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American flatfoot in London

A New York cop finds himself teaming with Scotland Yard in Fox's lackluster police drama 'Keen Eddie.'

June 03, 2003|Brian Lowry | Times Staff Writer

The "fish-out-of-water" pitch remains a TV staple, as networks keep returning to the stranger-in-an-even-stranger-land blueprint that guided everything from "Green Acres" to "Northern Exposure." Implicit in the formula, however, is the presumption viewers will want to spend time watching the fish, which is why "Keen Eddie" -- the Fox police drama making a much-belated premiere tonight -- will likely get flushed.

The title character is a New York City cop dispatched across the great pond, to England, pursuing a botched narcotics case in conjunction with Scotland Yard. That he will find himself staying there, mismatched with a peculiar English partner and assigned to a brusque but ambitious captain, goes without saying. That you'll want to stay with him is another matter.

Infused with a fast-paced visual style and mixing humor with not-very-inspired police work, the series' principal flaw is that there's nothing especially keen or interesting about Eddie Arlette, who as played by Mark Valley (seen previously in Fox's short-lived "Pasadena") possesses a rugged jaw but not much in the way of charisma.

The program's editing quirks -- the camera darts about, cutting rapidly to snips of scenes -- are also puzzling. Fox's since-canceled "Fastlane" was at least about its MTV-style pacing and ambience. Here, the style detracts from the narrative as much as it adds, while threatening to make anyone over 30 feel motion-sick.

When he isn't solving cases, Eddie puts his time to better use bickering with his adorable if reluctant roommate, Fiona (Sienna Miller), a college dropout who refuses to vacate the flat he's rented from her parents. It's never a good sign, either, when a funny-looking dog plays such a prominent role early on.

Forgiving types drawn to subsequent episodes will find Eddie protecting an opera diva and investigating a jewelry store robbery, but the cases are at best uneven -- the show's appeal hinging on grooving to its off-kilter beat and identifying with Eddie as he navigates his way through London.

"Keen Eddie" was actually developed for this just-ended TV season and has languished for months while unscripted fare like "Joe Millionaire" swallowed Fox's lineup. The network is seeking to convince both viewers and the producers (who include series creator J.H. Wyman and onetime NBC chief Warren Littlefield) that the series is a legitimate contender for life beyond Labor Day, not just TV's latest ritual sacrifice to the summer sun.

Still, if dramas are going to reclaim turf on Fox or elsewhere, they'll need to be made of sterner stuff than "Keen Eddie," whose herky-jerky glimpses of Europe should do little more than leave you wondering what's on the Travel Channel.

*

'Keen Eddie'

Where: Fox

When: Premiere, 9 tonight

Rating: The network has rated the drama TV-PG-DLSV (may be unsuitable for young children, with advisories included for suggestive dialogue, coarse language, sex and violence).

Production credits: Created and written by J.H. Wyman; directed (tonight's episode) by Simon West; executive produced by Wyman, West and Warren Littlefield.

Mark Valley...Eddie Arlette

Julian Rhind-Tutt...Monty Pippin

Sienna Miller...Fiona Bickerton

Colin Salmon...Nathanial Johnson

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