“I make a living in the movies, but for the past twenty years I’ve also been a cop. My name is Steven Seagal. That’s right, Steven Seagal. Deputy Sheriff.”
And so opens the most entertaining television show that’s come along in a long time! Well, at least the most oddly fascinating one.
When I first heard about the premise of this I thought of that kooky story of how President Nixon had made Elvis an honorary agent or something and gave him a badge. I immediately thought that’s what this Seagal show would be like. Some celebrity gets an honorary badge presented to him and it goes to his head, he takes it a little too seriously and starts to act like a real cop.
Then I realized they did attempt a show based on that idea – Lookwell. Adam West played a washed up ex-action hero who having once years ago been ceremoniously deputized, now goes out to try to solve crimes. But that was an intended comedy. ‘This isn’t Hollywood”, intones Seagal in his unique, ultra-dramatic way, “This is for real.”
Seagal made a name for himself as an action film star. His debut in 1987’s Above the Law in what was the beginning of a string of increasing successful action vehicles he headlined in.
The stories, characters and acting weren’t always the best, (Seagal’s acting skills aren’t exactly a deadly weapon) but the draw was watching him kick the crap out of bad guys utilizing his martial arts skills. I mean, sometimes that’s all an action fan wants.
By the mid-90’s Seagal seemed to be taking himself a bit too seriously. He began writing producing and acting in his films and the satisfying quality of the action began to weaken. His performances started to get more stiff and his monotone voice got more amusing the more dramatic he would try to be.
Hard-hitting messages about the environment, spiritualism and Native Americans seemed to overshadow the basics of the action his fans loved about him in the first place. His musical career seemed more like a distraction to the weakening additions to his film resume.
By the time the credits rolled in 1994’s On Deadly Ground, with Seagal making a wooden plea about the environment, his best years as an action star were behind him. All his films since 2002 have been released direct to DVD in the U.S. and he just seemed like an actor who got too big of a head and thought he could do no wrong.
So with the way his career has gone it should come as little to surprise to see him pop up on his own reality show.
I’m not sure how much time Seagal has actually spent in the last twenty years patrolling around in the town of Jefferson Parish, Louisiana (I can’t imagine the show would exaggerate it too much, they must know someone’s going to check up on that fact), but it seems like he hasn’t changed much. He’s still as melodramatic and unintentionally funny as ever.
Steven Seagal Lawman (I love that title. Just try saying it in a dramatic whisper with a nice pause to it) is basically a hybrid of COPS and a celebrity reality show. Seagal helps take down some perps, offers sage advice to his fellow officers and reminds viewers he has practiced the martial arts for forty years with his trademark squint, all the while in his voice going in and out of having a southern affect.
What makes the show entertaining is the earnestness in its presentation. The police arrests aren’t anything we haven’t seen countless times before on COPS, but having Seagal narrate the proceedings with his hammy delivery is what makes it fun.
He describes how after being trained in the martial arts he is skilled at being able to read a person and whether they’re a threat or not. So the show tries to demonstrate this with a ‘SEAGAL SENSE’ effect. The video zooms in on Seagal, freezes and lights up as he spots something suspicious. This ‘SEAGAL SENSE’ is an instant classic!
I suspect his presence must annoy the other officers sometimes. I’m not sure how much of the show is exaggerated and how reliable a partner Seagal actually is, but it has to be played up, at least a little. I kept looking to catch someone rolling their eyes in the background. After a suspect resists arrest, Seagal explains to us that “this gentleman is not a very good Zen practitioner”. I’m not sure with the gravity in Seagal’s voice if it was meant as a joke or not, but I certainly laughed.
To give him credit he does show off some amazing marksmanship. The scene of him tutoring an officer at the firing range could have been in one of movies. Plus, he still has his moves that he teaches his fellow officers. He’s seems pretty passionate about his role he’s been given in the town and respects the other officers, but this show plays as more of an ego boost than anything else.
Already the show has gotten some of the best numbers A&E has ever seen. There still seems to be plenty of Seagal fans out there who remember him and welcome his return. This is the most exposure Seagal has seen in years and who knows, maybe this show will be the start of the next phase in his career. Martial Artist, Movie Star, Singer……now LAWMAN!
Check out this clip. Seagal and officers in a high speed chase going after a car jacker. It gets so melodramatic. The way it’s all put together and Seagal’s overacting really tries to sell it. Seagal tries to tell the other cop how to drive and it sounds like the cop gets really annoyed with Seagal being a backseat driver saying back to him, “Steven, let me drive!” LOL!