Martial Law (TV series)

Martial Law (TV series)
Martial Law
Martial Law.png
Format Crime Action/Adventure
Created by Carlton Cuse
Starring Sammo Hung
Arsenio Hall
Kelly Hu
Louis Mandylor
Tom Wright
Gretchen Egolf
Tammy Lauren
Country of origin United States
No. of seasons 2
No. of episodes 44
Running time 45 minutes.
Original channel CBS (1998-2000)[1]
Original run September 26, 1998 (1998-09-26) – May 13, 2000 (2000-05-13)

Martial Law was a TV crime drama that ran on CBS from 1998 to 2000, and was created by Carlton Cuse.[2][3] The title character, Sammo Law, portrayed by Sammo Hung, was a Chinese law officer and martial arts expert who came to Los Angeles in search of a colleague and remains in the US.[4]

The show was a surprise hit, making Hung the only East Asian headlining a prime-time network series in America. At the time, Hung was not fluent in English, and he reportedly recited some of his dialogue phonetically.[5] In many scenes, Hung did not speak at all, making Martial Law perhaps the only US television series in history that featured so little dialogue from the lead character.[6][7]



Supporting cast

The cast endured turnover from the beginning. Detective Dana Dickson (played by Tammy Lauren) exited the show after Episode 6, "Extreme Measures", as she moved away to live with "her parents" as noted on the following episode. Then on Episode 9, "How Sammo Got His Groove Back", Arsenio Hall joined the cast as Terrell Parker, a wisecracking former LAPD press liaison who began helping out Sammo and the gang on cases. The pairing of Hung and Hall as partners was similar to, albeit a bit less overtly comedic than, the partnership between Sammo's friend, Jackie Chan, and Chris Tucker in the Rush Hour feature films. At the end of the episode "Cop Out", when Sammo Law is driving through Los Angeles, a sign is seen which advertises Rush Hour, as the movie was released at the time of the episode.


New executive producers Lee Goldberg & William Rabkin took the helm at the beginning of the second season due to runaway production costs. They more or less pretended that the first season did not exist, retaining only the basic concept of a fish-out-of-water detective. Cast members Louis Mandylor and Tom Wright were dropped. Gretchen Egolf was brought in to play the unit's new leader, Amy Dylan, from the beginning of Season 2. Additionally, Parker's past in public relations was scrapped. The first season's cliffhanger ending (plus the dropping of Mandylor and Wright's characters) was explained away with a few throwaway lines.

Law made crossover appearances on episodes of Early Edition and Walker, Texas Ranger, the former preceding it and the latter following it in its Saturday time slot. Chuck Norris's Walker character, Cordell Walker, also made an appearance as part of the two-part Martial Law/Walker, Texas Ranger crossover.


The basic storyline is that Sammo Law, a well-respected Chinese cop, is transferred to America. As he works for the police department, fighting crime in Los Angeles, and later New York City, he is met with a clash in culture. He is also the mentor of Grace "Pei Pei" Chen, an undercover officer. When American techniques do not work, Sammo employs some Chinese cop work to get the job done.

Season 1 plot

Sammo is sent by the Chinese government to apprehend an old nemesis, Lee Hei (Tzi Ma). He finds out that his disciple, Pei Pei, had infiltrated Lee Hei's criminal empire. His goal is to capture Lee Hei and end his criminal organization. Unfortunately, this plot line was unresolved and Season 1 ended in a cliffhanger, although season two's premiere has Sammo alluding to Lee Hei's death (by way of accusing a one-shot villain of trying to avenge it). Dana Dickson (Tammy Lauren) was initially billed as a main character but left after only a few episodes; it was explained that she had moved to another police force to be closer to her family.

Season 2 plot

After Winship's retirement and Louis's transfer to the NYPD, Law decides to stay in Los Angeles and is now partnered with Pei Pei. The department also gets a new captain, Amy Dylan, who thinks that the Chinese way of police work is not the best way of handling things. In addition, there are revelations of a secret society whose members include Law's long lost son. While Law decided to return to China in the last episode, a line of dialogue leaves open the possibility of a follow-up.

Episode list

Season 1
# Title Director Writer
01 "Shanghai Express" Stanley Tong Carlton Cuse
02 "Diamond Fever"
03 "Dead Ringers" Whitney Ransick Carlton Cuse, Alfred Gough & Miles Millar
04 "Funny Money" Deran Serafian Pam Veasey
05 "Cop Out" Whitney Ransick Alfred Gough & Miles Millar
06 "Extreme Measures" David Carson Josh Appelbaum, Andre Nemec & Carlton Cuse
07 "Trackdown"
08 "Take Out" John Kretchner Patty Lin
09 "How Sammo Got His Groove Back" Larry Shaw Russell Friend & Garrett Lerner
10 "Bad Seed" Jesus Trevino Brian Fuld
11 "Lock-Up"
12 "Painted Faces" Whitney Ransick Alfred Gough & Miles Millar
13 "Substitutes" D.J. Caruso Patty Lin
14 "Wild Life" Whitney Ransick Russell Friend & Garrett Lerner
15 "Breakout" Deran Serafian Randy Feldman
16 "Captive Hearts" Michael Lange Del Shores
17 "Trifecta"
18 "Big Trouble" Jack Clements Alfred Gough & Miles Millar
19 "Nitro Man" Greg Beeman Russel Friend & Garrett Lerner
20 "Red Storm" Greg Yaitanes Mark Verheiden
21 "Requiem (Part One)" Greg Beeman Pam Veasey & Del Shores
22 "End Game (Part Two)" Michael Lange James Kramer & Mark Haskell Smith
Season 2
# Title Director Writer
01 "Sammo Blammo" Joe Napolitano Lee Goldberg & William Rabkin
02 "Thieves Among Thieves" Oley Sassone Lisa Klink
03 "This Shogun for Hire" Stanley Tong J. Larry Carroll & David Bennett Carren
04 "24 Hours" Bruce Seth Green Gene O'Neil & Noreen Tobin
05 "90 Million Reasons to Die" Stanley Tong Jacquelyn Blain
06 "My Man Sammo" Ron Satlof Jacquelyn Blain
07 "The Friendly Skies" Bruce Seth Green Lisa Klink
08 "Call of the Wild" Max Tash David Bennett Carren & J. Larry Carroll
09 "Blue Flu" Oley Sassone Gene O'Neil & Noreen Tobin
10 "Sammo Claus" Max Tash Lisa Klink
11 "No Quarter" Ron Satlof Paul Bernbaum
12 "Scorpio Rising" Bruce Seth Green Michael Gleason
13 "No Fare" Chuck Bowman Paul Bernbaum
14 "Dog Day Afternoon" Bruce Seth Green Jacquelyn Blain
15 "Deathfist 5: Major Crimes Unit" Terrence O'Hara Lisa Klink
16 "Honor Among Strangers*" Chris Nyby J. Larry Carroll & David Bennett Carren
17 "Freefall" Oley Sassone Lee Goldberg & William Rabkin
18 "The Thrill is Gone" Chuck Bowman Michael Gleason
19 "Heartless" Ron Satlof David Ehrman
20 "In the Dark" Max Tash David Ehrman
21 "Final Conflict, Part 1" Oley Sassone Paul Bernbaum
22 "Final Conflict, Part 2" Oley Sassone Lee Goldberg & William Rabkin

* This episode's storyline was continued on the Walker, Texas Ranger episode Day of Cleansing.


Season U.S. ratings Network Rank
1 1998-99 11.00 million CBS #57
2 1999-00 10.08 million CBS #59

The show aired on Saturday nights throughout its run.

International broadcasters

In the Republic of Ireland and the UK, Martial Law has been broadcast on Bravo throughout the week. In Britain the show used to air on Five from 1998–2005, then on ITV4 showing replays of the episodes from 2005–2007, from 2009 onwards Bravo have acquired the rights to show replays of the show. In France, Martial Law (Le Flic de Shanghaï) can be seen on M6 and W9. It was previously broadcast on Britain's Channel 5 at 8pm on Sundays scoring high ratings in 98, Australia's Seven Network in 1998, on ATV in Hong Kong, on TV4 in Sweden and on TV3, Sky1 and Channel 4 in New Zealand. It was previously broadcast on Dubai based MBC 2 but can now be seen on MBC Action. In Germany the series was broadcast on VOX. In Brazil, the series can be seen on Rede Bandeirantes since November 2007 as Um Policial da Pesada ("A heavy-set cop"). In Hungary the series aired on RTL Klub as A harc törvénye ("The rules of engagement").

DVD releases

As of November 2010, there is no news about a release of Martial Law on DVD. According to, DVD releases have yet to be available despite the push and petitions of fans.[10]


  1. ^ "Cbs' Gamble: Sammo Hung". Orlando Sentinel. Retrieved 2010-11-05. 
  2. ^ "MASTER OF 'MARTIAL LAW'". The New York Daily News. Retrieved 2010-11-05. 
  3. ^ "Chop Shtick". Entertainment Weekly.,,285196,00.html. Retrieved 2010-12-07. 
  4. ^ McDonald, William (1998-09-26). "Kung Fu Show Adds Star, Hoping For a Hit". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-11-05. 
  5. ^ Johnson, Allan (1999-05-07). "`Martial Law's' Hung Is Changing Stereotypes". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 2010-11-05. 
  6. ^ Sterngold, James (1998-11-19). "TELEVISION REVIEW; Body Slams Illumined by Aphorisms". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-11-05. 
  7. ^ Rosenberg, Howard (1998-09-26). "If Your Fantasy Is Fascinating Shows, Forget It; TV reviews: 'Fantasy Island' treads water; 'Martial Law,' 'Cupid' don't zing.". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-11-05. 
  8. ^ "Television: Mean Unlean Machine". Time. 1998-10-19.,9171,989360,00.html. Retrieved 2010-11-05. 
  9. ^ Michaelson, Judith (1998-10-31). "MORNING REPORT; Arts and entertainment reports from The Times, national and international news services and the nation's press.". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-11-05. 
  10. ^ Martial Law on DVD

External links

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