If you’re a fan of a certain ‘Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’-loving, sci-fi novelist, your calendar has been marked for ages for the television premiere of Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency on BBC America.
This eight-episode series, created by screenwriter Max Landis (writer of Chronicle) comes from the studio that brought you The Walking Dead. It marks the premiere of a show that originally made its debut in the U.K. However, with the American version, Landis and showrunner Robert C. Cooper have completely revamped the show with Adams’ fans firmly in mind — something they touched on at a special panel discussion for the show at New York Comic Con.
Here are five things from that panel (and the pilot episode they played) that’ll get you pumped about the show.
1. The On-Screen Chemistry
The title character is played by young British actor Samuel Barnett, perhaps best known for his role as Renfield on the recently completed Showtime drama Penny Dreadful. He meets his own personal Watson (played by Elijah Wood), a down-on-his-luck schlub named Todd Brotzman, in the pilot and proceeds to try to explain to his new partner why they need to work together.
All well and good — except this is something that initially doesn’t interest Todd in the slightest, as evidenced by his proclamation, “I’m not your Watson, asshole!” A humorous sentiment and nice salvo to distinguish the series from other TV detective spirit animals such as Sherlock.
The chemistry Barnett has with his co-star Wood is easily a top draw for Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency. The two actors play off each other as if they have been working together for years and give the audience an easy entry-point into the show, which is not afraid to go the ‘full weird’ as you’ll read below.
2. A Casting Call Douglas Adams Would Be Proud Of
Speaking of Barnett, the Brit embodies Gently to his core. It’s almost as if he walked out of the series of novels and found himself on the show’s set. But artists can be harsh critics of their work. During the panel discussion, Barnett expressed frustration at his own handle on the character, saying, “Even after a full season, I still don’t really have him down.”
This provoked a stunned reaction from both Landis and Cooper, who immediately pointed out how quickly they knew he was their guy.
“We saw hundreds and hundreds of auditions, and he was Dirk Gently the first time we saw him,” Cooper explained. Landis laughed at this and added, “I literally said, ‘That’s the guy! Why are we still looking at anyone else?’” Their confidence in Barnett is well spent, as his wit and charm are entertaining and evident all over the pilot.
3. Max Landis’ Pure, Unadulterated Fanboy Devotion
Landis first discovered Adams’ work at summer camp in Maine, then devoured the author’s novels once he got home to Los Angeles. As his career in Hollywood took off, he was given the chance to turn one of his all-time favorite books into a TV series. Having been given eight episodes to work with in this first season, he is focused not just on an accurate translation of Adams’ work, but also on “bringing something extra to the table.”
On the panel, Landis said, “I knew that, if I was going to do Dirk Gently, I didn’t want to just be a little weird, I wanted to go full weird. I’m going crazy.” Once you get a chance to watch the off-kilter pilot which they showed at the Comic Con panel, you’ll understand exactly how crazy that is.
“One of the things that’s hard about Douglas Adams [are] the tangents he goes on and the way he describes things,” Landis revealed at the New York Comic Con panel. “So, when trying to replicate his work for the screen, people try to compromise it… If anything, we want more humanity than in the books. There’s a cutting blade of cynicism that runs through Adams’ work, and, for me, I want to cut back on that and really increase the humanity, while still telling the story he told, in the way he told it.” And it appears that he does.
4. If There Is A Second Season, Landis Will Definitely Be Back
While the network has yet to order a second season of the show (one would think that at least a couple of episodes will air before any such decision is made), Landis is on board for more Dirk. Even though his film career is taking off — Bright, which also stars Joel Edgerton and is directed by Suicide Squad-helmer David Ayer, begins filming this week — Landis’ love of the material and the show have him primed for a return, should the renewal come down from above.
“I will continue doing movies as long as I can,” Landis said, “but if BBC America is kind enough to bring us back for a second season, I will, of course, come back. I will keep doing both… I am very excited and passionate about this show.”
5. It’s A Show For Our Times
Gently is described in the show’s title as a “holistic” detective, which he explains in the pilot as being connected to all things. Another character describes herself as “a holistic assassin,” who seems to kill people randomly and wantonly, but claims to have never offed the wrong person. With our society in such a state of division these days, the somewhat New Age-y idea that we are all connected to each other and that our actions have consequences — often unseen by us — is connective tissue that should resonate with today’s audience. Having such a powerful underlying theme in what is, on the surface, a light-hearted dramedy, adds layers of depth and thoughtfulness to what is already a fascinating hour of television.
Check out the premiere of ‘Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency’ on BBC America when the eight-episode series kicks off Saturday, Oct. 22 at 9/8c.