Martial Law

Martial Law:
(1998-2000)

Aired on CBS.

Created by Carlton Cuse
Starring Sammo Hung, Arsenio Hall, Louis Mandylor, Kelly Hu

Rating: ******
              2/6

Martial Law was an odd little show
That only ran two seasons.
Its premise hinged on a unique idea,
And that’s just one of the reasons.

Some producer somewhere
Saw Sammo Hung in action.
He brought him to the USA
To raise entertainment a fraction.

Sammo Hung is a fat man
Who will constantly amaze.
He’s an acrobatic athlete
With martial artist ways.

He does all of his own stunts,
All of which are quite impressive.
The effect is even greater
When the performer is so massive.

Sammo Hung

His friend Jackie Chan was trying again
To break into Hollywood cinemas.
This time it appeared as if he’d succeed.
It seemed like a good time to try this.

Chan was already in the U.S.
The two friends could see one-another.
They had both trained hard at the very same school.
They were sufferers, comrades, brothers.

The producers put together a TV show
With an East-Meets-West kind of theme.
Sammo would play a policeman from China,
Who would be exposed to the L.A. scene.

He played a detective named Sammo Law,
One of the best cops in China those days,
On temporary transfer to the States,
To study the American legal ways.

Arsenio Hall

In return, the Americans would have to send
Somebody in Sammo’s place.
Typically, the someone they sent
Hated the Chinese race.

That particular guy was only in two
Episodes from Season One.
He is never even referred to again,
And he’s not the only one.

Some of the characters just disappear,
Never again to be seen.
Thus, when Season Two rolls around,
We see less actors on the screen.

Some characters were quite useless,
Like the Captain who was their ruler.
In time he became an office sentry,
And patrolled the water cooler.

Captain Water Cooler

The two regulars who came and stayed
Were Louis Mandylor,
And Kelly Hu from X-Men 2.
The rest lasted no more.

But…

Early on in Season One,
Rush Hour made several million,
And the producers and execs
Thought they understood that film’s success.

In Rush Hour, Jackie Chan
Plays second fiddle to a comedian
–A young black man named Chris Tucker,
A high-pitched and annoying…trucker.

That film’s theme was East meets West,
Tucker played an LAPD pest,
Jackie played a Chinese cop,
And Chris Tucker prattled on nonstop.

Kelly Hu

Tucker’s character was streetwise,
Despite that he spoke a lot of jive,
And a good deal of the story was about
The two trying to figure the other out.

So, the producers of Martial Law
Tried the same thing with Sammo Law.
They called up Arsenio Hall,
And the show did a backflip before it stalled.

Arsenio played a character named Terrell,
Who played off Sammo, but not that well.
When he first appears, we wish he hadn’t,
And rue this new character that they added.

The producers did their best, you see,
To make him as black as a man can be,
And, to ensure he fit the type,
Gave him every conceivable stereotype,

So what we saw was not a man,
But a human cartoon more ridiculous than
Every black performer rolled up into one,
Crossed with Jim Carrey’s and Gottfried’s test tube son.

Just a few short minutes with this man,
And we see the reason for the Ku Klux Klan,
And are so incensed by his buffoonery,
We want to lynch him from the nearest tree.

Did the producers really have a need
To show us Jar Jar Binks on speed?
Did they think we wouldn’t turn the dial
In the hopes of catching Gilligan’s Isle?

But…

In trying to be like Chris Tucker,
They completely missed the mark,
For Chris Tucker plays himself.
He’s the same in the light and the dark.

After a month or two of shows,
Terrell began to change.
He developed into a likeable man,
With full dramatic range.

He could be sensitive. He could show warmth.
He could be smart and tough.
He could even be funny—who knew?—
And could say some interesting stuff.

Terrell became a person, folks,
One the audience could relate to,
And understand, and sympathize with,
Even though they might hate to.

Louis Mandylor

Actor Arsenio proved to be
The second-best actor present,
Under Sammo Hung, the master,
The reigning Fung Fu pheasant.

The main gimmick of this show
Is to show Sammo Hung in action.
We see him flip and fight and fall,
All in Hong Kong style action.

He trained the stunt crew and the actors,
And the camera crews as well,
To make a decent fight scene,
One that shows up well.

Naturally, these action scenes
Can never be compared
To the complex scenes in his Hong Kong films,
But in honesty, they’re fair.

With what he had and time constraints,
And whom he had to work with,
I think he managed pretty well
In the TV action biz.

Unfortunately, those action scenes
Are all this series had.
The writing was atrocious,
And the dialogue was bad.

The series writers seemed to get
Their ideas from the Tube.
They copied other people’s plots,
Bringing nothing fresh or new.

On top of that, the script’s directors
Left a lot to be desired.
At best, this show was a distraction,
Not to be fondly admired.

Martial Law is best described
As a curious oddity.
Since its flaws outweigh its strengths,
It gets a two out of six from me.

Louis and Kelly


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I wrote this review
To the best of my recollection.
To see if I’m right,
Here’s Martial Law//The Complete Collection.

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