Dec 19, 2016

[TV] Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency: Season 1

Lately it feels like Netflix has been aggressively expanding its original programming line-up including a number of partnership development projects with other groups. This latest show, Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency, is a good example as it's a tie-up between Netflix and BBC America.

To be fair, we know that Netflix has a pretty good relationship with BBC America given the various content deals that have already been executed such as the inclusion of several season of Doctor Who as part of the Netflix content library. So I guess an original production deal was sort of inevitable.

But I never manage to track these projects while they're still in development, so as of late I just get surprised when Netflix notifies me that there's a new show that I may be interested in that has been added to the library. That's how this show came into view and we gave it a shot shortly thereafter. The series was short enough to get through within a few days and I think the experience was pretty worth the time.

Synopsis: Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency is a BBC America and Netflix loose adaptation of the Douglas Adams's book series of the same name. The series originally aired on BBC America in October 2016 and was made available on Netflix this December.

The show initially focuses on Todd (Elijah Wood), a bellhop at a hotel who doesn't seem particularly happy with his life. He discovers a gruesome murder in one of the hotel rooms but no one can immediately explain what happened given the various bodies literally ripped apart, broken furniture, scorch marks and a kitten. He eventually meets Dirk Gently (Samuel Barnett) as he tries to break into Todd's apartment. Dirk claims to be a holistic detective, who was supposedly hired to solve the murder at the hotel even before it had happened. He takes on Todd as his assistant even though he never quite agrees to do so.

At the same time, a woman named Bart Curlish (Fiona Dourif) is making her way across the country in order to kill Dirk. She's a holistic assassin and has never met Dirk before but just knows that she has to kill him. She in turn ends up dragging along Ken (Mpho Koaho) with her as a sort of non-assistant companion. There's also Farah Black (Jade Eshete), a bodyguard determined to solve her own case and gets entangled in this case.

What I Liked: The story manages to feel very Douglas Adams-like in its tone and humor even though they didn't strictly follow the original story. Barnett makes for a nicely quirky Dirk and is fully committed to Dirk's seemingly irrational "holistic" detective methods. The story is a nicely complex and intricate one with a lot of twists and turns and last minute reveals. You'd think that it's sort of par for the course given there are time travel elements to this story, but it goes well beyond that.

The show has a pretty significant set of diverse characters with colorful personalities. And a lot of the scary guys turn out to be not so scary while others that seem innocent turn out to be individuals to keep an eye on. And I like how things just keep shifting from episode to episode all the way to the end of the season.  Plus I really like the strange concepts and how they were portrayed such as Todd's sister's fictional disease of Pararibulitis and how it makes her believe her hallucinations are real or the crazy crew of the Rowdy 3.

Side note: a lot of the scoring of the show reminds me of Utopia but with the necessary twist such that it doesn't go full creepy scary. At the end of the day the show is still a comedy.

What Could Have Been Better: This is yet another show where Elijah Wood has been cast as a socially awkward character with serious issues. He got a little creative with Swiss Army Man but it's hard to differentiate his character here versus his role in Wilfred  and other productions. He does it well enough, but I just worry that he's seriously getting typecast into such roles.

Not everyone is quite as great an actor and Barnett shifts from awkward and charming to forgettable at times. Sometimes everyone gets lots in being quirky that things don't always seem believable or at least relevant. The cops were the straight actors in the show in terms of how their characters were written but at times you just wonder how they keep on going.

Plus weird camera angles at time. Not sure what was going on there.

TL;DR: Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency is still a great show and one that shows a lot of promise if they continue on for another season as they have committed to in 2017. Plus the way the case resolves is pretty brilliant, and yet it's not even quite the end of the season as a whole. The first season gets 4 strange revelations in the case that may tie to the greater history of the town out of a possible 5.


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