Tuesday, May 16, 2017

What Might've Been: Martial Law (1998)

As far back as the 90's, Saturday nights meant quality television, not reruns and sports.

In 1998, CBS needed another crime drama to lead into Walker, Texas Ranger, which was occupying the 10 pm (ET) slot that had been held in years past by shows as diverse as Mission: Impossible & The Carol Burnett Show. Early Edition was holding the lead-off spot at 8, so something was needed at 9. That something came from Nash Bridges creator Carlton Cuse.

Martial Law introduced American audiences to Sammo Hung, a respected martial arts movie star in Hong Kong. CBS & Cuse initially wanted Jackie Chan, but Chan wasn't interested. However, Martial Law was inspired by one of Chan's "Crime Story" movies. Hung wasn't fluent in English, so the supporting cast had to carry more of the dialogue than normal. Viewers, though, might've been more interested in seeing the fight scenes.

After about a month and change, actress Tammy Lauren left the show, as her character was written out. Two months in, Arsenio Hall joined the show as a PR rep-turned-detective, as CBS now wanted to copy the success of Chan's "Rush Hour", with Hall occupying Chris Tucker's spot as the sidekick to the fish-out-of-water sleuth from the Far East.

With ratings beginning to fall, the network felt, since they co-produced all three shows, to have Martial Law cross over with both Walker and Early Edition, albeit separately. Unfortunately, Hung wasn't thrilled with a change in show-runners and writers in the 2nd season putting more emphasis on the action and not enough on detective work, and decided to walk away after 2 seasons.

Following is a montage of clips from the show, as there isn't a lot of actual episode footage available. The video is set to the beat of Alan Tam's "Midnight Rider":

Co-star Kelly Hu followed up, of course, with the feature film, "The Scorpion King", opposite Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson. Hall went back to doing comedy, and tried reviving not just his own talk show, but Star Search as well, and neither was successful. Hung, I think, is still making movies in Hong Kong.

Rating: B.

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