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?

Arts and Entertainment
Russell Tovey, Myanna Buring and Julian Rhind Tutt star in Banished
tvReview: The latest episode was a smidgen less depressing... but it’s hardly a bonza beach party
Arts and Entertainment
Crime watch: Cara Delevingne and Daniel Brühl in ‘The Face of an Angel’
film review
Arts and Entertainment
music Malik left the Asian leg of the band's world tour after being signed off with stress last week
News
Author J.K. Rowling attends photocall ahead of her reading from 'The Casual Vacancy' at the Queen Elizabeth Hall on September 27, 2012 in London, England.
peopleNot the first time the author has defended Dumbledore's sexuality
News
‘The Late Late Show’ presenter James Corden is joined by Mila Kunis and Tom Hanks for his first night as host
news
Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tv Some of the characters appear to have clear real-life counterparts
News
Brooks is among a dozen show-business professionals ever to have achieved Egot status
people
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
A cut above: Sean Penn is outclassed by Mark Rylance in The Gunman
film review
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
James Franco and Zachary Quinto in I Am Michael

Film review Michael Glatze biopic isn't about a self-hating gay man gone straight

Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the movie 'Get Hard'
tvWill Ferrell’s new film Get Hard receives its first reviews
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: David Cameron (Mark Dexter), Nick Clegg (Bertie Carvel) and Gordon Brown (Ian Grieve)
tvReview: Ian Grieve gets another chance to play Gordon Brown... this is the kinder version
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman in the first look picture from next year's Sherlock special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Because it wouldn’t be Glastonbury without people kicking off about the headline acts, a petition has already been launched to stop Kanye West performing on the Saturday night

music
Arts and Entertainment
Molly Risker, Helen Monks, Caden-Ellis Wall, Rebekah Staton, Erin Freeman, Philip Jackson and Alexa Davies in ‘Raised by Wolves’

TV review
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
James May, Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond in the Top Gear Patagonia Special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Game of Thrones will run for ten years if HBO gets its way but showrunners have mentioned ending it after seven

Game of Thrones
Arts and Entertainment
Mans Zelmerlow will perform 'Heroes' for Sweden at the Eurovision Song Contest 2015

music
Arts and Entertainment
Elizabeth (Heida Reed) and Ross Poldark (Aiden Turner) in the BBC's remake of their 1975 original Poldark

Poldark review
Arts and Entertainment
Daniel Craig as James Bond in Skyfall

Mexican government reportedly paying Bond producers for positive portrayal in new filmfilm
Arts and Entertainment
Disney’s flying baby elephant is set to return in live-action format
filmWith sequels, prequels and spin-offs, Disney plays it safe... and makes a pachyderm
Arts and Entertainment
Nazrin with Syf, Camden
photography
News
The QI Elves photographed at the Soho Theatre. They are part of a team of researchers who find facts for the television programme 'QI'.
people
Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tv0-star review: Sean O'Grady gives it his best shot anyway
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

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

    The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

    The saffron censorship that governs India

    Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
    Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

    Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

    Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
    Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

    How did fandom get so dark?

    Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
    The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

    The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

    Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
    The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

    Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

    Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
    Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

    Disney's mega money-making formula

    'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
    Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

    Lobster has gone mainstream

    Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
    Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

    14 best Easter decorations

    Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
    Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

    Paul Scholes column

    Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
    Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

    The future of GM

    The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
    Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

    Britain's mild winters could be numbered

    Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
    Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

    Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

    Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
    Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

    The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

    The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
    Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

    Cowslips vs honeysuckle

    It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
    Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

    Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

    A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss