This review was written by Judge Mike Rubino. That's right, Judge Mike Rubino...Judge.
"My name is Steven Seagal. That's right, Steven Seagal…Deputy Sheriff."
Imagine you're walking down the street, minding your own business—maybe with a group of friends. You drop something on accident, like a pack of gum. Suddenly, and without any warning, two unmarked SUVs packed with cops and cameramen swarm around you. Amidst this swarm is the widow-peaked action hero, Steven Seagal. You're in some serious trouble.
That's how many of the cases begin in the A&E reality show Steven Seagal: Lawman. Sure, most of the time the folks Seagal and his partners bust are actually up to no good, but it seems like most of the time they get off with barely a wrist slap. I'm not sure why. Just as I'm not sure why Steven Seagal is allowed to be a deputy sheriff in Jefferson Parish, Louisiana. But he is, and this is his show. It's a great piece of cable TV.
Steven Seagal: Lawman is a mix of Cops and any number of MTV reality shows. Each episode, Seagal and his trio of officers—who are equal parts colorful sidekick and legit law enforcement—set out on patrol, patting down perps, responding to calls about drug dealers, and occasionally wrestling a guy to the ground. Most of the time, Seagal is just there to provide good reaction shots while other police officers do the heavy lifting; they all run faster, jump fences easier, and follow procedure better. On occasion, Seagal finds evidence or lectures the criminals after they're cuffed. His smooth, bluesy voice is a more powerful crime deterrent than any firearm or K-9.
When he isn't busy cleaning up the streets or signing autographs, Seagal spends each episode toiling in a personal interest subplot. In some episodes, he's teaching his fellow sheriffs self-defense, marksmanship, or Eastern medicine tactics. Other times he's more philanthropic, organizing a benefit concert featuring his blues band or visiting kids in the hospital. The personal interest stuff, while entertaining, occasionally feels producer-driven, but then again most of the show comes off that way.
Lawman tends to suffer in the believability department. I don't doubt for a second that Seagal is a deputy sheriff, or that he doesn't know the killer kung-fu (sorry, aikido) he's constantly mentioning; the number of times he tells the audience, per episode, that he's A) studied martial arts or B) guided and influenced by Eastern philosophy is about as abundant as ponytailed protagonists are in his movies. Rather, it's the show's presentation, with its excessive and lightning-quick editing, that leads me to believe things aren't always as they seem.
The same goes for the show's "Steven Seagal Vision," a technique they use to imply that Seagal is somehow catching clues and observations way before his partners. The video slows down, shifts into monochrome, and Seagal mutters "I think he dropped something." Then they'll cut to Seagal's eyes, or his opaque sunglasses, and then back to the perpetrator…it's hilarious the first time you see it, but gets old and rather hokey later in the season. I wonder how admissible "Seagal Vision" is as evidence.
The show's pseudo-reality format keeps things from ever getting really stale, but it also focuses the show more on Seagal's cult of personality rather than the job he may actually be doing. Then again, the show wouldn't be nearly as entertaining if it were as true to life as Cops. Seeing people stop in the street and yell "It's Steven Seagal!" never gets old—the best is when the guys getting arrested ask for an autograph. His fame may overwhelm just about every second he spends on the beat, but it's also the reason the series is relevant at all.
Steven Seagal: Lawman: The Complete Season One features 13 episodes across two discs. The show looks sharp with solid digital camerawork. The audio only comes in stereo, but the dialogue and music tracks are well balanced, with heavy emphasis on the R&B soundtrack. The only supplement is about 35 minutes of additional footage, all of which is worth checking out if you're dying for more Seagal.
Steven Seagal: Lawman is the very definition of "guilty pleasure." Some will probably be impressed at Seagal's multi-faceted lifestyle in Louisiana (as well as the various accents and speech patterns he adapts in any given episode), while others might just find the whole thing sort of funny. Either way, the show's sustainability across 13 21-minute episodes is about as questionable as the terrorist plot in Under Siege 2.f
Guilty, but it'll be acquitted due to lack of evidence later.
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