On the New York Comic Con panel for BBC America’s upcoming new series “Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency,” creator Max Landis was radiant with enthusiasm not only for his audacious adaptation of Douglas Adams’ 1987 novel, but also to be before the sprawling crowd of the massive Madison Square Garden theater.
Following the world premiere of the “Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency” pilot, lively Landis took the to stage joined by the series’ showrunner/executive producer Robert Cooper, cast members, Samuel Barnett, Hannah Marks, Jade Eshete, Mpho Koaho and Fiona Dourif, as well as a fleet of cute Corgis wearing red promo jackets. It turns out Corgis play a key element of the quirky comedy/sci-fi show as well as its marketing campaign.
“This is the dumbest thing I’ve ever done,” Landis laughed, as the darling dawdling dogs won coos from the NYCC crowd, “And I’ve done a lot of dumb things!”
Though the audience was excited about the premiered pilot and its charming ensemble, the panel’s clear star was Landis. Most of the questions from the assembly were intended for him. He joked with fans and comically cringed when Eshete said the script so enticed her she had to Google its writer. “Don’t Google me!” Landis playfully yelped, inspiring warm chuckles from the crowd over his various online controversies.
But Landis got most intense when discussing his passion for doing right by Adams’ works. Having already shared his introduction to the sci-fi great’s books, and his resulting ravenous obsession, the stoked screenwriter took a question about capturing the humanity in Adams’ work to heart.
“One of the things that’s hard about Douglas Adams,” Landis began, “is that–and I don’t think any fan would argue that, I’ll say it again and again–is the main character of every Douglas Adams book is Douglas Adams. It’s those tangents, the tangents he goes on and the way he describes how the people are feeling, more so even than the people themselves.”
“So when trying to replicate for the screen,” he continued, “this thing happens when people do Douglas Adams adaptations, where they either go like, ‘I’m going to compromise with this. It can’t be too weird.’ And then maybe you get things like the previous adaptation of “Dirk Gently” (referring to the short-lived 2010 series). Which is about a quirky detective. It’s a good show in its own right, but it’s not a Douglas Adams show. And then you get things like the big budget “Hitchhikers” (referring to the 2005 Martin Freeman vehicle). Which is a well-made good blockbuster movie. But it’s so unfocused because it’s trying to do everything the book did. Like five things in “Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy,” and everything else is wonderful fluff where you’re just on this ride with this wonderful voice, like you’re telepathically communicating with the best comedy sci-fi author in the world. So that’s what we’re trying to do. So if anything, we want more humanity than the books.”
Landis concluded, “Douglas Adams books are soft, but not rated R, but there’s this cutting blade of cynicism that runs through them. And that distances you a little. If Arthur Dent died, you’d be like, ‘Aw, that sucks.’ You wouldn’t be sobbing, as I think was proved by the end of “Mostly Harmless.” And for me, I want to get people sobbing. So yeah, there’s going to be a bit more humanity.”
“Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency” premieres Saturday, October 22 on BBC America.
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