By ADAM BUCKMAN
NEW YORK, Nov. 30, 2009 — Two 58-year-old macho men are coming to TV on the same day, one strutting his stuff as a deputy sheriff and the other playing the self-described role of detective and truth seeker.
What is this – a conspiracy? Well, that’s one theory, though this convergence of two long-in-the-tooth TV tough guys is better classified as a coincidence, which, come to think of it, is the best way to explain away the kinds of conspiracies “investigated” by Jesse Ventura and his “elite team” (his words) of researchers on “Conspiracy Theory with Jesse Ventura.”
Ventura – the former Navy SEAL, pro wrestler and governor of Minnesota – goes in search of conspiracies starting Wednesday night (Dec. 2) at 10 p.m. on TruTV, while at the very same time, martial-arts movie man Steven Seagal starts his own crime-busting reality series (with the unpunctuated title: “Steven Seagal Lawman”) on A&E.
This scheduling can hardly be called a conspiracy, especially on the part of A&E, which will lead into “Steven Seagal,” more or less logically, with two hours of “Dog the Bounty Hunter,” with which “Seagal” is more or less compatible. On TruTV, the premiere of “Conspiracy Theory” comes after several hours of “Operation Repo,” which seems to share nothing at all in common with Gov. Ventura’s fanciful search for the truth.
On Wednesday night’s “Conspiracy Theory” premiere, the governor conspires to learn the true purpose of a heavily guarded U.S. military facility constructed in a remote part of Alaska. It’s a high-tech electric plant called HAARP (an acronym you can’t spell without AARP), which stands for High-frequency Active Auroral Research Program and has something to do with studying the interaction of electricity and the northern lights, or aurora borealis.
However, a handful of authors, self-styled scientists and local townspeople believe the government is using this facility to experiment with ways to wage future wars – by using a high-wattage “death ray” to knock out satellites, alter weather patterns and seize control of the minds of enemy combatants (and possibly some friendly ones). Among other far-fetched claims, one of the governor’s researchers tries to demonstrate that this electric plant in Alaska had something to do with causing the tsunami that killed more than 230,000 people around the Indian Ocean in December 2004. One of the researchers even makes the odd (some might say “insane”) claim that there were no earth tremors preceding the catastrophic wave, though experts around the world possess seismographic data indicating that the wave was caused by a powerful underwater earthquake measuring between 9.1 and 9.3 on the Richter scale.
After watching Gov. Ventura and his team roam the dirt roads of rural Alaska for a long and tedious hour, the only conclusion you can really reach is that, yes, the government isn’t exactly being forthcoming in explaining this facility’s purpose. Along the way, Gov. Ventura says things like, “We’re out here in the wilderlands of Alaska,” mixing up the words “wilderness” and “hinterlands” in the same entertaining way Mayor Richard Daley of Chicago (the first one) used to say things like, “I resent the insinuendos.”
In the end, the “evidence” presented by Ventura and his researchers is not persuasive enough to have you believe the government is doing anything more nefarious at this outpost than wasting your hard-earned tax money – which is not exactly news, though it is irritating.
As far as taxpayers go, the taxpayers of Jefferson Parish, La., seem to be getting their money’s worth from their sheriff’s department, especially since one of their deputy sheriffs is none other than Steven Seagal, who has apparently played this unheralded, real-life role for close to 20 years.
Apparently, when he’s not busy making movies, a fully uniformed and accredited Seagal can be found riding shotgun in a Jefferson Parish patrol car in the wee hours of the morning, cruising through neighborhoods that he insists are under siege by gun-toting bad guys. Whether or not a siege mentality has taken hold in the Parish’s rougher sections, on the first two half-hour episodes of “Steven Seagal Lawman” – both premiering back-to-back on Wednesday night – there certainly do seem to be a lot of gun-toters strolling aimlessly in the dark.
In fact, all Seagal and the rest of these deputy sheriffs have to do at any given moment to pinch a gun-toter is to suddenly stop their vehicles, yell “Hey, you!” at a passerby and before you know it, a chase ensues and a perp is collared – usually one who is, or was, armed (before dropping his firearm in mid-chase and then claiming it wasn’t his).
You could really describe “Steven Seagal Lawman” as “ ‘Cops’ with a movie star” since both shows traffic in the same thing: Perps, none of whom are ever wearing shirts, are nabbed in the middle of the night based on no other probable cause than an officer’s hunch that a person taking a stroll at three o’clock in the morning just might be up to something. Then they are hand-cuffed and thrown roughly onto the hoods of squad cars, while their pants pockets get turned inside-out for loose joints and stray bullets. The perps, all the while protesting their innocence, are then tucked into the backseats of the police cars.
Through it all, Seagal keeps a cool head, which he attributes to his life-long study of eastern philosophy. On his new show, he is not above the law, but he is out for justice. Says he, “We’re not here to beat up people. We’re not here to lecture people on their morals or their ethics. But we are here to enforce the law. We are here to try to make the streets safe.”
Words to live by, from an action hero who was once “Marked for Death,” but “Hard to Kill.”
Contact Adam Buckman: AdamBuckman14@gmail.com