In a TV summer that's soon to be overrun with a swarm of new reality shows, a scripted series like Fox's Keen Eddie should feel like a refreshing breeze. And in a TV genre saturated with dead-serious forensics procedurals, a lighthearted crime dramedy -- set in jolly olde England, no less -- should be just what the coroner ordered. So how come I'm not so keen on ''Eddie''?
For starters, its fish-out-of-water premise is less than fresh. Rough-edged NYPD detective Eddie Arlette (''Once and Again'''s Mark Valley) gets sent to London on a narcotics case, and Scotland Yard decides to keep him around because, well, if they don't, there won't be a show. A predictable culture clash ensues. Eddie says ''soccer'' instead of ''football'' and mistakenly refers to the country's monetary unit as ''grams'' instead of ''pounds'' (oh, those Brits and their wacky lingo!). He prefers chewing gum to sipping tea, wears jeans with his jacket and tie, and gets called ''wanker'' a lot. Plus, his blunt introductory catchphrase, ''Hey, I'm Eddie -- how do ya like me so far?'' doesn't win him many chums on the other side of the pond. He's especially irritating to his hot blonde flatmate, Fiona (Sienna Miller, a dead ringer for Naomi Watts), with whom he engages in a trite love/hate relationship.
The show's depiction of London could hardly be shallower. Creator J.H. Wyman (''The Mexican'') takes a tourist's-eye view of the city that rarely ventures far from Big Ben, London Bridge, and Buckingham Palace. That's fine for the pilot, but as the weeks progress, one would expect a savvy cop's knowledge of his adopted terrain to extend beyond picture-postcard locales.
In order to drive home the cultural contrast, the show attempts to cast Eddie as the Ugly American, but as played by Valley he's too damn pretty to pull it off. ''You have a lot of the same energies as Steve McQueen,'' a British babe tells him, yet while he's got the ''Bullitt'' star's chiseled good looks, he possesses none of McQueen's underlying menace. Affable but not particularly interesting, Valley shares more energies with Tom Selleck, which is apt, since ''Eddie'''s tired story lines play out like episodes of ''Magnum, U.K.''
Eddie speaks in cop-show cliches (''If you touch a hair on her head, I will hunt you down in this life and in the next,'' he threatens a stalker) while investigating cases with his inscrutable partner, Monty Pippin (''Lara Croft: Tomb Raider'''s Julian Rhind-Tutt). ''You're like this walking shell game,'' Eddie tells the seemingly straitlaced Monty, who poses as the husband of a platonic female friend so they can sleep around at swingers' parties. ''Everything you do contradicts something that you've already done.'' The scribes are apparently aiming for complex characterization, but their efforts come across as inconsistent writing.
The show's visual style is equally ill-conceived. The incessant use of slo-mo footage and jarring jump cuts is meant to look cool, but if fancy camera work and editing alone could hold an audience's attention, Fox wouldn't have had to cancel ''Fastlane.'' The tricked-up cinematography suggests the distinct influence of Guy Ritchie's limey crime flicks, as does Eddie's fondness for canines. A diamond-swallowing dog figured prominently in the plot of Ritchie's ''Snatch,'' and Eddie's pet, a Spuds MacKenzie look-alike named Pete, has his own gastrointestinal issues. (''No greens,'' Eddie warns a pooch-sitter. ''It's a one-way ticket on the diarrhea express.'') Apparently, it didn't bother Fox that nobody in America goes to see Guy Ritchie movies.
''Eddie'' does offer occasional clever touches. A scene in a deafeningly loud club uses subtitles to translate the drowned-out dialogue, and a fistfight is accompanied by commentary from a soccer -- excuse me, football -- announcer (''I don't think that was entirely legal, but it certainly did the job,'' he observes over a replay of Eddie elbowing a perp in the gut). And whoever had the idea to score a foot chase with Madness' insanely propulsive ska-pop ditty ''One Step Beyond'' is an '80s-music genius. Yet for every inspired moment, there are umpteen banal ones, many of them related to Eddie's squabbles with Fiona. ''I hate cats,'' growls Eddie. Cut to... Fiona's kitty meowing! Over time, the tension between the roomies is obviously destined to turn sexual, but until then, ''Eddie'''s writers don't seem to know what to do with Fiona: One subplot concerns her troubles mail-ordering a toaster.
''You don't want me to leave,'' Eddie teases Fiona flirtatiously. ''I'm a pleasant diversion.'' Maybe that's true of the show as well, compared with the prospect of a long summer filled with ''American Idol'' and ''Joe Millionaire'' rip-offs. But in a nation where the average TV household now receives more than 100 channels, a pleasant diversion may not be enough to keep people from flipping. Hmmm, I wonder what's on BBC America....