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Americans are Broad

Photo by Sam Jones/Fox

Keen Eddie, the new policier — yeah, right — on Fox (Tuesdays, 9 p.m.), is the kind of hopped-up Guy Ritchie knockoff that pulsates with so much energy it will make Ritchie himself, should he ever watch it, feel like an old man reared on the classics. Such is the fate of the contemporary trendsetter: One minute you’re the idol of the Maxim lads, the next you’re metaphorically rubbing Rogaine through your thinning hair. Anyway, he probably won’t watch it. I hear Madonna’s quite down on television these days, now that she’s made her millions off MTV.

Since it’s one of the few dramatic series to get onto this summer’s schedule, already being swamped by a reality-show tsunami bearing everything from Surf Girls to Average Joe’s to American Juniors, one is tempted to be kind to Keen Eddie. It would be helpful, though, if the writers didn’t treat viewers like morons who’ll fall asleep if they have to listen to two lines of dialogue without something startling happening. What do I mean by this? Well, if Eddie (Mark Valley, Pasadena) eats a shrimp, it has to be a bad one so we can see him throw up. If he turns a doorknob, it must fall off in his hand. If he opens a bedroom door, there needs to be a couple behind it having sex. And if his dog meets a cat, he doesn’t merely have to chase it (as dogs do), he has to fuck it (as dogs don’t).

But then, Keen Eddie isn’t really a drama, or a comedy — it’s a cartoon. There are human beings in it, but they bear no more relation to actual humans than Bugs Bunny does to a rabbit. Something about London, where the show takes place, makes American TV writers nervous. Confronted with all that history, all that old gray stone, they jazz everything up instantly lest viewers think they’ve wandered into an episode of Masterpiece Theatre. You may recall last year’s short-lived The American Embassy, also on Fox, in which a young vice consul gets a job across the pond. On the way over, she has sex on the plane and loses her luggage. Then, when she gets to her apartment, she finds out her roommate is a nymphomaniac and her next-door neighbor is a transvestite. Well, things turn out pretty much the same for Eddie: He’s sick on the plane, he loses his luggage, and it turns out that the apartment he’s sublet is already inhabited — by Fiona (Sienna Miller), a cute blond boutique owner who’s bound to go nympho on him soon. (Yeah, but where’s the transvestite? — ed.)

The story is as follows — or perhaps I should say, as I was able to follow it: Due to a botched drug bust, NYPD Detective Eddie Arlette has to go off to London, where the drugs have ended up, hidden inside miniature replicas of Big Ben, all replicas of Buckingham Palace being sold out. Before you know it, he’s been set upon by gangland freaks, hoodwinked by an actor pretending to be a criminal (comedian Alexei Sayle) and given a stern dressing down by his stuffy black British superintendent (Colin Salmon). He’s also got himself a partner called Monty Pippin (Julian Rhind-Tutt), a sort of aristocratic David Spade, who knocks off work at 6 on the dot and, despite being single, goes in for wife swapping in swanky sex clubs.

Needless to say, it’s all completely absurd, a carnival of hokey writing in a kinetic blur of jump cuts, slo-mo and sudden fades that make the average network cop show look like something taking place in a retirement community. The idea that interest and suspense should be generated by narrative and character is far too old hat for this crowd, which deals with all that stuff in the editing room. Still, I’m told the 13-part series calms down later on, and if you close your eyes and listen to the music (Madness, the White Stripes, etc.), you may think you’re in a bar with a decent jukebox. Or you could just go to a real bar and forget all about it. Of course, you won’t be able to smoke, and you really shouldn’t drive if you’ve had more than two drinks. What to do?

 

Maybe you should go abroad. Like Eddie. Or like the 24 contestants in The Amazing Race 4 (CBS, Thursdays, 8 p.m.), spinning madly around the world in a bid to win a $1 million prize. They started out somewhere in L.A., from where they had to drive through freeway traffic to the airport to catch a flight to Milan; then it was on to the Italian Alps, trudging through snow and dangling above chasms before making it to Venice (two contestants had been eliminated by then), where they dashed around the streets and alleyways, rode gondolas, and generally acted like bewildered tourists in fast-forward mode.

The competitors have been chosen with care, though not, perhaps, with quite enough of it to make them memorable — not yet at least. There’s a gay married couple, a straight married couple, a lesbian couple, a virgin couple, a wives-of-NFL-players pair, two clowns, two air-traffic controllers, etc. . . . Watching them hotfoot it around Venice is like seeing a parody of the most abysmal form of travel, in which bickering lovers are always staring at maps, peering frantically at street signs, asking questions of uncomprehending locals, taking wrong turns, getting lost and never, ever, relaxing for a second.

How does a Venetian tell American tourists from all the other kinds? They’re the ones running around with a camera crew behind them, saying things like:

“Does this bus go to Venice?”

“I say we walk.”

“Run, Chuck, run!”

“We got it, guys, we got it!”

“Anyone speak English?”

“You’re being ultracontrolling here.”

“This isn’t a street. It’s, like, not even a hallway.”

And to think this is the city immortalized by the likes of William Shakespeare, Thomas Mann, Patricia Highsmith and Nicolas Roeg. Where’s that little red dwarf when you need him? (Hint: Don’t Look Now.) Oh well, they’ll be somewhere else in the next episode anyway.

 

Though not in Paris, because The Real World (MTV, Tuesdays, 10 p.m.) has already grabbed it. More Americans abroad! And here I was thinking everybody was staying home this year.

Since the cast members aren’t going after prize money but just hanging out, at least there’s time on The Real World to get to know people. Plus there’s only seven of them, rather than 24, which helps, and no one gets eliminated at the end of an episode. So in terms of attention span, by today’s standards we’re practically in Antonioni territory.

Paris looks good in the series, as you’d expect. A shot of the Metro here (hot black couple French-kissing by the escalator), a touch of the Seine there. They even drag out an accordion player. Okay, he’s a Turk, but you didn’t think the French still played accordions, did you? They’re up to le Moog synthesizer now.

There are three girls, three guys, and — the joker in the pack, or sack — Simon, who’s gay, Irish and, at 18, the baby of the lot. Naturally, the girls spend a lot of time kissing and hugging him early on, while they decide who they really plan to spend time with, but one wonders how he’ll fare in the long term. Perhaps he’ll stun everyone by going straight and stealing away the pick of the female litter, 19-year-old Mallory from Chicago, who gave up a soccer scholarship to be on the show and has not, quote, had a relationship up to this point, unquote. But I doubt it. He’s spent way too much time plucking his eyebrows to turn back now.

Actually, most of the girls are in love with Ace, a hunky 24-year-old dude from Georgia. Ace is on the serious side, and the girls like that, but it’s driving Adam (from Beverly Hills) half out of his mind. Adam’s got the hots for Mallory, but Mallory doesn’t care. Mallory’s a mystery (but one someone will solve). In the meantime, while passions boil and tempers flare, bad boy Chris from Boston, who looks just a teensy-weensy bit like Elvis, is doing a nice job of biding his time and playing it cool. Without a shot being fired or a contestant eliminated, it’s almost what you might call suspenseful. Maybe the writers on Keen Eddie should tune in — they might learn something.