According to the opening narration, provided by Steven Seagal himself, he's been operating (rather secretly) as a Reserve Deputy Sheriff in Jefferson Parish, Louisiana for over twenty years, and has just not decided to go public with this. The result? Steven Segal: Lawman, a series that debuted on A&E last year (and set the channel a new record making it the highest rated debut in their history) where we get to ride alongside Big Steve and a few other members of the Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Department as they fight crime, and.... Just kind of talk to people they run into along the way.
As the series progresses, Seagal gets to impart some of his own special brand of wisdom on members of the community or sometimes even his own teammates. At one point, while teaching some cops a few slick aikido moves, he tells them that they can think of him as a movie star, or think of him as the man who can save their lives and in another episode, while teaching a cop how to shoot better, he tells him relates firing a pistol to Zen archery. When the series takes to the streets, Seagal seems to always be riding shotgun, periodically telling his partner how to drive in a high speed pursuit. He also has apparently developed some sort of Steve-O-Vision that allows him to pinpoint criminals before they strike. He explains that his superior people watching skills allow him to look for certain movements which act as telltale signs, and the series wisely showcases this by flashing into some sort of visual negative zone every time Steve sees something suspicious - the camera will switch to black and white and either speed up or slow down and we'll hear a dramatic 'woosh' come from the speakers.
The series isn't all business, however. We get to see a few different, though equally odd, sides of the aging action star aside from his streetwise cop persona. Sensitive Steve visits a hospital for terminally ill children and hands out teddy bears and poses for pictures, never taking his sunglasses off because he doesn't want the children to see how upset all of this makes him. This later inspires him to get his Steven Seagal Blues Band together to put on a benefit show at the House Of Blues. Pay close attention to this scene and you'll notice that the sounds of the crowd going nuts in front of Steve and his guitar do not even come close to matching the sounds of the actual audience, but that's okay. A little creative editing never hurt anyone. We also see Seagal hanging out at home with his two giant dogs, both of whom need to learn to work together better than they do. He hires a few dog trainers, one of whom gets mauled a few times, to come in and help him teach them to be better co-workers. You see, Seagal is all about bringing a little harmony with him wherever he goes, be it working with giant dogs in his living room or trying to find out of the guy in the red car in the bad part of town really did run over the baby with his ride or not.
Seagal has also started speaking as if he's one with the thugs and gangsters he's out to protect the innocents from. He refers to the projects as 'the jects' and when he's asking some street kids where one of their friends went he barks out 'Where he at? Where he at?' When dealing with the aforementioned run-over baby, he asks one woman 'Are you da baby mamma?' Seagal's interactions with the population of Jefferson Parish are, to be blunt, bizarre. You never really know if he's playing it completely straight or not. There are times where people recognize him and ask him for autographs, there are times when people don't realize who he is, but Seagal never breaks character. He's all business here, and he's able to deliver some of the most unusual dialogue you're likely to hear with a completely straight face.
The thirteen episodes that make up the complete first season of Steven Seagal - Lawman are laid out over the two DVDs in this set as follows:
The Way of the Gun
The Deadly Hand
Too Young to Die
Firearms of Fury
The Student Becomes the Master
To Live or Die
A Parish Under Siege
Ultimately, there isn't a whole lot of action in the series. Most of the crimes that Seagal and his team go out and stop are minor. You'll see him find weed on the seat of a car, you'll see him confiscate a gun or two and you'll see him bust an ex-con for running away from the cops simply because, as he puts it, he was worried. Don't expect to see him wandering the streets kicking bad guys in the face or shooting people down like he does in the movies, because none of that happens here. This does give the series more of a realistic grounding than it would have otherwise. Although Seagal's claim that he's been a cop for twenty years is open for interpretation, he does appear to be getting out there and patrolling the streets. It's hard to say how much of a difference he's making and it's equally hard to take much of it seriously, but as screwy and disjointed as the series is, you can't deny its entertainment value. It's a lot of fun to watch, occasionally interesting, and almost constantly bizarre.
Disappointingly, the material in this set is presented in 1.78.1 non-anamorphic widescreen, and on top of that, the transfers are interlaced. The episodes themselves are very clean looking and don't show any wear, tear or debris, though the transfers here are pretty erratic. Some shots look excellent and show nice, crisp detail while others look soft, even a little blurry at times. Compression artifacts are never a problem but due to the fact that the show is shot out on the mean streets of Jefferson Parish and not under normal studio conditions, things look a little rocky as far as the camera work and lighting goes.
The English language Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo tracks that are included here are about on par with the video in that they're sufficient but not particularly impressive. There isn't much in the way of channel separation here - it happens infrequently, though it's not entirely absent, you might pick up on it during the periodic scuffles that occur in the show. Sometimes Seagal's mumbled dialogue is a bit hard to understand, but that's par for the course when he's involved. No alternate language tracks or subtitle options are provided.
Aside from some static menus that offer up episode selection and not much else, the set does contain, on the second disc, a collection of thirteen deleted scenes. This material amounts to just over a half an hour's worth of material in total, and it's really just more of the same. If you like the series, you'll want to spend the time going through it and if you don't, this content will do absolutely nothing to change your mind.
The fact that A&E presents the series in non-anamorphic widescreen is a big strike against the disc and more extras would certainly have been welcome, but the entertainment value provided by Steven Seagal - Lawman is worth its weight in weird self righteous gold. The series isn't so much exciting as it is fascinatingly bizarre and, more of than not, unintentionally hilarious. Those expecting the action of something like Cops will probably be disappointed but if the idea of seeing Seagal lumbering around Louisiana spouting off random bits of wisdom and periodically yelling at people sounds like your idea of a good time, definitely check it out. Recommended.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.