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I am – Hercules!!

Today we start with "Outlaw Vern":
Ladies and gentlemen of the internet, Mr. Hercules T. Strong of the Co-axial TV News and DVD Lists invited me to write a few words about STEVEN SEAGAL LAWMAN SEASON 1, an A&E reality series that comes out on DVD this week. I haven't been posting here on the Ain't It Cool News as much as I used to, so it's good to be back. I'm not sure why he thought of me though, since I'm not a television critic and don't really know very much about reality shows. But I suppose I do know a little bit about Steven Seagal, mainly just because I've seen every movie he's made several times, saw his band perform live, still have a cupboard stocked with his Lightning Bolt energy drink and spent five years writing a book analyzing his entire filmography. So come to think of it I might have something to offer here. Hercules got lucky on that pick. To me Seagal is an interesting figure for many reasons. He has made some awesome movies (OUT FOR JUSTICE, MARKED FOR DEATH, UNDER SIEGE, etc.), some humorously ridiculous ones (OUT FOR A KILL, OUT OF REACH) and best of all, some that are equal parts awesome and ridiculous (ON DEADLY GROUND, BELLY OF THE BEAST). I love how often he works the same motifs and obsessions into his movies, including but not limited to zen Buddhism, animals, blues guitar, New Orleans accents, the corruption of intelligence and police agencies, environmentalism and throwing motherfuckers through windows. I was a little worried about him doing a reality show, because I think he still has it in him to make enjoyable movies (even if the last couple weren't as good as URBAN JUSTICE and PISTOL WHIPPED) and I don't want him to become some trying-to-be-in-on-the-joke pop culture figure or denigrate his past work through reality show buffoonery (I won't name any names but an iconic rapper/hypeman who's lampin he's lampin he's cold cold lampin comes to mind). Fortunately, this show is more in the tradition of serious law enforcement shows like DOG THE BOUNTY HUNTER, but with the added surrealism of a movie star being on the scene the whole time. I guess I should explain the premise. Seagal has some kind of honorary title from the Sheriff's Department in Jefferson Parish, Louisiana that stems from him helping train their deputies in aikido weapon retention techniques going back about 20 years. According to the show and the cops who are on it Seagal actually for real goes back a couple weeks at a time, a couple times a year, to help out with training and go on patrol like a normal cop. I think we can all agree that his role is probly exaggerated on the show and that the first person in talkback who thinks he's blowing our minds by pointing that out is a numbnuts. The second one is okay though but the first and third and thereafter are wasting our time. But it's fun to watch Seagal on the scene and trying his damndest to help out. Sometimes it seems a little forced when he tells members of his team (who I call the Seagal Squad) what to do or when he says "Let me take a look at these guys" and it does a visual effect to show that he's scanning over them for details that only a Seagal would notice (I call it Seagal Sense). But other times it seems like he genuinely knows what he's doing. They do a good job of finding a theme or gimmick for each episode, and he manages to put his personal stamp on the show just like he does his movies. We see him training attack dogs, worrying about the welfare of animals, playing guitar with his blues band Thunderbox, talking about zen and zen archery, buying Chinese herbal medicine, shooting the heads off of matches, even performing acupuncture on his Colonel. This is also the only footage ever of Steven Seagal in a zoo feeding dead animals to alligators. It also shows a human side to Seagal that you don't see as much in his movies. He admits to wearing sunglasses at a children's cancer ward to hide tears, tells a little girl in a karate class that he's very shy like she is, jokes around with his buddies and gets egged into talking shit about Jean-Claude Van Damme, seems genuinely worried that a police dog might cut his paws on some broken glass. And of course you also get to see how his fame affects his attempts to be a cop. It's really funny to see people worrying about getting busted and then suddenly getting excited when they realize who's busting them. Seagal ends up signing alot of autographs, although they usually say it's their auntie, their dad or their wife who loves his movies, and not themselves. But the most interesting side of the show might not be intentional - it's kind of an eye-opening look at the tedium of police work. Most of the time the Seagal Squad seem to be stuck in an endless loop of hassling young black males who "look suspicious" or get scared and run. It's uncomfortable how often they bother completely innocent people (although sometimes they seem more excited to meet Seagal than pissed to be racially profiled). The Squad rarely find anything more than outstanding traffic warrants. Alot of times they confiscate guns, which they like to "get off the streets," but there's an endless supply of those. It's like trying to kill all the bees in the world. I think Seagal and his Squad try to do a good job, and there are some times when they're really thoughtful about talking to parents of young people in trouble or letting somebody go on a minor violation that could fuck up their life. I got some opinions about some of the things that go on on the show, and so do other people. The comments on my episode reviews over on have turned into some serious discussions and arguments about racial profiling and drug laws. I honestly think it's a thought provoking show. The beauty of LAWMAN is that it's not just another celebrity showing off his family and fancy house. It does for me a bunch of the same things that his movies do: it blurs the line between fiction and reality, movie star and real life warrior; it smuggles some political and spiritual ideas in where you don't expect them; it balances the badass and the absurd, allowing you to enjoy Seagal's adventures while also laughing at some crazy shit. The DVD lists one bonus feature: additional footage. I haven't seen it so I don't know how much. It would be cool if it was a new HARD TO KILL style cliffhanger where his partners try to plant drugs on him and frame him so he has to come back to prove his innocence and get revenge in season 2. But I don't think that's gonna happen. There will be a season 2, though. They shot it during Mardi Gras, so I'm hoping they'll harass more white people this time around. thanks Herc, Vern
Thank you, Vern! The rest of you swine, be sure to check out:

New Vern!

And Vern Classic!

Aaron Sorkin, who created “Sports Night,” is a funny guy and a blue-chip commodity. He wrote the movies “A Few Good Men,” “An American President” and “Charlie Wilson’s War” (all hugely entertaining). He also created and scripted the first four seasons of “The West Wing” (hilarious, moving, one of the finest series ever forged) and the only season of “Studio 60 On The Sunset Strip” (expensive, flawed, underrated). “Sports Night” was Sorkin’s first TV series. ABC put it at the tail end of its 1998 Tuesday night comedy block, after “Home Improvement,” “The Hughleys” and “Spin City.” It made its network money. Some posit that “Sports Night” never gained a more substantial audience because of its title. Girls who might have been drawn to its many romantic components may not have been keen to tune into what they perceived as a comedy about basketball and baseball nuts, while most sports fans were probably turned off by the show’s wordy and pervasive rom-com ambiance. I think it was that season-one laughtrack that sent too many fleeing. Its second, 1999-2000 season (not included on the new set out today, ran concurrently with Sorkin’s “The West Wing” on NBC, sans laughtrack. Sorkin was a fan of ESPN’s “SportsCenter” (co-starring MSNBC icon Keith Olberman in those days) and concocted the story of a Continental Sports Channel writer-anchor named Casey McCall, who was not dealing well with his new status as a divorced dad. The show revolved around Casey (Peter Krause, now non-divorced on “Parenthood”), producer/potential love interest Dana Whitaker (Felicity Huffman, now on “Desperate Housewives”), fellow writer-anchor Dan Rydell (Josh Charles, now on “The Good Wife”), managing editor Isaac Jaffe (Robert Guillaume, now lending his voice to “Half Life 2”), and lovebird associate producers Natalie Hurley (Sabrina Lloyd, recently of “Numb3rs”) and Jeremy Goodwin (Josh Malina, whom I just saw playing Valley Village supervisor Bill Wilson on “The Sarah Silverman Program”). The theme music, by Snuffy Walden, sounds pretty much identical to Walden’s music for “Studio 60.” Predictably, “Sports Night” bears many strong similarities to “Studio 60.” A job at “Saturday Night Live” even becomes part of “Sports Night’s” plot near the end of season two. The first-season finales of “Sports Night,” “The West Wing” and “Studio 60” all sport virtually the same title. There aren’t a lot of modern sitcoms as dramatic and thoughtful as “Sports Night.” Later installments probably carry the same joke-per-hour ratio as “The West Wing.” Like “West Wing,” “Sports Night” featured memorable recurring characters, played here by Jayne Brook (“Boston Legal”), Lisa Edelstein (“House”), Clark Gregg (“Iron Man”), William H. Macy (“Wild Hogs”), Paula Marshall (“Gary Unmarried”), Ted McGinley (“Dancing With The Stars”), Teri Polo (“The West Wing”) and Brenda Strong (“Everwood”). Forty-five half-hours were produced in all. Legend has it ABC wanted a third season, but only if Sorkin continued with the show. Sorkin chose to stick with “West Wing,” which was keeping him plenty occupied. COMMENTARIES: 1.1 “Pilot.” Sorkin and director Tommy Schlamme. Learn that Krause and Sorkin used to tend bar alongside Camryn Mannheim. Learn that the Jeremy role was quickly created for the pilot after Josh Malina did not land a role as one of the anchors. Learn that Larry Gelbart hated the laughtrack on “M*A*S*H,” and once paid for focus-group tests to determine if audiences would like the show any less if the laughtrack disappeared; it turns out they didn’t but CBS ordered the laughtrack to continue anyway. Learn that Sorkin loves “Doonesbury.” Learn that at first scenes of each episode were shot before a live audience, but only the conference room and bullpen sets could be seen from the bleachers built into the set; the studio, the control room and the individual offices could only be seen via monitors. Learn that, post-pilot, almost none of the scenes shot before a live audience were aired. Learn that fourth walls were added to the conference room and bullpen sets. Learn that the applause Josh Malina gets in the pilot came from a real audience. 1.11 “The Six Southern Gentlemen of Tennessee.” Charles, Krause, Lloyd and director Robert Belinger. Learn that Sabrina Lloyd is surprised the laughtrack lasted till episode 11 (the laughtrack actually lasted until episode 23). Learn that Lloyd refers to Elizabeth Hasselbeck as “that ‘Survivor’ girl.” Learn that some of the “Sports Night” crew members acknowledged by the anchors at the end of the show are actual “Sports Night” crew members. 1.13 “Small Town.” Editor Janet Ashikaga. Learn that Ashikaga realized “Sports Night” would be a great show when she saw its set. Learn that Guillaume wasn’t comfortable with long speeches. Learn that Ashikaga thinks Sorkin is “nice to look at.” 1.16 “Sally.” Supporting actors Greg Baker, Kayla Blake, Timothy Davis-Reed and Ron Ostrow. Learn that these actors saw a lot of their scenes cut. Learn that this episode was originally shot as the Christmas episode, but had to be reshot as an Easter episode after the Christmas show wound up getting pre-empted. 1.19 “Eli’s Coming.” Krause and Berlinger. Learn that the craft services room was a real craft services room. Learn that Krause resented the fact that Casey always had to have his shirt tucked in. Learn that Teri Polo’s hair was styled so it looked less like Huffman’s. Learn that this is the Berlinger-directed episode Berlinger liked most. OTHER EXTRAS: * “The Show” (33:50). “Sports Night” is discussed in new interviews. Learn that a very famous, very successful, very unnamed sitcom director (James Burrows, one assumes) met with Sorkin before Schlamme came along, but was troubled by how unsitcom-like it was. Learn that Larry Gelbart’s “M*A*S*H” series was an inspiration. Learn that Huffman got an audition through friend Clark Gregg, who was in the stage version of “A Few Good Men.” Learn that Lloyd and Huffman auditioned with Malina even though they already had been cast. Learn that Natalie was the hardest part to cast. Be reminded that Sorkin was writing virtually every episode of the second season of “Sports Night” and every episode of the first season of “The West Wing” simultaneously. Learn that Guillaume suffered his first-season stroke in his “Sports Night” dressing room while getting into wardrobe. * “Face-Off: ESPN’s SportsCenter Vs. CSC’s Sports Night” (21:04). Sorkin and “SportsCenter” staffers compare and contrast “Sports Night” and the show that inspired it. Learn that “SportsCenter” really has women producers. Learn that Sorkin traveled to ESPN studios in Bristol, Conn., for research. Learn that Sorkin fell in love with “SportsCenter” while working late nights on “American President.” Learn that Jeremy’s job interview was based on a “SportsCenter” staffer’s job interview. Learn that Josh Charles once ran into Keith Olberman on the street. * “Looking Back With Aaron Sorkin & Thomas Schlamme.” (26:08). The duo discuss their decade-long working relationship. Schlamme remembers his “Miss Firecracker” producer give him the stage version of “A Few Good Men” to read. Schlamme remembers he read both the “Sports Night” and “West Wing” pilots on the same night. Learn that the contiguous sets used for Sorkin’s shows were Schlamme’s idea. Learn that both men objected strenuously to the network’s insistence that they add a laugh track. Learn that a New Yorker reporter had been dispatched to Los Angeles to cover the “Sports Night” laughtrack battle. * “Season One Gag Reel” (11:47). Much flubbery, sadly bleeped. But at least they don’t fuzz out everybody’s lips. There’s some Sabrina-on-Felicity makeout action!
Herc’s Popular Pricing Pantry

The first two seasons of “30 Rock” are momentarily $14.99/Season or less!!

“The Twilight Zone” definitive editions, $69.99 per season two weeks ago, are momentarily $35.49/Season or less!!

Judd Apatow’s “Undeclared,” starring Seth Rogen and Jason Segal and the guy from “Sons of Anarchy” and the guy from “She’s Out Of My League,” plus Monica Keena and Carla Gallo, $39.49 two weeks ago, is momentarily $26.49!! (47% Off!!)

All seasons of “The Venture Bros.,” $28.99 three weeks ago, is momentarily $15.49/Season!! (48% Off!!)

“Carnivale,” $31.49 two weeks ago, is momentarily $15.99/Season!! (60% Off!!)

“Farscape: The Complete Series,” $129.49 last year, is momentarily $74.99. That works out to less than $18.75 per season!!

TV-on-Disc Calendar

Last Week Father Knows Best 4.x The Judy Garland Show Vol. 3 Krod Mandoon & The Flaming Sword of Fire: The Complete Series The Lair 3.x Life With Derek 3.x Mad Men 3.x Mad Men 3.x (Blu-ray) The Prisoner (2009): The Complete Miniseries Sabrina The Teenage Witch 6.x 7th Heaven 10.x Zula Patrol 1.x
This Week

The Abbott And Costello Show: The Complete Series

Alvin and the Chipmunks: Cinderella Cinderella

Ben 10 Alien Force Vol. 6

Black Beauty: The Complete 1978 Mini-Series

Deadliest Catch 5.x

First Amendment Stand-Up 4.x

iCarly: iFight Shelby Marx

The Jacksons: A Family Dynasty

Judge John Deed 1.x

Legacy: The Origins of Civilizations

The Lord Peter Wimsey Mysteries Vol. 1

The Real Housewives of New Jersey 1.x

Rhoda 2.x

Sports Night 1.x

Steven Seagal: Lawman 1.x

The Story of Math
Next Week Ally McBeal 2.x Battlestar Galactica 2.x (Blu-ray) Battlestar Galactica: The Complete Series (+ The Plan)

Battlestar Galactica: The Complete Series (+ The Plan) (Blu-ray) Blood Ties: The Complete Series Blood Ties: The Complete Series (Blu-ray) Ed's Up: Best of 1.x Eyes on the Prize: The Complete Miniseries Kourtney & Khloe Take Miami Mythbusters Vol. 5 The New Adventures of Black Beauty 2.x Party Down 1.x Simon & Simon 4.x XIII: The Conspiracy XIII: The Conspiracy (Blu-ray) The Unusuals: The Complete Series
April 13 Alias Smith & Jones 2.x/3.x <--- NEW!! Dallas 13.x The Donna Reed Show: Best Of Emergency 6.x Haunted: The Complete Series Jim Henson Presents: Song of the Cloud Forest Jim Henson's Animal Show Oregon Trail: The Complete Series Tom and Jerry Tales 1.x
April 20 Big John, Little John: The Complete Series Drawn Together Movie: The Movie Falcon Crest 1.x Frontier Circus: The Complete Series The F Word 4.x Heartland 1.x Heartland 2.x Hercules 1.x Hi-5 4.x Huckleberry Finn and His Friends: The Complete Series Merlin 1.x Perry Mason 5.x Vol. 1 Transformers 3.x/4.x Whispering Smith: The Complete Series Xena 1.x
April 27 Ghost Hunters 5.x Vol. 2 G.I. Joe 2.x The Hills 5.x Vol. 2 I Love Lucy: The Movie & Other Great Rarities It's Garry Shandling's Show 1.x The Judy Garland Show Vol. 4 Last of the Summer Wine: Vintage 1982-1983 Marked 1.x Murphy's Law 2.x Pride and Prejudice: The Complete 1995 Miniseries The Rivals of Sherlock Holmes Vol. 2 Science of the Movies Sherri 1.x Spectacular Spider-Man Vol. 8 Survivors 1.x/2.x Survivors: The Complete Series Tales From The Darkside 3.x Tales From The Darkside 1.x-3.x
May 4 According to Jim 2.x

Bullshit! 7.x Bullshit: Seven Season Pack Dirt 2.x Doctor Who: The
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