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DVD: 'Keen Eddie'

By M.V. Moorhead

April 15, 2006

April 23 is the day on which the Feast of St. George is celebrated. It also is believed to be Shakespeare’s birthday (he was christened on the 26th).

Every year at this time, my thoughts to turn to matters English, and also to the phenomenon of Anglophilia, that curious American disorder—from which I suffer—which results in romanticism of the country from which Our Forefathers saw fit to declare Independence.

For any of my fellow Anglophiles who are weary of Masterpiece Theatre, here’s a suggestion for you—check out Keen Eddie. This cheeky TV show died a quick death on Fox, despite critical praise, was briefly revived on Bravo, faded there as well, then found its way to a zero-frills DVD box set from Paramount, for the sake of a small but devoted cult following.

It deserves the devotion—the short-lived series is a sparklingly original rethinking of the cop-show form, and a fix for Limey-lovers, as well.

The title character is an American: Eddie Arlette (Mark Valley), a cocksure young narcotics detective with the NYPD, who bungles a major case in the pilot episode and must travel to London to try to salvage the situation.

He somehow ends up assigned permanently to Scotland Yard, partnered with an eccentric young inspector (the droll Julian Rhind-Tutt) who, though single, pretends to be married so that both he and his “wife” can partake of London’s swinger scene.

Eddie, meanwhile, winds up sharing a flat with Fiona (the beguiling Sienna Miller), a gorgeous rich kid who’s secretly living as a career girl while her family thinks she’s at school. She and Eddie bicker constantly, which of course means that they’re rapidly falling in love.

In description, all this sounds almost like a parody of the sort of labored contrivances on which so many TV series are built, and it’s to Keen Eddie’s credit that it makes little effort to seem all that probable. Eddie has a dog—a splendid bull terrier called Pete—that he takes with him to London and for whom he is able to arrange an early release from quarantine. Is this terribly likely? Who cares? The producers just wanted to put a cute dog in every episode, and Pete is such a scene-stealer that we accept it.

The cases that Eddie encounters are likewise all bizarre, baroque, bursting with English-style whimsy. They hinge on the likes of stolen racehorse essence, stalked opera singers, hazed private-school boys, astrology-obsessed French gangsters, washed-up TV stars with photographic memories, armed robbers disguised in Duran Duran masks.

The plots unfold in a headlong, feverishly edited style full of whip-pans and speeded-up transitions, yet the tone is lighthearted and silly. The stories almost never lead to any real bloodshed or death—there usually isn’t even any gunplay—and this playful, unpretentious sensibility is a large part of what makes Keen Eddie so refreshing.

The other part is the acting, particularly that of the lone Yank Valley, currently playing a much less rewarding role on Boston Legal. His Eddie Arlette is an actual, unapologetically do-gooder Boy Scout-type good guy, who isn’t any less interesting and attractive for being a good guy. In this age of anti-heroes, that’s a real achievement.


The Keen Eddie box set is one of the most no-frills DVDs I’ve ever seen from a major studio. It contains all 13 episodes and, quite simply, nothing else—no extras at all. I’ve even read some grumbling online that some of the soundtrack music was changed from the broadcast versions to avoid licensing charges.

If true, this is outrageous in principle, but I confess I wouldn’t have noticed. The music sounded fine to me.

As to family suitability, much of the humor is on the risqué side. That said, Eddie Arlette makes a fine role model.


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