I have no idea what's going on in the new Dirk Gently TV show — and I like it

BBC America's adaptation is vastly different from the books, but that's ok

Dirk Gently
(Image credit: Bettina Strauss/BBC America)

In this glut of grim science fiction, whether it's Black Mirror's technodystopias, Orphan Black's wars for genetic independence, or Mr. Robot's disquisitions on reality and oligarchy and mental health — BBC America's adaptation of author Douglas Adams' Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency books has sprung on the scene as a doofily absurd invitation not to take everything quite so seriously. As Westworld sermonizes on the high moral cost of entertainment, and Marvel's Jessica Jones and Luke Cage explore systemic abuse and our own complicity, Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency inhales and says hey, maybe we're all just pawns in some giant cosmic scheme of which we're unaware and for which we are — at best — incidental. It's Men in Black to TV's current epidemic of Interstellars.

That's a welcome change if you're sagging from the moral weight of this election season and resenting everyone else for not doing their bit (or for doing bits that don't need doing). Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency pokes fun at the self-important delusion that your bit matters. It suggests that you're exactly where you need to be, doing exactly what needs to be done, for whatever is supposed to happen next — which may or may not work out well for you, but you are not the point.

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Lili Loofbourow

Lili Loofbourow is the culture critic at TheWeek.com. She's also a special correspondent for the Los Angeles Review of Books and an editor for Beyond Criticism, a Bloomsbury Academic series dedicated to formally experimental criticism. Her writing has appeared in a variety of venues including The Guardian, Salon, The New York Times Magazine, The New Republic, and Slate.