Keen Eddie: Pilot (2003) TV Review

The one thing that can sink Fox’s new TV series “Keen Eddie” before it even gets a chance to dog paddle is the same thing that sunk another Fox TV show, “The American Embassy”. It’s this: Americans just don’t seem to care all that much about England. Oh sure, England seems like a nice enough place to visit, and Americans certainly don’t mind having the Brits backing us up in a scrap. Although the country as a whole probably eats too much fried food, and there’s that whole thing about British people not having much of a sense of humor. And oh yeah, it’s rumored to rain quite a lot around those parts. But on the plus side, at least they’re not French.

But the question is, do people actually want to spend an hour each week watching a rough and tumble American cop chasing quirky English gangsters straight out of a Guy Ritchie film? The one-hour pilot for “Keen Eddie”, starring Mark Valley as Eddie Arlette, the “keen” fellow of the title, is a fast-paced drama/comedy that rarely has a serious bone in its body. And in the end, maybe the show’s “look, we’re not serious here” vibe will save it.

The pilot opens with Eddie being tricked by a duplicitous English brunette into inadvertently helping a truckload of drugs escape New York. Rightly blamed for the foul-up, Eddie is sent to London, the drugs’ destination, as punishment. In London, Eddie is teamed up with Pippin (Julian Rhind-Tutt), a well-dressed English cop and, as it turns out, a secret party boy into swinging, even though he’s not married. Eddie also finds the sexy Fiona (Sienna Miller) living in the loft that Eddie had rented; the loft belongs to Fiona’s aunt, who has no idea Fiona is living there. After a couple of rounds of personality clashes, Eddie and Fiona agree to share the loft. And oh, Eddie has a clever dog that enjoys “shagging” Fiona’s poor cat.

Fast-paced and breezy, the pilot for “Keen Eddie” looks like an MTV music video gone horribly awry. Simon West, the episode’s director, throws in every camera trick in the book, so much so that you may start to get a little dizzy after the first 5 minutes. With only 60 minutes (plus commercials) to set up its premise and prove Eddie’s worth to his London colleagues, the pilot episode feels like a track meet in every sense of the word.

“Keen Eddie” has a lot going for it. Creator Jib Polhemus has set the series on location in London, England, which gives the series a tourist’s fascination. Of course “The American Embassy” was also set entirely in London, and that didn’t seem to help it any (the show didn’t even finish up its first-season run). It remains to be seen rather American audiences will appreciate being taken to England’s seedy underbelly each week (but not so seedy that the whole thing becomes serious, natch).

The series’ “more comedy than drama” vibe is bolstered by a scene where Eddie and other cops storm a souvenir booth as a soccer announcer rambles away in voiceover as if the whole sequence was a soccer game. Also, Mark Valley’s Eddie seems to be “in” on the joke, as well as Colin Salmon as Eddie’s new boss, a man lacking in a sense of humor, or so it seems. The romantic tension between roommates Eddie and the young and beautiful Sienna Miller is also a definite plus. What is it about gorgeous British women and those accents?

Finally, these are the two main obstacles in the way of “Keen Eddie”: one) American audiences may not be all that interested in England, and two) Quirky British gangsters went out of favor along with one-gimmick director Guy Ritchie and his aging wife, what’s-her-name with the torpedo bras.

CAST: Mark Valley …. Eddie Arlette
Yul Vazquez …. Jonah Rosenthal
Sienna Miller …. Fiona Bickerton
Alexei Sayle …. Rudy
Colin Salmon …. Johnson

Buy Keen Eddie on DVD