Once a Thief (TV series)

For other uses, see Once a Thief (disambiguation).
Once a Thief
Also known as ''John Woo's Once a Thief''
Genre Action/Comedy
Written by Steven Barwin
Phil Bedard
Directed by Steve DiMarco
Peter D. Marshall
Starring Ivan Sergei
Sandrine Holt
Nicholas Lea
Jennifer Dale
Country of origin Canada
Original language(s) English
No. of seasons 1
No. of episodes 22
Location(s) Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Running time 44 minutes
Production company(s) Alliance Communications Corporation
Original network CTV Television Network
Audio format Stereo
Original release September 15, 1997 – May 2, 1998
Preceded by Once a Thief (1996)
Followed by Once a Thief: Brother Against Bother

Once a Thief (also billed as John Woo's Once a Thief) is a Canadian Action/Comedy television series inspired by the Hong Kong 1991 film of the same name. The series is a continuation from the 1996 television film of the same name and it also includes two direct-to-video sequels: Once a Thief: Brother Against Brother and Once a Thief: Family Business.


Li Ann Tsei, an orphan who grew up amongst the Chinese Tang family - a ruthless criminal operation - falls in love with Mac Ramsey, a thief who works for the family. However, when she is betrothed to Tang heir Michael, the two fake their deaths in an attempt to flee the country. Li Ann escapes, but Mac is arrested and left to rot in a Chinese prison.

Two years later, he is released and taken to Canada where a mysterious woman known as the Director employs him to work for her crime-fighting institution. He soon learns that he will be working as part of a team with Li Ann, and the man she was engaged to, Victor Mansfield, a disgraced police officer. The trio soon are forced to work together under the manipulative Director.

After the success of the 1996 film Once a Thief, which was used as a pilot for the series, Glenn Davis and William Laurin created the series, which premiered in September 1997, with John Woo as executive producer. The show started out with strong ratings, which quickly fell, and the show was put on hiatus in November after 9 episodes. When it returned, in January 1998, ratings had significantly decreased. All 22 episodes of the show aired during the season, but it was not renewed, a fact which the producers were informed of before filming the last episodes of the series.




DVD release

On June 21, 2011, Alliance Home Entertainment released John Woo's Once a Thief: The Complete Series on DVD in Region 1 (Canada only) for the very first time.[1]


The first episode, "The Big Bang Theory", was number 7 in the Canadian Nielsen ratings, and the second episode, "Rave On", was number 14. By the end of its run, the show was at the bottom of the list. In episode 20, there is a reference to the audience's unfavorable reaction to the show: when the Director is told that the trio is coming along well, she replies "that depends on who you talk to."


Several episodes are parodies of other TV shows and film genres:


  1. http://www.tvshowsondvd.com/news/Thief-release-announced/15436
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