“For 20 years, I’ve also been a cop,” Steven Seagal says, explaining that while earning a handsome living in movies, he’s been moonlighting as a sheriff in Louisiana’s Jefferson Parish. There’s probably a cheeky, clever reality show to be constructed around that double life, but A&E and Seagal treat the situation with complete sincerity, yielding just another “Cops” knockoff with a celebrity hook. When he isn’t chasing suspected perps, Seagal instructs colleagues in the martial arts and demonstrates his marksmanship, but the net takeaway is all about vanity and tough-guy banter better suited to parody than policing.
“Steven Seagal Lawman” (doesn’t anybody appreciate punctuation anymore?) has cameras tail the actor as he patrols Jefferson Parish’s mean streets, where the African-American skew of the local population, unfortunately, creates an almost uniform profile for the young, occasionally shirtless men that keep running afoul of the law in the first two installments.
Although Seagal narrates the action, he doesn’t see that much himself, despite the pounding music that accompanies every act break. In the first back-to-back half-hours, the cops arrest suspicious types, nab a carjacker and break up a couple of fights.
There’s one fleeting moment of levity when some of the local folks recognize Seagal on a call, but other than that, the whole affair is played with the deadly earnestness of the actor’s movie roles — augmented by lots of talk about Zen breathing and how to bend a guy’s wrist until he whimpers like a schoolgirl.
Seagal presented an interesting action figure when he broke onto the scene in movie vehicles like “Above the Law” and “Hard to Kill,” but the puffier version displayed here seems to be desperately hanging onto that image. Whereas many celebs have sought to reinvent themselves in the unscripted TV realm, A&E (which showcased Patrick Swayze in “The Beast”) apparently aspires to little more than casting Seagal as another crime-fighting hero — only on the cheap.
Frankly, given the muted level of excitement in the episodes that launch the series, Seagal fans would be better served watching one of his old movies on cable — or full-time cops on “Cops.”