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
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
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
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.