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 Lawrence, Tisha Campbell, Tichina Arnold, Thomas Mikal Ford, Carl 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.