DIRK GENTLY: Monday 5th March, BBC4, 9pm
Dirk Gently, the self-styled âholistic detectiveâ? labelled as âan annoying prickâ?, and a âtethered goatâ? among other charming epithets throughout Episode 1 of the new three-part detective series, is a dishevelled, deranged and demented mess of a man played convincingly by the actor who brought Greenwingâs vile Guy Secretan to life, Stephen Mangan.
The new series commissioned off the back of a remarkably successful pilot aired in 2010, which reached triple its expected viewing figures, is bound to receive interest due to the recent success of Sherlock â another dynamic yet dysfunctional detective played by another striking, well-spoken actor.
But Dirk Gently, a sci-fi character resurrected from Hitchhikerâs Guide to the Galaxy author Douglas Adamsâ novels about a âHolistic Detective Agencyâ?, is constantly wobbling along the tightrope between genius and bungler, with none of Sherlockâs infallible slickness and general omnipotence. Gently gets pizza on his face, frenziedly saws up a desk chair when it impedes his sleuthing and calls his car âPrincessâ?.
âWe must embrace chaosâ?, he insists with a noble eyebrow raised, before scampering off to escape the exasperated policemen forever on his trail. His form of investigation uses a huge web of seemingly unrelated but interconnected events and countless serendipitous occurrences in order to find the answer. Otherwise known as âbollocksâ?, as described by Gentlyâs perpetually nonplussed sidekick, Richard Macduff (Darren Boyd).
The first episode, written by Misfitsâ Howard Overman (a different writer is behind each episode), follows a complex mesh of sub-plots – all mapped out on an ancient white-board in Gentlyâs crumbling office – including an adultery case, conspiracy theories, unnervingly accurate horoscopes, and of course, constant pursuit by the Pentagon.
There are some beautifully comic moments in a gripping, galloping plotline, including an awkward hug the pleasingly empathy-free Gently has to give to a weeping, wronged wife; the close parodies of detective drama with lines such as âthe grown man who cried Pentagonâ? set to a sizzlingly suspense-filled soundtrack, and some simple sledge-hammering clad in blue underpants.
Gently and Macduffâs double act is reminiscent of Holmes and Watson, with the right-hand man constantly apologising for his cranky masterâs misdemeanours, and the compelling characterisation throughout often echoes that of Sherlock. Just replace the sharp pea coat with a moth-eaten jacket, the violin with a takeaway pizza, and the âmind palaceâ? with anarchic incompetence and youâll have Dirk Gently.
Read Anoosh’s interview with Stephen Mangan here..