absurdist, science fiction romp, and exactly the kind that could only come from the twisted mind of Douglas Adams.
Why It’s Great: So let’s start with our titular character, Dirk Gently, Holistic Detective. He is, by all accounts, an asshole. He’s maddeningly cheap, aggressively disinterested in other people, and slips into a lie (or cover story) as easily as a pair of flip-flops. It would be ridiculously easy for Dirk’s entire character to be insufferable, yet Stephen Mangan brings a sort of working man’s charm to the always down-on-his-luck detective; with his disaster of a car, messy, falling down apartment and surly secretary he keeps refusing to pay because she keeps showing up hoping that he’ll pay her, and if he pays her she’ll stop showing up.
It is this exact kind of circular logic that permeates the entire show, to great comedic effect. Whether he’s investigating the disappearance of a billionaire in order to track down the whereabouts of a missing cat, or working out the best reason to invade Switzerland, his cases are just as intricate as they are ridiculous. And true to theory, everything is connected. You might think the knowledge that everything you see is a clue would make the mystery easier to solve, yet it’s always a surprise when Dirk manages to pull the curtain on how all of the pieces fit together. Partly because you never quite expect the truth to be so out there; a truth that only someone as insane as Dirk could recognize.
As much as Dirk Gently asks you to suspend your disbelief in regard to the nature of its crimes, there are certain aspects of it that are far more realistic than many similarly premised shows. Most series surrounding private investigators (Sherlock, Psych, etc.) have their protagonist have either a buddy on, or work directly with, the police force; despite the fact that every one of these shows makes a point to specify how much cops don’t like private investigators. Dirk on the other hand, has a solely antagonistic relationship with local police, who are just dying for an excuse to arrest him.
Rounding out Dirk’s absurdity and tendency to alienate just about everyone he meets, is partner Richard MacDuff (portrayed by Darren Boyd), a classic straight man in every sense of the phrase. He spends a great deal of his time desperately attempting to get the two of them paid, which, spoiler alert, they basically never are. Ultimately, Mangan and Boyd have an infectious friend chemistry that expertly rides the line between ‘Ride or Die’ and hostile. He’s a Watson without the hero worship of his partner, and is more than willing to call Dirk out on his bullshit. At the end of the day, Dirk Gently is a compelling and hysterical ride from start to finish, and more than worth the single day it would take to complete.
Where You Can Find It: Currently, you can watch Dirk Gently on BritBox, or on Amazon Prime (with a BritBox subscription). Either through Amazon, or through BritBox directly, there’s also an option for a 7-Day Free Trial (more than enough time to watch four episodes), with an option to keep it up for just 6.99/month.