'Dirk Gently' doesn't make a smooth leap to TV

'Dirk Gently' is 'a needlessly complex mystery'
'Dirk Gently' is 'a needlessly complex mystery'

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'Dirk Gently' is 'a needlessly complex mystery' 01:39

(CNN)Douglas Adams fans learned the hard way that the author's quirky tone doesn't easily translate to the screen with the movie "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy." They fare only slightly better with "Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency," an ungainly series from BBC America.

Bearing a resemblance to AMC's comic-book adaptation "Preacher" in its intriguing but confounding, all-over-the-place tone, the series stars Samuel Barnett as the title character -- who preaches "the interconnectedness of all things" -- and Elijah Wood as Todd, the cash-strapped, aimless lad who reluctantly becomes his assistant.
They are surrounded by a number of parallel plots that, over the first three episodes, are slow to coalesce. The strands involve a crime scene with bite marks on the ceiling; a machete-wielding assassin; shadowy military operatives; understandably confused detectives; a missing girl; and a dog and a kitten.
    If it sounds confusing and nearly as unwieldy as the title, rest assured, it is. Adapted by Max Landis, there's a wackiness that permeates the proceedings. Despite the darkly comedic tone, there's also a fair amount of violence, much of it perpetrated by the aforementioned assassin Bart (Fiona Dourif), whose exploits are witnessed by Ken (Mpho Koaho), a terrified hacker.
    Adams acolytes might be satisfied by the show's willingness to let all this unfold at such a gradual pace, as opposed to rushing it. That's one of the benefits TV brings to this sort of equation.
    To the uninitiated, though, "Dirk Gently" feels pretty near impenetrable -- an opaque fever dream that careens along almost drunkenly. Many literary properties face a similar challenge, especially when they enjoy strong cultish devotion, raising the bar in terms of satisfying the faithful without excluding others.
    "Dirk Gently" ultimately fails that test. "The world will lead me to where I need to go," Dirk explains at one point.
    Perhaps so, but while his journey proves mildly intriguing, more casual passengers will likely begin looking for the exits before he reaches his destination.
    "Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency" premieres October 22 at 9 p.m. on BBC America.