Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Dirk Gently

Dirk Gently, the guy from Saxondale and the poor woman
who married Ross on Friends
Let me start with a bit of heresy: the Douglas Adams Dirk Gently novels aren't that great. The books, Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency, The Long Dark Teatime of the Soul and the unfinished Salmon of Doubt are very much a product of their time and have aged not quite as effortlessly as Adams's Hitchhiker novels. Adams was a writer of rare genius and the Hitchhiker novels are inspired, anarchic and still very funny. But the Gently books have a late 1980's-Apple-Mac-Pot-Noodle-Culture-Club-MASH-on-BBC 2-on-a-wet-Wednesday-night feel about them and would have faded into oblivion had they been written by anyone else. Gently himself is barely in book 1 which is a shame because he's much more interesting than any of the other characters. He has a bigger part in the better book 2. Adams was more of a writer of ideas than character anyway and actually the ideas in both novels are interesting and often quite amusing. (Neil Gaiman seems to have nicked several of these ideas to kick start his own novel writing career.) 
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It was with only mild enthusiasm then that I began watching BBC 4's Dirk Gently series, produced by BBC Wales and very much from the same stable as Dr. Who and Sherlock. But the TV series is actually a lot more interesting than the novels. The self involved, clever and rather irritating Gently (yes he reminds me of stablemate Sherlock as well) is well played by Stephen Mangan. He doesn't take himself as seriously as Benedict Cumberbatch and he's ably supported by Darren Boyd who I first saw as the annoying yuppie neighbour in Saxondale and who was a brilliant John Cleese in BBC 4's Holy Flying Circus. The writing in Gently is crisp (by Howard Overman) and the style and editing are very much in the Sherlock/Dr Who mode too. 
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Like I say I wasn't expecting much from this show but after two episodes I am mildly optimistic that the Beeb have another cult hit on their hands. It's a shame its on BBC 4 as it will only get a small fraction of the audience of Sherlock but if you can find it, I think you'll like it.