Dirk Gently, BBC4, Thursday
The Apprentice, BBC1, Wednesday

Douglas Adams' 1980s crime caper was set in the present, but you wouldn't know it from the jokes

Very loosely based on Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency by Douglas (Hitchhiker's Guide) Adams, but without the planet hopping and unicorns, Dirk Gently began with a scene of teatime, flowery china and an old lady's lost cat.

The following hour brought us burglary, time travel, drugged beverages, hypnosis, computer hacking, an exploding warehouse, a double murder and the search for a missing billionaire. The conceit so cleverly expanded in this hour-long adaptation is that all the random events and apparent coincidences are linked by the laws of quantum mechanics – evidence of what Gently described (several times) as "the fundamental interconnectedness of all things".

Douglas Adams was a genius at pulling the mundane and the intergalactic into absurd but hilarious harmony, and some of that spirit survived Howard Overman's adaptation. In Gently's world, an obsessed suitor responds to his girlfriend's dread words, "You had your chance and you blew it. You're too late," by building a time machine, years later, to give himself a second crack at winning her.

The plot unfolded in a series of droll encounters, underlined by visual gags, don't-blink flashbacks, diagrams and snappy camerawork as our hero investigated clues and leads with his slow-on-the-uptake associate, MacDuff. It was a lovely bonus that both men weren't to be trusted for a second. From the start we knew that Gently was a hopeless, money-grabbing conman, while MacDuff was first seen burgling his girlfriend's house to steal a laptop, to which he'd sent a terminally ill-advised email.

Given the talent and style on display, it should have been a scream. In fact it all seemed a little moth-eaten. Though set in the modern day, it was staggeringly old-fashioned, with cosy 1950s sets straight from Wallace and Gromit, and a jazz soundtrack straight from the Carry On films. Many of the jokes were ancient – the snapping of a rubber glove for a per rectum examination, Dirk's non-starting car, a You-are-feeling-sleepy hypnotism scene. It felt as if Overman had tried to graft Douglas Adams's essentially 1980s humour on to a modern TV idiom and produced a mis-shapen hybrid.

You could overlook these faults, however, for the joy of Stephen Mangan's performance as the titular gumshoe. With his alarmed-spaniel eyes and jutting-jawed stroppiness, his geography teacher elbow-patches and Medusan hair, he radiates mess. A striver after connectedness, he's a walking embodiment of chaos. His ineptness as a sleuth provided some fine comic moments. When sinister old Mrs Jordan was asked if she knew a murder victim, we registered the momentary look of panic on her face – but Dirk was too busy fishing half a chocolate digestive out of his tea. I wish we could see more of Mr Mangan, in Dirk Gently II or anything else.

In The Apprentice, it was Reality Check time as the remaining five self-deluded egomaniacs, sorry, contestants were interviewed by four of Lord Sugar's beady-eyed associates. Awkward questions were asked, and dismaying judgements passed; it was as if a fire crew had invaded a kindergarten where a game of "shops" was in progress, and hosed down the participants with freezing water. Joanna, the contract-cleaning entrepreneur, failed to identify which companies Sugar owned (she seemed unfamiliar with the name Amstrad) and was told that her own company had "come to the end of the road". She looked understandably aghast. Chris, the posh one, was teased for claiming he was "revered as one of the outstanding theology students of my year" and told he was "a quitter". Jamie, the charming dealer in Cyprus real estate, when asked whether his company existed, stammered that he "did 99 per cent of the work" and was about to break with his partner. In a bowel-freezing exchange, Stuart "the Brand" Baggs came before a terrifying inquisitor called Claude. "What on earth are you talking about?" said Claude. "You're not a brand." Stuart mildly pointed out he was a big fish in a small pond. "You're not a big fish," yelled Claude. "You're not even a fish!"

The Brand was duly fired, after they found he'd massaged his CV. The words, "You're full of shit" were passed down by His Lordship like a pontifical judgement. Chris and the cool blonde, Stella, are in this week's final. I'm amazed by The Apprentice. Who'd have thought, 10 years ago, that an hour of business people discussing management virtues and vices could make for nail-biting drama?

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Feeling all at sea: Barbara's 18-year-old son came under the influence of a Canadian libertarian preacher – and she had to fight to win him back
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Living the high life: Anne Robinson enjoys some skip-surfed soup
TV review
Arts and Entertainment

Great British Bake Off
Arts and Entertainment
Doctor Who and Missy in the Doctor Who series 8 finale

TV
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Chvrches lead singer Lauren Mayberry in the band's new video 'Leave a Trace'

music
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Home on the raunch: George Bisset (Aneurin Barnard), Lady Seymour Worsley (Natalie Dormer) and Richard Worsley (Shaun Evans)

TV review
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Strictly Come Dancing was watched by 6.9m viewers

Strictly
Arts and Entertainment
NWA biopic Straight Outta Compton

film
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dormer as Margaery Tyrell and Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones

Game of Thrones
Arts and Entertainment
New book 'The Rabbit Who Wants To Fall Asleep' by Carl-Johan Forssen Ehrlin

books
Arts and Entertainment
Calvi is not afraid of exploring the deep stuff: loneliness, anxiety, identity, reinvention
music
Arts and Entertainment
Edinburgh solo performers Neil James and Jessica Sherr
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
If a deal to buy tBeats, founded by hip-hop star Dr Dre (pictured) and music producer Jimmy Iovine went through, it would be Apple’s biggest ever acquisition

album review
Arts and Entertainment
Paloma Faith is joining The Voice as a new coach

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Dowton Abbey has been pulling in 'telly tourists', who are visiting Highclere House in Berkshire

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Patriot games: Vic Reeves featured in ‘Very British Problems’
TV review
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

    Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

    But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
    Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

    Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

    Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
    Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

    Britain's 24-hour culture

    With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
    Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

    The addictive nature of Diplomacy

    Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
    8 best children's clocks

    Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

    Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
    Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

    How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

    Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
    Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

    'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

    In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
    Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

    The Arab Spring reversed

    Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
    King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

    Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

    Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
    Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

    Who is Oliver Bonas?

    It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
    Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

    Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

    However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
    60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

    60 years of Scalextric

    Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
    Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

    Why are we addicted to theme parks?

    Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
    Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

    Iran is opening up again to tourists

    After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there