What The Death Of “Dirk Gently” Means For The Future Of Niche Television

Matthew Loffhagen
BBC America
(Photo: BBC America)

Dirk Gently is no more. The character’s cult favorite show was not renewed by BBC America after its second season, and now, it seems, efforts to keep the show alive by finding it a new home have failed.

This is a sad day for the fan community that sprang up around “Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency,” which pushed hard for its salvation. The #SaveDirkGently campaign, which attempted to show through social media the dedication of the fan base, has failed to convince any TV studio to pick up the series for a third season.

In a touching post on Twitter, the show’s executive producer Arvind Ethan David broke the bad news by thanking fans for their efforts:

This is a concerning development, as it could very well highlight the future of shows that develop a small, passionate fan base.

Everyone remembers the public outcry following the cancellation of “Sense8,” and the fact that Netflix was ultimately convinced to commission a season finale to wrap up loose ends, while other networks (including a pornographic website) offered to take up the mantle and continue the show.

People can be forgiven for assuming that this was the start of a new age of television programming, in which fans, rather than network executives, called the shots about what shows were worthy of production. Surely, all it would take to save a show would be a big enough fan campaign on social media.

Alas, no, television is ultimately driven by profits, rather than a desire to appeal to vocal fans. The viewing figures simply weren’t high enough for “Dirk Gently,” and this meant that the show wasn’t garnishing enough advertising revenue to justify continued production.

Dirk Gently with Todd and Farah
Source: BBC America

It’s worth speculating about whether “Dirk Gently” might have been able to continue had the show originally been a BBC production, rather than a show made by BBC America — in the UK, BBC programming is funded by a television license fee paid by viewers across the country, and as such, the shows don’t always need to pull in high ratings if they’re proven to be fulfilling a niche for audiences.

Regardless, it seems that shows like “Dirk Gently,” that are beloved by their small audiences but ultimately ignored by the majority of viewers, are still going to struggle in the modern era of television, even as streaming services allow for greater specialization and development of niche fan bases.

The internet era of television certainly is mixing up the formula as to what shows succeed, but apparently, there’s still a long way to go before weirder offerings like “Dirk Gently” can flourish without fear of cancellation.