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Tv Review: 'Eddie' not ready for prime time

Sunday, June 01, 2003


Excuse me, must be the dust. Fox's "Keen Eddie" has been sitting on the shelf since last May, when it was announced as a midseason series.

"Keen Eddie"

When: 9 p.m. Tuesday on Fox.

Starring: Mark Valley.

It's a run-of-the-mill fish-out-of-water show about an American cop who solves crimes in London. (Don't ask me to explain the technicalities about jurisdictions and job switches, because the show doesn't do much to be clear about that.)

Though Fox announced the show for midseason, I suspect they, too, realized it wasn't distinct enough to grab much of an audience. But now that the network wants to be seen as programming scripted shows year-round, they're trotting it out as Exhibit A in their summer programming plan. That sounds better than what's really going on: They're burning off a lame series.

Mark Valley stars as New York City detective Eddie Arlette, who blunders in a drug bust and gets reassigned to London to work with Scotland Yard in tracking down the alleged suspects and busting the drug ring.

In London, Eddie blackmails his way into rooming with Fiona Bickerton (Sienna Miller), a self-absorbed, bickering beauty, and partners with Detective Inspector Monty Pippin (Julian Rhind-Tutt) while butting heads with his boss, Superintendent Nathaniel Johnson (Colin Salmon).

"Keen Eddie" was created by J.H. Wyman, writer of the Brad Pitt-Julia Roberts flop "The Mexican." Wyman wrote Tuesday's premiere as well as additional episodes. Because the "Keen Eddie" concept is so uninteresting, Wyman tries to inject some wit by giving Eddie a nasty case of bad luck, a pick-up line/catch phrase ("Hey, I'm Eddie. How do you like me so far?") and an ugly dog, Pete, an English bull terrier. Eddie's partner, Pippin, is made out to be unpredictable, a seeming straight arrow who indulges in swingers parties. Eddie's bad luck diminishes after Tuesday's premiere, and Pippin's oddities all but disappear in subsequent episodes.

Simon West, director of "Con Air" and "Lara Croft: Tomb Raider," tries to distinguish the lackluster pilot script with visual flair, but the between-scene smash cuts are similar to a device used on The WB's "Angel." Over a fight scene, West uses the voice of a soccer announcer calling plays on a TV in the background. These are OK tricks, but they mostly evaporate after the first episode.

The principals involved in "Keen Eddie" seem to realize the difficulties of making an original series.

"What I like and dislike about TV, and especially cop shows, is that most of the time, you know exactly where it's going and you've seen most of these scenes a million times," West said at a Fox press conference last summer. "I wanted to show it in a way that didn't bore them."

West also acknowledged the style of the pilot was unlikely to continue in the series.

"We want to make a big splash with the pilot and grab your attention and we'll just have to see as the series goes on," he said. "I think you'll get to know the characters and you'll get to know Keen Eddie more, and I think those parts will become more important than the technique, so the technique may get less and less."

That's typical. A studio shells out big bucks for a pilot to convince a network to buy a series, and then once the show is sold, the purse strings tighten. In this case, it doesn't matter so much because the visual flair is unexceptional, but at least it distracts viewers from the unoriginal characters and relationships, particularly the love-hate bond between Eddie and Fiona.

"Keen Eddie" was filmed on location in London, just like last year's Fox series "American Embassy," which was a slightly better show. In both series, the setting is more alluring than the characters or story.

"When we tested it, that's the thing that scored the highest, was the location actually, above everything," West said, "the fact that it was in a different world and with these different-sounding people."

Test audiences have already discovered the only good reason to be keen on "Eddie." Now it's the rest of America's turn.

You can reach Rob Owen at 412-263-2582 orrowen@post-gazette.com . Post questions or comments to www.post-gazette.com/tv under TV Forum.

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