Tuesday, June 24, 2003
Eddie (Mark Valley) and Fiona (Sienna Miller) share a cab and a flat in Keen Eddie on FOX.
I don't much care what other critics are saying, I'm rather keen on Keen Eddie, a fish-out-of-water caper thriller about an upright, rough-hewn Yankee detective transplanted across the Atlantic and plonked down in the middle of London, where he's handed a temporary assignment with Scotland Yard.
Mark Valley brings just the right mix of inner tenderness and outward toughness to the role of New York copper Eddie Arlette; regular TV watchers familiar with Valley's work in the unfairly cancelled Once and Again know there's more to him than just another pretty face. And Eddie is one of those characters that, like David Addison in Moonlighting and Thomas Magnum in Magnum P.I., provides a terrific showcase for an actor willing to do more with the part than just read words off a page.
It helps, too, that Valley is surrounded by a fine British cast: Julian Rhind-Tutt as his inscrutable, boyish cohort
Monty Pippin (love that name); Sienna Miller, a dead ringer for Without a Trace's Poppy Montgomery but with a more cultured accent, as Eddie's flatmate, Fiona; and Prime Suspect's Colin Salmon in the thankless role of Eddie's tightly wound C.O. from Scotland Yard.
One of the things I appreciate most about Keen Eddie, based on two episodes so far, is the way the show plays with preconceived notions of how the Brits perceive Yanks and vice versa. Eddie isn't nearly the yahoo the Brits suppose, and the Euros are nowhere near as effete as Eddie supposes.
In a lesser show, the joke would be that Eddie is a slob and the Brits are snobs, but that old saw has been done to death.
Instead, Keen Eddie takes the basic template of cultural differences and gives it a Guy Ritchie spin: One of the show's unsung stars is an indescribably ugly pooch, a dog so ugly he's actually cute. In a typical Ritchie moment from last week's episode, while Fiona is taking the dog out for a walk an advertising executive is so struck by the dog's Spuds MacKenzie looks that he offers to design a campaign around him. ("Ugly, isn't he?" Fiona says apologetically. "Yes, remarkably," the executive replies. "I've never seen uglier. He's perfect.") It's a nice joke: The pooch becomes a billboard star, while Eddie is reduced to reheating bangers and mash over an old stove. In an oddly timely twist of fate, tonight's episode revolves around a famous British football player (soccer, to you and me) embroiled in international controversy.
Summer is a strange time for network TV: In an attempt to stave off defections to the specialty channels or, heaven forbid, some activity other than watching TV, mainstream broadcasters are dialing back on the reruns and churning out reality programs instead, or short, 13-week series like Keen Eddie and Monk, designed to keep hard-core viewers happy until the real season begins again in September.
Monk, starring Tony Shalhoub as an obsessive-compulsive private eye, is already a cult hit in its second season; this year's episodes are being filmed in Los Angeles instead of Toronto (one of the benefits of being a hit is that the budget no longer matters so much), and Shalhoub is a serious contender for Emmy consideration, when the nominations are announced next month.
Ordinarily, summer series air during the summer because the networks have decided they aren't good enough to be pitted against real competition, but as Monk has shown, the networks are often wrong.
Monk might not be the best program on TV at the moment, but it's considerably better than many shows that air during so-called regular season. My guess is that, with a little luck and good timing, Keen Eddie may follow in Monk's footprints.
It's easy to dismiss Keen Eddie as Guy Ritchie Lite, but when the alternative is Paradise Hotel, any Ritchie is better than no Ritchie at all.
Keen Eddie airs Tuesdays from 9-10 p.m. on KCPQ-Fox.
Champions of the Wild (8-8:30 p.m., Knowledge) A look at bald eagles. Which, you know, are not really bald.
Last Comic Standing (9-10 p.m., Global, KING-NBC) Ten comedians move into their Los Angeles mansion. Ten comedians living in the same house: It's a miracle anything ever gets done.
Secrets of Lost Empires (9-10 p.m., History) Unravelling the secrets of those giant stone heads on Easter Island. One question is unexplained, however: How they learned to drive for those credit union ads.
The Osbournes (10-10:30 p.m., CTV) Season finale: Sharon and Oz renew their wedding vows. Again.