1 9 9 7 – 1 9 9 8 (Canada)
23 x 60 minute episodes
Movie director John Woo brought his trademark martial-arts violence, explosions and tongue-in-cheek humour to TV in this cartoonish action series.
Mac Ramsey (Ivan Sergei )and Li Ann Tsei (Sandrine Holt) were thieves and lovers living in China when Mac was apparently killed in a building explosion. Li Ann moved to Canada, became an agent for a secret government agency and was partnered with former cop Victor Mansfield (Nicholas Lea), who became her new lover.
Everything was going smoothly until cocky Mac turned up. To protect himself from the ruthless Chinese gang that had tried to kill him, Mac joined the Agency and was teamed with Li Ann and Victor.
It was awkward because he still had feelings for Li Ann, who was determined to forget their past, while Victor was jealous of their former relationship.
Amid the banter, the team engaged in wild firefights with villains, blazing away in midair, with guns upside down, two guns at once, etc.
They reported to The Director (Jennifer Dale), a petty manipulative agency official who treated them like children.
Also working for The Director were Dobrinksy (Howard Dell), who acted as her gofer; Camier (Greg Kramer) and Murphy (Julian Richings), the group’s resident assassins, and Muckle (James Allodi), the neurotic librarian.
In January Jackie (Victoria Pratt), the daughter of a recently deceased local mob boss, joined the agency and, much to everyone’s surprise beat out Li Ann for the Agency’s “Rookie of the Year” award.
John Woo’s Once a Thief aired on Canada’s CTV network during the 1997-1998 season but didn’t surface in the US until four years later.
In the series finale Mac, Li Ann and Victor were killed in an explosion. A TV movie version of the last two episodes, aired under the title Once a Thief: Brother Against Brother, altered the ending, with the team leaving the building alive.
Li Ann Tsei