If "Buddy Faro" is weird, "Martial Law" is downright strange.
If memory serves, this is the first show in American network TV history to feature a star - Sammo Hung - whose grasp of English is, well, rudimentary at best.Not to mention that Hung is a, well, rather overweight action hero. (He once starred in a Hong Kong chop-socky movie titled "Enter the Fat Dragon.")
And if that isn't strange enough, well, how about the fact that "Martial Law" is a surprisingly entertaining new series?
Frankly, this is a show I expected to hate. With a passion. But it's a lot of fun, in a rather mindless sort of way.
The premise is simple enough. Sammo Law (Hung) - a Shanghai police officer - comes to Los Angeles in pursuit of a Chinese crime lord. He teams up with a couple of cops (Tammy Lauren and Louis Mandylor) and action ensues.
Sammo isn't exactly a household name in America. But that was a young, handsome and considerably thinner Sammo battling Bruce Lee in the opening scenes of 1973's "Enter the Dragon."
He's made a slew of successful martial arts movies, both as an actor and a director. He is, we're assured, one of the biggest stars ever to come out of Hong Kong.
And, oddly enough, the fact that Sammo doesn't speak English particularly well and that he's not exactly a poster boy for fitness works to "Martial Law's" advantage.
"I think the additional spin that Sammo is not really cut out of the Bruce Lee-physique mold seems like something that is actually fun," said executive producer Carlton Cuse. And it's the subject of a good many jokes in the show.
(So, exactly how fat is Sammo? "Not very heavy," he said. "Only 220 pounds." But he's not tall.)
His lack of English skills is not glossed over - it's another take-off point for comedy.
"It eliminates a lot of subtext," Cuse said. "The character becomes very direct. He speaks his mind and I think that'll be kind of a refreshing and fun device."
And Sammo promises his English will improve.
"In America, I'm going to speak English," he said. "In Hong Kong, in Asia, I speak Chinese, you know. And I like to speak Chinese. But now, all the time, I speak English."
There's a good deal of violence in "Martial Law," but it's sort of silly, over-the-top choreographed action sequences. Like when Sammo puts the hurt on a guy using only a chalkboard eraser.
"When we do martial arts, what's most important is the character himself," said producer/-director Stanley Tong, who choreographs the action scenes. "And he doesn't want to use his fighting skill to go out and beat people up. . . . What he's trying to do is use his bare hands to solve the crime by not drawing a gun. We're trying to do an action show with a lot of fun and stunts, but not always come out with the gun."
Still, parents are going to have to decide whether "Martial Law" is too violent for their kids to see.