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Permalink 12:51:23 am, by bobcalhoun Email , 611 words, 6452 views English (US)
Categories: Press, Television

Parenthood Recap: My Book Makes its NBC Debut

NBC Parenthood
My book, “Beer, Blood and Cornmeal,” makes its network television debut as a piece of set decoration on the NBC series “Parenthood” in the lower left corner of the screen.

“Parenthood” is about the Braverman family. We know this because they tell us over and over again. They’ve already said the word Braverman four times by the episode’s 25-minute mark. Craig T. Nelson, as grizzled patriarch Zeek Braverman, says his surname three times. Does my dad say “Calhoun” this many times? Does he regale me with tales about the “whole Calhoun male bonding experience” or the “original Calhoun hunter-gatherers"? No. He doesn’t. But he’s just a Calhoun, not a Braverman. When you’re a Braverman, you’re really into working your last name into sentences.

Three minutes in. Bonnie Bedilia as Camille Braverman is standing in front of a bookcase. I can’t make out the spines of the books even with a 45″ Zenith Plasma TV. There are a couple of black books with white lettering. I don’t think that any of them are “Beer, Blood & Cornmeal” though. I can spot my 2008 punk-wrestling memoir on the bottom shelf of the sports entertainment section from across a crowded Barnes & Noble. I could definitely spot it on Camille Braverman’s bookshelf.

Last month, I got an email from ECW Press publicist Simon Ware telling me that my book will be “used as permanent background set dressing in the NBC series ‘Parenthood,’” starting with season 2, episode 14. This episode was supposed to air last week, but was preempted for the State of the Union address.

We’re 11-minutes in. Bonnie Bedelia is reading a book, but it’s a hard cover. My book is a trade paperback. Damn it.

Eight minutes later. Amber and Haddie, two teens, are unpacking. Haddie has been exiled from her parents’ home because she’s dating a 19-year old. The camera pans out into the hallway. There’s a bookcase or some kind of table in the hallway. Saints be praised! Clearly visible on the shelf is a copy of “Beer, Blood and Cornmeal.” They don’t just show it once, but twice, with the NBC Peacock right next to it. Thank you cinematographer David J. Miller for getting my book into the frame. I owe you a beer or ten.

NBC Parenthood
A closeup of my punk-wrestling memoir, “Beer, Blood & Cornmeal,” on the Braverman family’s hallway shelf in the NBC comedy-drama “Parenthood.”

I don’t know why the producers of “Parenthood” chose to put my book on the shelf in the Braverman family’s hallway. Maybe art director Susan Alegria or art department coordinator Charlene Blanco Agabao read the book and liked it. (Thanks to both of you by the way.) Maybe they or somebody else working for True Jack Productions thought that the cover picture of The Cruiser rolling up a Macho Sasquatcho for a pinfall. The show takes place in Berkeley so they could think that this what people in the East Bay are reading these days. If only this could be so. But then again, maybe this is just the kind of rock-ribbed rasslin tell-all that hard-headed Bravermans like Zeek and Camille like to sink their teeth into.

Thirty-nine minutes Adam Braverman (Peter Krause from “Six Feet Under") gets high from a THC loaded lollipop. Shortly after, Kristina Braverman (Monica Potter) and Bonnie Bedelia have a heart to heart on the porch. “Beer, Blood & Cornmeal” isn’t seen again, but maybe next week Craig T. Nelson will crack it open for the cameras. This would be rad because not only was Nelson in “Poltergeist,” but he got killed by vampires in both “Scream Blacula Scream” and “The Return of Count Yorga” back in the 1970s.


Permalink 12:58:44 am, by bobcalhoun Email , 1679 words, 12594 views English (US)
Categories: News, Interview, Politics, Wrestling, Television

Mick Foley: Wrestling with Reasonableness

Mick Foley
“Countdown to Lockdown” and its most reasonable author, Mick Foley (Images courtesy of Grand Central Publishing).

Mick Foley is the last person that you’d expect to be honored at something called the Rally to Restore Sanity. In the world of pro wrestling, he’s known for taking sports entertainment to its most masochistic extremes. He’s lost an ear in the ring, and just a little over a week before his appearance at Jon Stewart’s “Million Moderate March,” Foley body slammed a half-naked, 61 year old “Nature Boy” Ric Flair onto a mat covered in very real thumbtacks on Spike TV’s “TNA Impact.” But there is a kindly Dr. Jekyll to Foley’s grappling Mr. Hyde. Outside the ring, he helps build schools in Africa through his giving to Child Fund International and is a passionate supporter of RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network), an anti-sexual violence nonprofit that Foley first learned about through his devotion to singer-songwriter Tori Amos. Yes, the man dubbed “the Hardcore Legend” in wrestling circles is one of Amos’ biggest fans, both literally and figuratively.

Equally as extreme in his philanthropy as he is in a steel cage match, Foley donated the entire advance for his fourth memoir, “Countdown to Lockdown” (Grand Central Publishing, 2010), to his charities. Although Foley’s previous three memoirs all hit the “New York Times” bestseller list and he still earns a living through wrestling, forfeiting his advance is no small tithe from a man nearing the end of his ability to sacrifice his body on the altar of sports entertainment. Foley writes about living at the twilight of his career in “Countdown to Lockdown” and intersperses stories of his philanthropy with the red meat of his pay-per-view comeback and his parting with Vince McMahon’s World Wrestling Entertainment. In a recent phone interview, Foley discusses the Rally to Restore Sanity, how he got talked out of going on “The O’Reilly Factor,” and how democrats can tap into their inner pro wrestler.

BOB CALHOUN: Did you ever think that Mick Foley, the hardcore legend, would get an award for sanity?

MICK FOLEY: I don’t know about sanity. It was officially for “reasonableness,” and I know that because I’m looking at it as it hangs around my neck. No, especially because one can argue that many of my actions in and around the wrestling ring were not all that reasonable so I think it’s appropriate that Jon specified that the award is for being reasonable everywhere else but my day job.

BC: You’re not losing an ear for your charitable work.

MF: No, but I’d be willing to.

BC: But that’s almost reasonable–almost.

MF: You know I think that is completely reasonable. If the stakes were high enough I would lose a body part to end sexual violence.

BC: Being at Stewart and Colbert’s rally, what do you think it accomplished?

MF: I loved Jon’s speech at the end of the rally. I think almost everybody who watched could take the story of the cars passing one by one into a small tunnel only by working together to heart. When it’s phrased that way, and when Jon mentioned that we actually do work together in this country everywhere but in congress and on cable television, it struck a chord with people.

BC: In keeping with Stewart’s criticism of the 24-hour news cycle, in “Countdown to Lockdown” you write that you contemplated going on “The O’Reilly Factor” to address the Chris Benoit tragedy, but were talked out of it. (In June 2007, WWE wrestler Chris Benoit murdered his wife and two children and then committed suicide.)

MF: I was talked out of it by a woman at Child Fund International, formerly the Christian Children’s Fund. I told her that I thought that Bill and I could have a good conversation and her quote was, “Yes, you could, but that’s entirely up to him.” I really thought about the coverage that the Benoit murders had received and I realized so much of it was sound bytes and knee jerk reactions. Despite the fact that the cable news channels ran 24-hours a day, there was almost no deep reflection on what may have happened. More recently, the chaos in Iran following the elections ceased to exist once Michael Jackson died. It seems amazing to me to think that the people in charge of the news don’t think that the American people can concentrate on more than one issue at a time.

BC: How do you feel about the beating that your profession took in the recent Connecticut senate race? Was there a better way for Dick Blumenthal and Democrats to criticize Linda McMahon’s tenure as a CEO of WWE?

MF: As someone who is close to the subject and who has fed his children through the business of professional wrestling for their entire lives (I’ve been in it for 25 years; I’ve had a family for almost 19), although Blumenthal won in Connecticut, I think the idea that people were criticizing a form of entertainment enjoyed by millions of people across the country was very condescending and may have led to the feeling Americans had of democrats being out of touch.

BC: Do you think that the Democrats need to get in touch with their inner pro wrestler?

MF: I think they need to make Jim Webb the senate majority leader and attempt to shift the image of democrats from liberal weenies to tough-talking, straight-shooting Americans. I really respect what Harry Reid has done and I think Nancy Pelosi is a great congressperson, but I do not think that people can connect with them at all. If every liberal in the country was willing to give up lattes for two years, you could put those republicans in the unenviable position of having to talk about those “damned whiskey drinking liberals.”

BC: In your new book you have your own criticisms of WWE like the fake McMahon memorial.

MF: I openly criticized them and I thought that a couple of storylines that (the Blumenthal campaign) trotted out to hurt Mrs. McMahon were indeed terrible storylines, but I don’t think that they’re indicative at all of the type of program WWE is. It reminds me of reading Joe Lieberman’s memoir, “In Praise of Public Life,” (Simon & Schuster, 2000) where he warned that with senators who make thousands of votes over the course of their careers, that one or two votes can serve as fodder for political attack ads. As an American citizen watching the fifth game of the World Series, I was just irate over the sheer number of political attack ads coming from both sides. The only person who serves to gain from that is the guy doing the voice-overs.

BC: There’s another part of “Countdown to Lockdown” where you’re cheered by an entire village in Sierra Leone and this isn’t for running your body into exploding barbed wire.

MF: It was such a surreal feeling. I had been on the flight from the US to the UK, and then from the UK to Freetown. I knew that nobody in the country was really was familiar with wrestling at all. I took a ferry from the airport area to Freetown proper. Out of the six or 700 people on that ferry, not one person knew who I was. They looked at me because I was a large white guy with long, unkempt hair, but that was the only thing remarkable about me. Yet when I got to these small villages, child after child was yelling my name. They even had songs they sang in unison, and it turns out that I am known and very well liked solely because I contributed money to help build schools in the area.

BC: How did that change your outlook on things?

MF: First of all I realized that I did not have to commit so many reckless acts to earn the acceptance of people I’d never met. But I also, on a serious note, I came to identify Africa, at least the part of Africa I was in, as a place of hope and joy and not just despair. I really believe education is a key to bringing this continent out of the situation it’s in.

BC: Has Tori Amos been getting more attention from wrestling fans since your book hit the shelves?

MF: (Laughs) Honestly, I do not know. I have not had contact with her since the book was published. The people I know at RAINN who know her, say she’s still very flattered. I imagine that there’s been a lot of people Googling her or checking out the links to certain songs. If she knew that it’s drawing people to a cause like RAINN that she holds so dear, I can’t imagine her minding.

BC: You’ve written four memoirs. Other memoirists write about cooking Julia Childs recipes, or they don’t use toilet paper for a year, or they write about their tawdry sex lives. Do you worry that the success of your writing is too closely tied to getting choke slammed off of steel cages and would you rather have the tawdry sex?

MF: I do write about my sex life, but because it’s mine, I can’t use the adjective tawdry to describe it. I really enjoy telling stories. This book is not doing as well as the others have, but the people who are reading it are enjoying it. Because 100% of the advance was donated to the causes I care about, it’s always seemed like a labor of love to me.

BC: What’s next for Mick Foley?

MF: I’ve got a lot of things on the horizon. I’ve got a movie based on parts of my life that I’m writing along with director Christopher Scott. It’s a movie being produced by Jeff Katz ("Snakes on a Plane") who’s had great success in the motion picture industry. I may dabble in fiction again. I intend to talk RAINN when the opportunity lends itself and hopefully try to make a difference where I can while simultaneously being a dad who’s home a little bit often.


Permalink 11:08:02 pm, by bobcalhoun Email , 1044 words, 7418 views English (US)
Categories: News, Television

Werewolves, now with 50% more hair

wolf moon of mars

The last time that Lionsgate unleashed a werewolf movie on Redbox patrons, we got the hairless wolf men of the Alan Smithee directed “Neowolf.” “If you can’t afford a bale of yak hair,” I quipped at the time, “you’ve got no business making a werewolf picture.” It seems that Lionsgate got the message, because they’ve come roaring back (all puns in this particular column are intentional) with “Wolf Moon,” and this time the lycanthropes have the appropriate amount of hair. The werewolves still look like what you’d get if you tried to make a wookiee costume from black hefty bags and a whole mess of clip on tresses, but at least these howlers don’t need an appointment with Sy Sperling and the Hair Club for Men.

“Wolf Moon” starts off with a brutal murder shot in black and white followed by a couple of truckers getting torn up by a wolf man. Some bare b-cups make their way into the picture at the 21-minute mark but then the bulk of the first hour is taken up by enough music videos to start a new digital cable channel that nobody watches. Like most people, I watch a werewolf movie for some mutilations, time lapse transformations and even a little inner torment, but I don’t watch them for scene after scene of a drifter auto mechanic (Chris Devecchio) frolicking in local swimming holes with a teen hoochie (Ginny Weirwick) to the strains of a wannabe Steve Perry solo project. As I watched “Wolf Moon", I couldn’t help but picture a guitarist rushing into band practice saying, “Hey we got a song in ‘Wolf Moon’! We’re finally gonna’ MAKE IT!” Poor fools. “Wolf Moon” marks your group’s zenith, not its ascent. Now get back to the barroom and stop taking up space in cheap horror movies.

“Wolf Moon” features Maria Conchita Alonso ("Running Man") as the lady sheriff of a small Nevada town, Billy Drago (you’ve seen him in many straight-to-DVD and SyFy movies) as a werewolf hunter who spends a lot of time looking at microfiche, and Sid Haig ("The Devil’s Rejects") as a cranky rancher who’s way too into Viagra. Why you’d make a werewolf movie with Haig and not have him play a werewolf, I don’t know. Max Ryan, who appears in “Sex and the City 2″, makes a bid to be in two of the worst movies of 2010 with his turn as the werewolf patriarch who strings together more clichés than I ever thought possible. “Blood is thicker than water/There’s a storm blowin and it’s coming down heavy/ You’d better realize what side of the fence you’re on,” he says almost one tired line after the other in a move more savage than any he commits under the light of a full moon.

Your average straight-to-DVD movie clocks in at 80-90 minutes, but “Wolf Moon” is a punishing two hours and four minutes. It feels even longer at times. I know that Roger Ebert or someone will probably tut-tut me for this, but I was driven to watching long stretches of this movie on that 2x fast-forward setting where you can still hear sped up dialogue and slowed it down to normal speed for the occasional slaughtering of hookers and hot werebeast-on-werebeast action. This is how I recommend viewing “Wolf Moon” and think that Lionsgate should include a special feature suggesting this on any future pressings of the disc. This movie rates a T for torturous on the ol’ SHITE meter, making it one cut above “Neowolf", which only eked out an E for endlessly dull.

In other straight-to-DVD news that has totally slipped past me for six months now, Global Asylum, the makers of such “mockbusters” as “Snakes on a Train” and “The Da Vinci Treasure” as well as “Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus", has beaten Pixar to the punch with their December 2009 release of “Princess of Mars", an adaptation of Tarzan creator Edgar Rice Burroughs’ 1912 space adventure novel that kicked off his John Carter series. Pixar has their live action “John Carter of Mars” movie scheduled as their big release for 2012, but “Princess of Mars” has fallen into public domain so Global Asylum can adapt some source material instead of slapping together their usual shameless ripoff. Why they released it so far in advance of Pixar’s effort instead of cranking out something called “Toy Tale” is anybody’s guess. Still, an actual literary adaptation gives Global Asylum an unsettling air of legitimacy.

Any legitimacy is quickly shattered upon viewing the disc, however. In Burroughs’ novel, John Carter is a confederate Civil War veteran who is magically transported to Mars after being bushwhacked by Indians. Once on the red planet, he romances the titular princess and grapples with Tars Tarkas, a four-armed badass with huge fangs. Writer/director Mark Atkins (cinematographer of “Transmorphers: Fall of Man") updated the tale and has Carter (Antonio Sabato, Jr.) shaking down opium growers in Afghanistan before getting whisked away to some planet called Mars that isn’t the real Mars. (Please don’t make me explain.) Beginning our tale during the War on Terror is understandable, but Sabato’s tramp stamp is a piece of modernizing I could have done without. To compensate for Sabato’s unfortunately placed tattoo, the film boasts lots of Traci Lords in a metal bikini, but then it plunges back into negative territory with a chintzy two-armed Tars Tarkas (Matt Lasky). I’m not a Pixar zombie by any stretch, but at least I know they’ll deliver a Tars Tarkus with the right amount of limbs.

It’s also safe to say that Pixar will give us a more creative vision of Barsoom (as the Martians call it) than that patch of Vasquez Rocks where Captain Kirk once fought the reptilian Gorn in an old “Star Trek” episode and the waste filtration plant where this “Princess of Mars” ends up. In the movie, they say that the plant is used for making breathable air on Mars but I bet there’s a lot of poo moving through those old pipes. There was also 42 inches of visible poo on my flatscreen TV when I was watching this thing. I wanted to give this an I for interesting for the curiosity factor, but the good ol T is more appropriate.


Permalink 10:23:47 pm, by bobcalhoun Email , 925 words, 5382 views English (US)
Categories: Wrestling, Television

Raw vs. the Volcano

John Cena vs. the Volcano

Tonight, John Cena and the rest of the cast of “Monday Night RAW” ran into a volcano. Despite a near demigod status bestowed on Cena by the son of one my readers, the incredible brawn of the World Wrestling Entertainment champ was no match for the continent-covering clouds of pumice and ash thrust into the air by a raging Mother Earth. Yes, folks, the volcano won, leaving a large chunk of the WWE roster, who had been touring Europe this past week, stranded in Northern Ireland as they waited for trans-Atlantic air travel to resume.

When Triple H (or HHH if you prefer) entered the ring on “RAW” tonight and announced that he was the only one there because he didn’t go on the European tour with the rest of the gang, it was easy to believe that Cena or Orton would pop out from under the ring and prove him wrong. As a wrestling fan, I’m conditioned for this sort of thing. It’s called a swerve in the vernacular of the backrooms and they seem to happen a lot these days. Most other TV shows would have just aired a rerun and called it a day, but pro wrestling is steeped in “the show must go on” ethic of the carnivals, circuses and vaudeville halls from which it sprang. Luckily for Triple H, the stable of “Smackdown” wrestlers made it back from Europe before air traffic was grounded. Triple H and CM Punk played the dozens and traded barbs for an extended take before brawling, indicating that killing time was still of the essence.

After Triple H and Rey Mysterio, Jr. fended off an attack from Punk and his “Straight Edge Society” (a society consisting of one lackey and a curvaceous but bald-headed valet), announcers Jerry Lawler and Michael Cole cut to a taped announcement from a solemn John Cena, who was still stuck in Belfast. “I’ve never seen anything like it in my life,” he said, I guess referring to a squad of wrestlers dying of utter boredom in a three-star UK hotel.

“We’re safe,” he continued before ratcheting up the rhetoric against Dave “The Animal” Bautista, his opponent at the “Extreme Rules” pay-per-view this Sunday. “I’m fully focused,” he said before promising to “swim across the Atlantic Ocean,” if he had to. If there’s anyone who could do it, it’s probably him, but only if he resists the temptation to sample the “Extreme Rules” sponsor: the very controversial KFC Double Down, which combines bacon, mayo and fried chicken into a grease bomb that could even fell the mighty Cena.

When wrestlers weren’t passing their time with lengthy bits of oratory, SNL’s Will Forte was on hand in the guise of his “MacGyver” spoof character MacGruber to hype the upcoming film of the same name. After being called out by the Putin-esque Russian judo expert Vladimir Koslov, McGruber blew-up rapping wrestler R-Truth in one of McGruber’s trademark explosives mishaps. Hopefully, this will prove to be the ruse that all of Triple H’s volcano talk wasn’t. (Truth was seen scurrying off the stage before the massive display of pyro that supposedly wiped him off the face of the Earth.) In another note, “MacGruber” is a film loaded with WWE wrestlers, featuring appearances by Chris Jericho, Mark Henry, The Big Show and the Great Kali.

Just when the show seemed barren of any actual wrestling, The Undertaker, who appears to have suspended a rare vacation for him, emerged to save the show like the trooper that he is with a long match against World Champ Jack Swagger. The WWE has two champions, almost mimicking the alphabet soup of title that run rampant in boxing. The World Champion appears on “Smackdown” while the “WWE Champ” (Cena) rules on “RAW.” Taker’s match with Swagger was a little heavy on the rest holds, showing that the 7′ tall goth might not be fully healed from his already classic match against Shawn Michaels at last month’s WrestleMania. Still, Undertaker and Swagger took some hard spills into the steel steps outside of the ring. Undertaker ended the match by catching Swagger with a choke slam after Swagger had sprung off the ring ropes. As the ref counted the pin, WWE commentator Michael Cole tastefully announced, “Jimmy Hoffa’s not the only body buried in the New Jersey Meadowlands.”

The show closed with a six-man tag match pitting Triple H, Rey Mysterio and Edge against CM Punk, Luke Gallows and Chris Jericho. It was the kind of weird teaming that you’d usually only see at an un-televised tour stop. Pro wrestlers don’t have an off-season. They perform on at least one TV show a week and several Sunday pay-per-views throughout the year. It’s a schedule that would make John Stewart or Conan O’Brien weep and those comedians just get to sit in a chair throughout most of their shows, not get hit with it. No, even what Michael Cole called a “volcanical eruption” could not stop the show.

QUICK ANNOUNCEMENT: I’ll be reading from my punk-wrestling memoir, “Beer, Blood and Cornmeal” at the Cal Student Bookstore at UC Berkeley on Thursday, April 29th at 6pm. The store is located at 108 MLK Jr. Student Union #4504, Berkeley, CA 94720. April is the two-year anniversary of the publication of “Beer, Blood and Cornmeal,” which was released by ECW Press in April 2008. It’s hard to believe it’s been that long, and needless to say, I’m happy that Ali Rappaport and the the folks at Cal Berkeley invited me to do this reading. Hope to see you there.


Permalink 10:59:23 pm, by bobcalhoun Email , 452 words, 5349 views English (US)
Categories: News, California, Television

Gene Barry fought Martians with Science

Gene Barry
Gene Barry (with co-star Ann Robinson) crashed a plane to get away from Martian war machines in “War of the Worlds” (1953), not “Invaders from Mars.”

Gene Barry, a towering figure of my UHF TV viewing in the 70s, passed away in a rest home in the Woodland Hills district of Los Angeles today. He was 90 years old. The Associated Press obituary of Barry didn’t even mention that he was in War of the Worlds (1953). That’s like forgetting that Sir Alec Guiness was in Star Wars!

Look, if you just admit that the greatest achievement of American culture was the output of science fiction movies in the 1950s, we’ll all get along a lot better. Sure Hendrix, Steinbeck and Miles Davis were all pretty amazing, but the greatest artistic explosion this country has ever seen started in 1951 with The Thing from Another World and The Day the Earth Stood Still and drew to a close in 1960 with The Time Machine. Some would argue that the 50s sci-fi movement actually ended in 1963 with The Slime People, but that film, where all of the action is obscured by the constant output of one heck of a fog machine, can best be described as an outlier. A case can also be made for 1962’s Day of the Triffids. Triffids definitely has the quality of such 50s staples as War of the Worlds and Forbidden Planet, but it’s British so we don’t care.

Yes, I know that Barry was nominated for a Tony for playing a gay night-club owner in La Cage aux Folles on Broadway in the 1980s, but that pales in comparison to playing a scientist trying to hold society together while Martians blast the living shit out of Los Angeles (and London and San Francisco and Moscow) with crazy looking heat rays that make a cool assed noise. The Associated Press did credit Barry with being in the other Martian invasion movie of 1953, Invaders from Mars. The only problem: Barry wasn’t in Invaders from Mars. Fact check people! Saying that Gene Barry was in Invaders from Mars is like putting Mark Hamill in Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

Gene Barry was also in the nuclear scare movie The Atomic City (1952) and he did some pretty crazy kung-fu with that cane of his in 108 episodes of Bat Masterson but I’ll always remember him as the suave but earnest Dr. Clayton Forrester in War of the Worlds, even if the Associated Press can’t seem to. At least Adam Bernstein in the Washington Post bothered to get it right and even imbedded this trailer from War of the Worlds in his Gene Barry piece:


Permalink 11:15:20 pm, by bobcalhoun Email , 1105 words, 7571 views English (US)
Categories: Martial Arts, Television

There’s Never a Steven Segal Around When You Need One

Steven Segal

The suspect is up against the oversized red truck. One of the arresting officers has the familiar grimace of many insomnia-fueled cable TV binges. “Steven Segal! It’s Steven Segal!” the suspect exclaims, motioning towards the uniformed cop in question and making the other officers on the scene nervous. The perp is right. It is Steven Segal. With one pullover, the suspect’s mundane brush with the law (DUI, a blown taillight, whatever) has intersected with such Hollywood action flicks as Under Siege or Marked for Death. However, this perp won’t get to test his martial arts skill against Segal on a high-jacked battleship or a speeding train. If he’s lucky, he’ll get Segal’s autograph on something other than a traffic citation or arrest report.

Something tells me that this sort of thing is going to happen a lot on A&E’s new celeb-reality show, Steven Segal: Lawman, which premiered Wednesday with a pair of half-hour episodes. The show follows Segal in his crisp, blue sheriff’s uniform as he patrols the streets of the New Orleans suburb of Jefferson Parish, Louisiana . As loony as the concept of Lawman may be, you can’t really call it a comeback because Segal never left. Sure, the days of $60 million budgets are behind him, but Segal has been cranking out straight to DVD potboilers since the end of his early 1990s heyday. He’s also appearing with Robert DeNiro and Jessica Alba in Robert Rodriguez’s upcoming Machete, the expanded version of the faux trailer from Grindhouse (2007). Still, Lawman has generated more interest in Segal than he’s probably seen in years, although links to A&E’s promotional vids for the show are usually followed by many a “WTF!?!” and calls for Segal’s retirement, at least as far as my Facebook feed is concerned.

Any need for an image makeover is one that Segal shares with the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office, which made him a reserve deputy 20 years ago. The last time this law enforcement agency got this much national attention was when it was one of the police departments that blocked mostly African American refugees from fleeing New Orleans during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in what is now referred to as the “Gretna bridge incident.” It should come as no surprise that Segal’s partner on the force, Colonel John Fortunato, is also the commander of the department’s public information office. If that wasn’t enough, Captain Alex Norman, another officer that patrols the streets with Segal, serves as commander of the community relations division. Segal is not only there to show them marksmanship and aikido takedowns but also the Zen of Hollywood publicity.

Segal and Fortunato
Reserve Dep. Chief Steven Segal demonstrates his command of the zen of backseat driving for his partner, Col. John Fortunato.

The resulting product is little more than an infomercial for Steven Segal’s ego. “As a lifelong practitioner of the martial arts,” Segal informs us in the first three minutes of the inaugural episode, “I’m trained to remain calm in the face of adversity and danger. When the world is speeding by for others, I see things for what they are. A cock of the head, a foot planted forward or back, a flick of the wrist, they all tell me something: whether somebody’s gonna’ fight, pull a gun or run.”

Evidently this extra sensory perception akin to the Marvel Comics hero Daredevil imbues Segal with the ability to backseat drive. During a high-speed chase he tells Fortunato to veer left or right. “Let me drive Steven!” his partner pleads.

“I’m just telling you where the holes are,” Segal replies. Steven Segal can see things no one else can see; do things no one else can do.

Throughout the two opening episodes, Segal reminds us repeatedly that he is an expert in the martial arts. He also mentions “Zen archery” and the “Asian Zen lesson” and the “Zen method of breathing” to the point where I can see the SNL spoof of the show before it’s been written and drinking games conjure themselves. During the cablecast, several ads aired for BBQ Pitmasters on the Learning Channel. Why can’t Segal be BBQ Pit Master instead of a Lawman? Then he can drone on about the “zen method of grilling” and how being a practitioner of the martial arts allows him to sense the meat as it starts to sizzle.

The mostly white sheriffs are shown patroling predominantly African American neighborhoods.

At times, Segal and his cohorts seem like an occupying force as they ride through “the ‘jects” (as Segal refers to the projects) in massive SUVs. With the exception of veteran officer Sgt. Lawrence Matthews, who is African American, all of the officers depicted in Lawman so far are white. Making them seem even more distant from the community they serve, many of them have New York or Northeastern accents. I can only wonder if scene after scene of white cops tasering black men will have the desired PR outcome for a sheriff’s office that was once caught up in the ugliness of the Gretna controversy. It was also hard not to view this show through the prism of Warner Herzog’s brilliant Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans. It’s easy to substitute Segal for the manic Nick Cage here and scenes of alligators didn’t help. If only Segal started snorting all the contraband in the property room and seeing hallucinatory iguanas everywhere. Then we’d have a piece of cinema on our hands.

Segal is still trying to prove that he’s the badass he portrays on the screen and his ability to put a slug through his own bullet hole in a target is astonishing. But this approach only makes you want to see less of him. Jean Claude Van Damme, Segal’s rival in the martial arts movie biz, was able to accomplish much more by debunking his image in JCVD (2008). Van Damme’s fourth-wall breaking soliloquy where he speaks of the disillusionment of the dojo, the media, romance and shattered dreams was enough to get me to rent Ringo Lam’s Van Damme cloning epic Replicant (2001). The sight of Segal hurrying to get into each frame to look important won’t get me to tune in next week.

The celeb-reality show as a genre has given us family comedies (Hogan Knows Best, The Osbournes), romantic farces (Flavor of Love, Rock of Love) and now with Steven Segal: Lawman, it has given us a cop show – a bad cop show.

Beer, Blood and Piecemeal.

The rock and reading odyssey of a 300-pound hulk.

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