'Martin' Turns 20 This Month; Catching Up On Martin Lawrence's Activity Since Its Cancellation

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by Tambay A. Obenson
August 29, 2012 12:24 PM
19 Comments
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On August 27, 1992, Martin aired its very first episode on Fox, on its way to a 5-season run, finally closing down on May 1, 1997.

Martin LawrenceTisha Campbell, Tichina ArnoldThomas Mikal FordCarl Anthony Payne II, and Garrett Morris made up the series starring cast for most of its 5 seasons - a series that was one of Fox's highest-rated shows during its entire run.

It was during a period in the early to mid-1990s when Fox attracted many African American eyeballs, with a lineup that included (in addition to Martin), Living Single, In Living Color, and New York Undercover - shows that were some of the highest-rated among black households for some of those years.

I don't know if I'd say it was the #1 show in my household at the time, but we definitely tuned in for Martin on Thursday nights. In fact, as I recall, there was a period during which Fox's Thursday night lineup looked like this: Martin at 8, Living Single at 8:30, and New York Undercover from 9 to 10. 

Eventually, it all came to an end, 5 seasons later, in 1997, when it was reported that tension began to build between Campbell and Lawrence, leading to Campbell filing a lawsuit against Lawrence and HBO, stating that Lawrence was mentally unstable and had begun to sexually harass her. After some legal tanglings, Campbell would eventually leave the show permanently, and it was soon after that, in early 1997, that Fox dropped the show, for good.

There was a lot going on with Martin Lawrence during that final year of the show - he was seemingly on a high, after signing a $20 million, three-movie development deal at Columbia Pictures; from being detained by police after he was found wandering an L.A. street, with a loaded gun in his pocket, yelling, "Fight the power;" to his arrest just a few months later at Burbank Airport for trying to board a plane with a loaded 9mm Beretta; to filing for divorce from Patricia Lawrence, his wife of 20 months, who won a restraining order against him after, among other things, she told a judge that he threatened to kill her and her family; and of course the Tisha Campbell suit.

It wasn't a good time for Martin - especially in terms of his personal life. Although ratings for Martin did start to dip during its latter years as well.

His professional career didn't seem very much affected by the show's cancellation, lawsuit, or any of the personal trials he was facing, because, after Martin was canceled, Lawrence starred or co-starred in 17 feature films (at least 1 a year, for 15 successive years), all of them released in theaters, some more successful than others, like the Big Momma franchise of films - the first one being the most successful, grossing $173 million worldwide. 

There was also Bad Boys II, Big Momma's House II, Wild Hogs, and others.

He also did some producing for TV in the 2000s, like his stand-up comedy series, 1st Amendment Stand Up for Starz network, and the Tatyana Ali TV One comedy series, Love That Girl.

However, his last film, 2011's Big Mommas: Like Father, Like Son, didn't exactly set the box office on fire, grossing $37 million stateside, although it made another $46 million overseas, for a worldwide total of over $83 million.

There were plans for a return to TV which didn't happen. Last year, Lawrence and CBS had been developing 2 projects for the actor/comedian to star in, with Bernie Mac creator and The Daily Show contributor Larry Wilmore behind one of the shows; and the other from Rules of Engagement creator Tom Hertz and Adam Sandler's Happy Madison production company.

In the Wilmore-created series, Marty Mar would have played "a single man who becomes (along with his sister) a foster parent to several children."

And in Hertz's script, Mr Lawrence would have starred as "a family man trying to keep his kids grounded while facing off with his wealthy in-laws."

As of mid-January, neither was a definite "go," but it was reported that CBS would pick one of them, after everyone involved had time to "digest the 2 scripts."

CBS eventually did greenlight a new comedy starring Martin Lawrence.

The project, from Mike Lisbe and Nate Reger, was to star Marty Mar as "a widowed father of two teenagers who, after losing his job in construction, decides to go to the police academy and become a cop at the age of 46."

However, unfortunately, CBS did not pick up what would've been Martin's return to sit-com TV, originally planned for the upcoming season.

As for what he has coming up... there have been rumors of a potential Bad Boys threequel, although Will Smith recently suggested in an interview that he wasn't too keen on any more sequels. Although he seemed to imply that if the script appealed to him, he'd do it.

There is also the planned remake of Uptown Saturday Night, with Will Smith and Denzel Washington, which Martin was rumored to once be a part of.

And there's that Skank Robbers movie which I hope is dead.

And finally, there's the alien-abduction movie that Eddie Murphy said he was writing, late last year; the all-black cast project would center on a group of guys who get abducted by aliens. Lawrence was said to be a part of that project as well.

If we'll actually see any of these projects realized is anyone's guess. However, I'm sure Mr Lawrence will be just fine, despite recent let-downs. He's enjoyed the most post-Martin success, when compared to the careers of the other actors who were regulars on that show. Then again, he was the star.

All 5 seasons of Martin are on DVD.

20 years... how time flies. I feel old.

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19 Comments

  • melena | September 3, 2012 9:10 PMReply

    My 20 year old son confessed to me that when I would come home upset or he would get in trouble and I seem upset, he would put Martin reruns on and yes, oh yes, I would laugh and the rest of the evening would go smoothly.

  • misha | September 2, 2012 2:17 AMReply

    Definitely my all-time favorite sitcom! I find myself watching the reruns and enjoying them almost as much as the first time around. As for Sergio's claim of Martin "always putting down black women," Pam is the only woman he really insulted and she gave as good as she got. And given Tommy's attraction to her and their subsequent relationship, I think it was obvious that Martin's insults were merely in jest and not some deeper commentary on Pam or black women, in general.

  • ChgoSista | August 31, 2012 4:37 PMReply

    I am a "Good Times"-ologist FIRST, and a "Martin"-ologist second; so, there... I WILL say though, that there were two things I didn't care for: 1. The "Mama Payne" character and 2. The 'jumping of the shark' when M&G got married. Other than that, the show is steadily on 'repeat' in my house.

  • ALM | September 3, 2012 10:23 PM

    @ Chgosista: I am curious. Why do you feel as if Martin and Gina marrying served as a "jump the shark" point in the show?

  • Michele | August 30, 2012 9:36 AMReply

    Is it sad that 20 years from now the kids of today will be waxing Poetic about Love and Hip Atlanta?

  • justsaying | August 29, 2012 9:03 PMReply

    lol this show was/is a heavy hitter...still watch the reruns.

  • mantan | August 29, 2012 8:56 PMReply

    i love the "martin" show and have bought all seasons available on dvd and will watch them over and over again sometimes after a long day at work. i kind of grew up watching martin, living single, in living color, new york undercover, rock all those shows. i think it was a good time for black television. as much as i love "martin" i often times wonder if the show would've been able to be aired now because i can just see people calling him the "prime minister of coonistan" (lmao!!!) or just people having a problem with his brand of humor. anyway, i'm glad i was able to see it when it first aired, i had great child hood memories from the show.

    i'd have to say my favorite episodes are "to kill a talking bird" (you killed my mamma bird,g gina), "no justice, no peace" ( the day of the geeechee is over!!) and the "dmv blues" (what's up almond brown? you so almondy...) just thinking about them is making me want to fall out laughing!! lololol...

  • Sergio | August 29, 2012 2:39 PMReply

    Maybe it's generational thing, but I absoultely couldn't stand Martin. I thought it was loud bosterious and really annoying with buffoonish charcaters. And what was the deal with him always putting down black women on the show usually refering them to animals? Roc on the other hand I absolutely thought was wonderful. A solid and really show with relatable charcaters. Unfortunately the show jumped the shark its last season and got too didatic and serious for itself, it for me it's no comparison It was the better show by a mile

  • JMac | August 29, 2012 8:27 PM

    When I watched Martin, it was funny to me but I was in my early teens. When I watch it now, I cringe. Definitely some good shows here and there but he would get overly ridiculous in a way that was just pathetic. I also notice now how much he insults Pam. I know she's getting the "my girl's best friend" hate but damn. To be honest, I remember watching Roc but I don't remember any specific episodes. That can't be a good indication. TVOne will probably resurrect it one day.

  • Charles Judson | August 29, 2012 8:00 PM

    I liked ROC and watched nearly every episode, but it was definitely a generational thing on who liked what. I thought Roc started jumping the shark when they did the who will Roc vote for episode in the second season. That mock debate and the it doesn't matter who you vote for, just vote message felt 15 years out of date. It's right after that they introduced Andre the drug dealer. By the time they got to Andre being shot in the last two episodes of season 2, I was definitely not as hyped to watch. For a show that felt groundbreaking in the beginning, it started feeling too much like the same old same old and no longer relatable.

  • aswilliams | August 29, 2012 2:09 PMReply

    Tambay you also forgot about Roc that starred Charles S. Dutton that was also on Fox from 91-94 that was also a positive impact on Black Television. I`m only 21 but I remember Charles criticizing the show Martin as being a bad misrepresentation on Afro-Americans. But in the end Martin was and is a show that had a spark to it that no other Black Sitcoms had especially by the best writing staff for each and every show up until the last season.

  • Emmanuel | August 30, 2012 10:19 AM

    So a show about a black man who furnished his home with items he found in the garbage was the better representation of blacks in America? Me thinks not.

  • Charles Judson | August 29, 2012 1:44 PMReply

    I think there's three things that make MARTIN memorable and standout. One is that Martin as a character was central to his own show and he remained so till the end. The rest of the cast got to have plenty of moments, but Martin never became a Seinfeld. Two, even with some of the push back they got about the show, they got to be silly. It's a weird moment, and I can't remember the season, but when they toss a fake baby across the room and do it in away that points "hey this is a show" it's one of those moments, along with Martin joining a Cult, that definitely put it in the upper range of TV that's smarter than folks give/gave it credit for. Three, it seemed to come at the right time in terms of timing with other shows like A DIFFERENT WORLD. MARTIN starts just as A DIFFERENT WORLD was ending. MARTIN may not be a direct connection, but as a show about a group of young Black professionals (and even Blue collar with Cole) in their mid to late 20s, it was spiritually a perfect followup to WORLD. Same with LIVING SINGLE. They felt of the time and relevant and tapped into life then that felt more organic. I think if you were born between 1960 and 1975, those three shows were able to hit where you were or where you were thinking about going in just a few years. By the time WORLD was ending those folks from 1975 were graduating High School and going into college or just starting their adult lives. If you were born in the 1960s, you were right where Martin and Gina were, both relationship and job wise. WORLD, SINGLE and MARTIN are as familiar and a part of the culture of that time as En Vogue, songs like T.R.O.Y. and Biggie. I think too many shows being created lack that kind of generational connection and it's why they're so often bland, uninspired and feel like retreads.

  • mantan | August 29, 2012 9:29 PM

    very good write up!!!

  • Emmanuel | August 29, 2012 1:53 PM

    That's a very good way of looking at it. I never noticed that transitional connection. Now, if they would hurry up and release ADW on DVD.

  • ALM | August 29, 2012 12:59 PMReply

    No matter what anyone says, he has definitely lived a full life. He successfully transitioned from television to film. I have always liked him, and I wish him the best.

  • oliver | August 29, 2012 12:55 PMReply

    I was ten-years old when Martin's show came out, and now my 14 year old god sister is addicted to the reruns. It's a new show for her, and I am envious of her excitement and enjoyment. Friends, Frasier, and Seinfield combine do not surpass the comedy genius of Martin on that show, and I am a honest fan of all those shows too. Martin made big money for the studio, entertained and informed, did charitable acts, and had his ups and downs, but he's still awesome by the definition of the word. He should be seating somewhere in a corner studio office green-liting comedies like fellow ( in a low whisper: 'white') comedians-turned tv icons.
    Thanks for the write up, Tambay! You've made my day, yet again.

  • Emmanuel | August 29, 2012 12:53 PMReply

    Man, this was my show-- and still is. And let's not forget the memorable supporting characters; those played by Lawrence (Ole Otis, Sheneneh Jenkins, Jerome, etc.) and otherwise (Ms. Gerri, Bruh Man, Hustle Man, Titus, etc.). 'DMV Blues' is still my favorite episode.

  • Helluva | August 29, 2012 2:21 PM

    LMAO...that's my fav episode as well. "My name ain't no damn Almond Brown okay!!!" Although the Tommy Hearns episode is a close 2nd...

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