Keen Eddie

To say that Fox’s Keen Eddie doesn’t suck is to damn this promising summer replacement series with faint praise. Keen Eddie is breezy summer fun: fast-paced, quirky, and, a rarity in summer TV, intelligent. Its marvelous energy is bolstered by a fresh visual style that is more suited to cable than network TV.

That’s not to say that Keen Eddie is not derivative and predictable, because this show wears its influences squarely on its sleeve. But if you’re going to borrow, you may as well borrow from the best. The show evokes the tone and style of Moonlighting and the hyperkenetic Guy Ritchie crime films, Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch. You’d be hard pressed to find a more enjoyable new series, particularly during a season when the networks are subjecting us to one reality show after another. Besides, what are your choices at 9 o’clock on a Tuesday evening in June? Reruns of According to Jim?

America, meet Eddie.

A scruffy, smart-alecky New York cop (is there any other kind?), Eddie Arlett (Mark Valley) allows a mysterious brunette to cloud his judgment while on a high profile case, causing a drug bust to go woefully wrong. Instead of firing him, Eddie’s bosses send him across the pond to London, to follow the drug trail and arrest the mysterious chemist responsible for manufacturing and selling the drugs.

In one of those bizarre coincidences that only happen on TV, Eddie and his obnoxious bull terrier Pete find themselves cohabitating in a London flat with the sexy, out-spoken Fiona Bickerton (Sienna Miller), a fitting name as the two spend most of the premiere episode at each other’s throats. Apparently, even a show this smart can’t avoid the squabbling roommates cliché, promising that soon they will come to respect each other and maybe even have sex.

Work is also predictably challenging. Once Eddie meets his new colleagues, a squad of by-the-books Scotland Yard detectives, he and his partner Monty Pippin (Julian Rhind-Tutt) navigate the underworld of parties, pubs and nightclubs in search of the drug dealers. With his floppy hair, ghostly complexion, and natty suits, Pippin looks like he’d be more at home playing keyboards in Jethro Tull than fighting crime on the mean streets of London, providing a veddy British counterpoint to the perpetually disheveled American.

This is all fairly standard cop stuff, and the fish-out-of-water bit soon wears thin, but the jittery visual style doesn’t give us a moment to notice. From the opening shot to the previews of next week’s episode, this show rarely lets up, employing trendy filmmaking techniques — zooming and swooping cameras, flashbacks and fast-forwards — garishly lit and pulsing to a groovy retro/techno soundtrack from electronic legends Orbital, centered on reworkings of the 1969 Archies hit “Sugar, Sugar.” Still, pilot episode director Simon West (Lara Croft: Tomb Raider) never lets things get out of control. The show has a loose, freewheeling feel, punctuated by lots of action and moments of laugh-out-loud humor, usually at Eddie’s expense. Keen Eddie is the show that Fox’s now-cancelled Fastlane wishes it could have been.

But Keen Eddie‘s real charm lies in Mark Valley’s relaxed performance. He carries the same sense of cool charm and smirking self-deprecation as the Moonlighting-era Bruce Willis, but without the smarminess. Last seen in Fox’s short-lived primetime soaper Pasadena, his Eddie is a goofy, likeable lug.

With all this going for it, will Keen Eddie make it past the summer? It’s been sitting on a shelf while Fox figured out what to do with the full season of 13 episodes it ordered last year. Originally scheduled as a 2003 midseason replacement, Eddie was bumped when Joe Millionaire and the second season of American Idol became massive hits for the network. Fox says it plans to give Keen Eddie the same chance it would give any show in its fall lineup, but relegating the series to the purgatory of summer TV suggests otherwise.

Despite relentless hype, particularly during its 8pm American Juniors lead-in, Eddie scored solid demographic numbers while finishing fourth in its time slot, averaging a 6.0 rating. These are respectable numbers, but perhaps not enough. It seems likely that we won’t be seeing much of Eddie and Pete after August. Which is unfortunate. A show that dares to be this different deserves a fighting chance. Much like ABC’s groundbreaking Max Headroom from 1987, which also had a daring visual style and lasted only one season, Keen Eddie may prove to be too quirky for its own good.