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
Nick Frost will star in the Doctor Who 2014 Christmas special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Friends is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year
TV
Arts and Entertainment
A spell in the sun: Emma Stone and Colin Firth star in ‘Magic in the Moonlight’
filmReview: Magic In The Moonlight
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Actor and director Zach Braff

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

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Meera Syal was a member of the team that created Goodness Gracious Me

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The former Doctor Who actor is to play a vicar is search of a wife

film
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Pointless host Alexander Armstrong will voice Danger Mouse on CBBC

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jack Huston is the new Ben-Hur

film
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne modelling

film
Arts and Entertainment
Emma Thompson and Bryn Terfel are bringing Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street to the London Coliseum

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke's video for 'Blurred Lines' has been criticised for condoning rape

Robin Thicke admits he didn't write 'Blurred Lines'

music
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Damon as Jason Bourne in The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)

film
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

Review: Cilla, ITV TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Tom Hardy stars with Cillian Murphy in Peaky Blinders II

TV
Arts and Entertainment

art
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch star in the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game

film
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West is on his 'Yeezus' tour at the moment

Music
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.

    Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

    Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

    Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
    Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

    Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

    The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
    The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

    Scrambled eggs and LSD

    Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
    'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

    'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

    Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
    Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

    New leading ladies of dance fight back

    How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam