LONDON -- What keeps Keen Eddie keen? Being in Britain, says Mark Valley, who plays a brash American detective abroad in a new Fox cop show. Valley is Eddie Arlette, who botched a sting operation for the NYPD and was then relocated to Scotland Yard in London to rehabilitate his career.
"He's just constantly experiencing life," said Valley, 38, "gaining his confidence back as each episode goes on."
The Fox series co-stars English actor Julian Rhind-Tutt as Monty Pippin, the British detective partnered with Arlette. The show begins a summer run tonight at 9 p.m.
Sienna Miller plays Fiona, Eddie's alternately frosty and flirtatious British housemate. Colin Salmon is Johnson, the supercilious police superintendent who keeps his eye on the often luckless Eddie.
In the episode Knuckle Punch, Eddie finds himself in the netherworld of London fight clubs up against a knucklebuster with a penchant for Monty Python.
In a later episode, Achtung Baby, Eddie is assigned to shadow a lusty German opera singer, Liese Kohl (played by British comedian Josie Lawrence), who is being plagued by a stalker.
Throughout, Eddie is the American expatriate keenly aware of English differences. "Only three channels," an aghast Eddie notes of English TV, when, in fact, there are five.
Eddie, says Valley, "is a little bit overenthusiastic."
The actor smiled: "It's like, 'Oh, wow, the buses are red; they're ALL red.' Eddie is enthusiastic about things people normally aren't enthusiastic about, particularly in Britain."
On a sunny January day, Valley gave off his own enthusiasm at landing what is easily his biggest break to date.
"That I had a job, that someone was going to hire me to do something -- that was pretty exciting," says Valley, a West Point graduate who did a stint in the Persian Gulf in 1991's Operation Desert Storm.
Early credits include work as an extra in the John Schlesinger film The Innocent -- "a great eye-opener to see what was going on." Various commercials and soap operas led to the role of Sen. Robert Kennedy in TNT network's Emmy-winning film about onetime Democratic presidential nominee George Wallace, starring Gary Sinise.
Now, as Eddie, Valley is the American in London, settling into a Notting Hill flat and drawing his own conclusions about Britain's enticements, both culinary and cultural.
How does he feel about tea? "I like it, (but) what's the big deal? You put in a little sugar, and it's all right."
What about opera, the glamorous milieu of episode nine? "It's one of those things you're going to love it or leave it alone; I leave it alone."
How does Eddie mesh with Monty? Very well, says Valley, though their personalities are different: "Nothing surprises Monty. He's been through it all; he's seen it all."
In a separate interview during a set visit in January, Rhind-Tutt spoke of the way the series works. "There are a lot of cultural understandings and misunderstandings; there's a lot we can play through."
To start with, the two detectives are distinctly attired, Eddie in corduroy and Monty in a pink shirt that, coupled with his flowing hair, makes him look distinctly foppish.
"I'm not quite sure about the truth of how sharply dressed they are at the real Scotland Yard," smiles Rhind-Tutt, a British theatre actor who played one of the journalists sent to interview Hugh Grant in the movie Notting Hill. While Rhind-Tutt sees Valley's Eddie as "a sexy version of Columbo," Monty, in turn, flies the flag for British sartorial spiffiness.
"It makes good sense with the tradition of English tailoring that maybe I went for something a bit smarter," Rhind-Tutt said.
IF YOU WATCH
What: Keen Eddie, series debut
When: Tonight, 9 p.m.