Letters from America: I have a new favourite cancelled television show.

originally sent 4th February 2004

Max Headroom.
Ultraviolet.
Firefly.

And now Keen Eddie.

Keen Eddie was a mid-season pickup for Fox last year. That means thirteen episodes. Seven were aired before it was cancelled. It’s also been shown in the UK. (Sky One in a graveyard slot, for those that are interested. Sunday afternoon. Filler material.) All 13 episodes are now being shown on Bravo in the US.

I’m starting to pick up trends over here now. Tapping the zeitgeist, getting into the groove. And based on what I’ve seen, there’s no way that Keen Eddie could have succeeded.

Like the other shows I mentioned, it’s just a little too quirky, a little too ahead of the curve to have been picked up. Eddie’s a New York cop who moves to London to…

Blah-de-blah-de-fucking-blah.

It doesn’t matter. It’s a fish out of water programme, and you don’t need to know more than that.

Particularly interesting is the direction and cinematography. The show was shot in the UK, but in a US TV style. It’s a little odd to see suburban semis and council estates shot like New York tenements and LA condos, but if you can get over the shock, there’s a lot to enjoy in seeing a different visual look for London. There’s not another show based in the UK that frames its shots like this, and I think that’s a real shame.

The show’s very stylised. You could think that’s good or bad. Me, I love being transported into a space where strange things happen that are completely normal to the characters. After all, isn’t that what happens in Law & Order every week?

And talking of the characters, they are self-consciously coolstrange (think Buffy or West Wing) but nonetheless lovable (ditto). And if you can deal with this, the show repays a lot. If you’re not, that’s cool. As I say, it’s not easy to get into unless you’re willing to suspend your disbelief.

But it does make me wonder: Alias has scenarios equally as far-fetched all of the cancelled shows I’ve mentioned, and a visual style equally strong. Why does one succeed and the others fail?

I’ll let you know when I figure it out.

Piers

3 Replies to “Letters from America: I have a new favourite cancelled television show.”

  1. Particularly interesting is the direction and cinematography. The show was shot in the UK, but in a US TV style. It’s a little odd to see suburban semis and council estates shot like New York tenements and LA condos, but if
    you can get over the shock, there’s a lot to enjoy in seeing a different visual look for London. There’s not another show based in the UK that frames its shots like this, and I think that’s a real shame.

    Okay – now that’s interesting to me. How are NY tenements supposed to be shot? “Get over the shock”?

    Pls. explain.

    The reason being is we all know that mucho storytelling goes on when the light hits the lens. Framing, tilting, panning all says something about what we are seeing. So I am curious as to how you (meaning Brits) are seeing yourselves and how we are seeing you and how that’s different.

    “Shock.” What a lovely word…

  2. Well, it’s been a while since I saw Keen Eddie, but from memory:

    The visual look for UK shows of the time tended to favour long establishers with some movement detail, while Keen Eddie used fast establishing shots of static environments and whip pans. You’d get an outside static shot for a few moments, then you’re in.

    Keen Eddie also graded its film more strongly – most UK shows don’t tend to push the colour grade.

    It seems to me as if UK shows just established a location, while US shows also established a mood.

    The UK establishing shots did not make the architecture look interesting or sexy. The Keen Eddie shots did.

    More than that, and I’ll need to dig out some episodes and watch ’em again!

    Any cinematographers out there would like to wade in on this one?

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