Sunday, January 10, 2010

Fidel Podcastro's review of Steven Seagal: Lawman

I was finally able to watch two episodes of A&E Network’s Steven Seagal: Lawman. What makes this show amazing is its attempt (and subsequent failure) to be a better show than Fox’s COPS series. All the ingredients are there to surpass COPS: ride-alongs with police, the urban neighborhoods of Louisiana promising ghetto drama, and topping it off, action movie celebrity Steven Seagal presiding. However, the show manages to be much less than the sum of its parts. COPS relies on true life demonstration and action of police work. Steven Seagal: Lawman relies on Seagal’s presence to carry the show, to which Seagal continually fails. He is not entertaining, does no police work, and is largely ineffectual to all involved.

Seagal is a deputized policeman for the police department in Jefferson parish, Louisiana. This should be the first tip-off that this show will manage to be worse than COPS. An agency that either needs or merely tolerates Seagal’s presence on the job needs to be restructured. Yesterday. His deputy status means that he is merely a background player to actual police work and is not allowed to dispatch suspects or act in any other manner than loitering about crime scenes.

I was not aware that Seagal was such a tall man. I will admit that he is probably a disconcerting man to be around, if only because he is a hefty man wearing yellow shooting glasses and a permanent scowl (think John Goodman in The Big Lebowski). Many camera tricks are employed to avoid showing his complete heft, however. Chest-up views and bulletproof vests hide his considerable belly from the viewers at home.
During the in-car scenes, Seagal rides shotgun, barking orders and directions at the driver. If I was the policeman in the drivers seat, this type of behavior would end when I dispatched my finest pistol-whip to Seagal’s face.

The in-car banter emanating from Seagal the Hutt is both broad stereotype and unnecessarily exaggerated. A suspected drug dealer warrants a comment from Seagal along the lines of “Goddamn criminals in this town piss me off. No one deals drugs in my town.” Mr. Seagal, I may be the first to tell you this (because no one wants to deal with your idiocy when unnecessary), but crime will not stop due to your presence alone. Groups of young men passed on the street are met with flippant remarks from Seagal about how he is completely sure they have guns and drugs. Completely sure. No question.
He is wrong about this almost every time.

Seagal and crew intercept what they believe to be a burglary in progress. Seagal complicates matters by insisting that the burglar is still in the house, even after the initial search leads the police to believe the burglar already fled the scene. His insistence wastes police time and resources. He turns out to be wrong. Again.
Life is not a movie. Assumption and stereotype do not make a good policeman, Seagal!

Also disturbing is the unconvincing delivery of Seagal’s remarks. He speaks with a slight Louisiana accent, but still manages to sound droll, flat and bored. This lack of feeling makes his comments even more absurd. I suspect that Seagal has forgotten he is not on a movie set and does not need to deliver clichéd and over-the-top lines about everyday life.

In another scene, Seagal teaches Aikido self-defense techniques to the officers. This is probably the best (and also highly questionable) use of Seagal’s presence on the police force. Best, because he is off the street away from citizens that have no reason to be hassled. Questionable, because officers using the Aikido tactics Seagal demonstrates on the street would be met with abuse charges quite often. Is a citizen better off for knowing these techniques? Most assuredly. Is a police officer going to get in trouble for using them while on the job? Most assuredly. I will concede that Seagal’s moves are still fluid and sharp. Years of practice on and off camera have paid dividends in that respect.

Much practice is still needed to make this show more entertaining than COPS. Seagal is, in fact, not a lawman. His involvement with the police force is little more than a self servicing, elaborate name-drop.

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