Wednesday, December 2, 2009
You can be excused for thinking that "Steven Seagal: Lawman" is another in the action movie star's canon of B-movies. You know, the kind of film where breaking bones with martial arts and aiming to kill (and succeeding) are part of the script.
But for most people, finding out that Seagal has been a real-life deputy for nearly 20 years in the Jefferson Parish sheriff's office in Louisiana might come as a mind-rattling shock. The beefy tough guy is not just a martial arts expert who has helped train officers while being a member of their force, he's also an expert marksman who has worked with the parish's SWAT team.
Tonight at 10, you can see him in uniform as A&E presents a "Cops"-style reality series called "Steven Seagal: Lawman." What makes this series so compelling is the fact that so few people knew Seagal was doing this - and that the actor never used it for publicity even when his career could have used a boost.
So, why now? Here's what Seagal said in the A&E press notes: "I've been working as an officer in Jefferson Parish for two decades under most people's radar. I've decided to work with A&E on this series now because I believe it's important to show the nation all the positive work being accomplished here in Louisiana - to see the passion and commitment that comes from the Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office in this post-Katrina environment."
Seagal has also noted that after Hurricane Katrina, Louisiana police forces have lost officers and the series might be a way to interest recruits. He certainly makes a compelling case for doing good while also tapping into what has made him an action movie star - he looks like a bad-ass in his uniform. Seagal looks as if he means business - and in a succession of crimes-in-progress scenarios he certainly does. And though he doesn't appear to be the most fleet of foot - nobody in the five-officer team he's a part of looks especially quick, in fact - you definitely don't want to let him catch you.
As the television season enters a holiday lull, there's no telling how well a show like "Steven Seagal: Lawman" will do, but the bet here is pretty well, if for nothing else the curiosity factor.
How Seagal kept his second career "under the radar" is pretty impressive.
And it brings to mind all kinds of what-if possibilities that might have TV industry types salivating. Think about how cool these would be:
"Simon Cowell: Auto Executive." Sure, the testy and judgmental "American Idol" host doesn't need the money, but think about how he could help reshape a moribund industry. "It's a crossover? Well you've crossed over the line on taste, I'm afraid. It would be ugly as a truck, but it's hideous as a family car. Is your idea to ridicule the American public? Drive it away from me before I vomit, and come back with something we can sell. And if I see a plastic dash masquerading as walnut, you'll be fired."
"Gordon Ramsay: Governor." Any state would work, but California might be the best place for him (once he gains citizenship, naturally). Where Arnold Schwarzenegger is all puffed-up bluster and promised a nonpolitical style of leadership, Ramsay would simply yell at the top of his lungs every day and drop f-bombs all over the place. Every night he'd be the lead item on the news, berating lawmakers and lobbyists and telling journalists (and voters) to bleep and bleep-bleep-bleep and if they didn't like that they could bleep themselves or bleep-bleep, bleep-bleep until someone cared.
"Oprah: Queen." Why not? It's a ceremonial title and if no one told her that, she could probably do a lot of good while making people hug and cry. And read.
"George Clooney: Bartender." Certainly not as action-packed as "Steven Seagal: Lawman," but come on - he'd be the world's best bartender. Everybody would want to talk to him. He's got that warm, understanding smile. And everyone would want to be his friend. Plus, the stories from the barstool would make the show careen through comedy and tragedy.
Who knows? Maybe there are other celebrities out there keeping their hobbies and second careers "under the radar." In the meantime, if you're in Louisiana and somebody familiar pulls you over, do not make any quick moves. And don't ask him for his autograph, either.