On the list of all-time crimefighting debacles, I’d say hiring Steven Seagal to headline his own cop reality show ranks somewhere between giving guns and badges to Erik Estrada, La Toya Jackson and Wee Man on CBS’ aborted “Armed & Famous” and the four Police Academy movies that didn’t star Steve Guttenberg.
If nothing else, “Seven Seagal: Lawman” proves that A&E has strayed far from its once-lofty “Arts & Entertainment” path. The star of Pistol Whipped, Mercenary for Justice, Attack Force, Today You Die, Out for a Kill, Half Past Dead, Out for Justice, Marked for Death, Hard to Kill (I could go on ...) drops his faux New Jersey accent to rasp his way through a newly adopted Southern drawl as a fully commissioned deputy with the Jefferson Parish sheriff’s office in Louisiana. Lord knows, in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, the people of New Orleans have suffered. Why would they deserve this fresh hell?
According to the opening credits, Seagal has actually been working with the sheriff’s office for 20 years. He’s just kept it secret until now. Of course, at various times in his life, Seagal has claimed to have been a CIA agent, a mob enforcer, a blues guitarist, married to Kelly LeBrock and the reincarnation of a 17th-century Buddhist lama from eastern Tibet named Chungdrag Dorje. So who the hell knows?
“Steven Seagal: Lawman” is basically “COPS” with Steven Seagal riding shotgun. While sitting in the passenger seat, he offers tons of unsolicited advice. He tells veteran officers how to drive, how to shoot—basically instructs them on how to do their entire job. And he should know. He’s Steven Seagal.
Seagal is an ascended Zen master, remember, and he’s not shy about letting loose with the odd (and I do mean odd) Zen advice. (“Don’t shoot the bullet, push the bullet.”) Honestly, he never shuts up over the course of “Steven Seagal: Lawman,” lecturing us viewers on the fine arts of gunplay, negotiation and spiritual redemption. “He does not know the way of the Zen,” Seagal sagaciously observes of one belligerent carjacking suspect. (Duh.) Despite espousing nonviolence, Deputy Seagal shows a real love for the Taser, shouting for its use about a dozen times in the pilot episode alone.
For their part, Seagal’s “fellow” officers seem to humor the guy. They let him drone on about how his martial arts training has afforded him a mystical sixth sense for spotting evildoers and then give him the honor of being the fifth officer to pile on top of a shoplifter.
Overly dramatic music and herky-jerky camerawork try to make the show as cinematic as possible, but the pudgy, winded Seagal only looks like an action hero when the lighting is in silhouette and he’s flipping stuntmen over his shoulder. In reality (or reality TV, as the case may be) he’s like that know-it-all at the office who hangs around the water cooler and tells the copier repair dude how he’d go about replacing a busted toner cartridge.