Once the end of May is in sight, the networks traditionally start burning off the dramas and comedies left sitting on the bench for good reason. "Keen Eddie," though, is different. And I mean different. First off, like USA Network's "Monk" and FX's "Lucky," it defies categorization.
A rollickingly irreverent blend of crime drama and character-cop comedy, writer-producer J.H. Wyman's in-your-face program is as immediately engaging as it is energetic. At times amiably goofy and at times surprisingly suspenseful, "Keen Eddie" has attitude to spare.
The writing nimbly turns on a dime, deliciously wry one moment, decidedly wacky the next. Still, no matter how frenetic or kinetic or way-out-there the action gets, Wyman and director Simon West ("Lara Croft: Tomb Raider") never lose their delightfully eccentric sense of sideshow balance.
Valley's Eddie Arlette is a Manhattan police officer disgraced when a narcotics sting goes bad. In tonight's opener, he heads to London with his temperamental dog, Pete (played by a bull terrier named Dozer), and the remains of his clobbered career.
He is a fish out of water in the land of fish and chips. Hardly America's answer to James Bond, Eddie begins tonight's premiere blindfolded (with a sock, no less) and sitting in the back of three bumbling thugs' car.
Over the next couple of minutes, he's almost hit by one of those double-decker buses, nearly run down by a motorcycle, clipped by a car mirror, recaptured and stuffed into a trunk. And we're just getting to the opening credits.
Through it all, he tries to follow that British rule about keeping a stiff upper lip. The problem is that someone always is bloodying that upper lip.
Working with Scotland Yard, fast-talking Eddie is teamed with seemingly four-square detective Monty Pippin (Julian Rhind-Tutt). If that's not odd-couple enough for you, consider that our New York cop and his dog are sharing a flat with reluctant roommate Fiona Bickerton (Sienna Miller) and her cat.
Obviously, with names like Monty Pippin and Fiona Bickerton floating around, "Keen Eddie" won't be mistaken for the latest spinoff of "Law & Order." And although this will not be everyone's cup of humor-laced English tea, the antic and offbeat "Eddie" draws on a rich tradition of prime-time detective shows.
There is a strong strain of the culture clash found in Dennis Weaver's "McCloud." There's the down-on-his-luck likability of James Garner's "The Rockford Files." And there's the smart-alecky wiseguy fun provided by Bruce Willis in "Moonlighting."
It all adds up to a bloody good time in merry old England. Fox has been talking up this series since last summer, and its delayed debut left many assuming there must be almost nothing keen about "Eddie." That assumption was as wrong as Eddie's first impression of Monty.
A fortune cookie delivered to Eddie in tonight's episode contains a timely message: "Even in darkness, a keen spirit discovers light." Even in the darkness of a reality stampede, you should discover the spirited and light- hearted "Keen Eddie." There always will be enough bull tossed around by the networks; give this off-the-wall off-season starter a chance to build on its promise.