A Once A Thief FAQ

Last updated October 7, 2002

Background Info:

The TV series JOHN WOO'S ONCE A THIEF is based on a 1990 Hong Kong movie called Zongsheng Sihai. This movie, directed by John Woo, was called Once A Thief in English. In 1996, Woo, who had relocated to the U.S., re-made it as a TV movie and series pilot, calling it JOHN WOO'S ONCE A THIEF to distinguish it from the Hong Kong original. It aired in September 1996 on the Fox network, and was well-received. Fox ordered six episodes, but then pulled out of the project. Alliance decided to go ahead on their own, and produced a total of 22 episodes, to be aired on CTV in Canada and syndicated around the world. (But not, alas, in the U.S.) The series premiered September 15, 1997 and aired for nine weeks on Monday nights at 10 pm ET/PT on CTV before being put on hiatus. It returned January 17, 1998, but was not renewed at the end of its first season.

After the series was cancelled, six episodes were sold to the American premium cable channel, TMC. Four of them were spliced together to make two movies; apparently the remaining two were deemed too silly.

Finally, in 2002, the series was syndicated in the U.S. It debuted the week of September 30, 2002.

Why was the show put on hiatus?

No one seems to know for sure, but there are all kinds of rumors:


Low ratings. One newspaper printed a supposed "press release" from CTV saying that OAT was being put on hiatus due to poor ratings. This was untrue, and the paper in question retracted it soon after.


Too much programming. The official statement from CTV was that they had bought too much programming, and needed to air it all - which meant putting some existing programming on hiatus.


Not enough episodes. The Alliance website put up a letter from the producers of ONCE A THIEF, saying ONCE A THIEF was temporarily removed from the schedule to save some episodes for the all-important sweeps months - not because of poor ratings. (But if this were the case, you'd think Alliance would have known about it sooner.)


CTV was sold. The Toronto Star hinted that general uncertainty caused by the sale of CTV was behind the move, and reported Alliance would complete all 22 episodes of the first season of ONCE A THIEF for the foreign market, then hope that CTV's new owners will give them another chance and renew them for a second season.

The real reason is probably some mix of all of the above. The sale of CTV did cause a lot of confusion, they did want to save some new episodes for sweeps month, they did buy too much programming, and the ratings were disappointing. (A marketing firm was hired to conduct focus groups during the hiatus, so ratings were obviously a concern.)

Where is ONCE A THIEF airing?

It has been sold for syndication in about 30 countries, including the U.S., Germany, France, the U.K., Austria, Spain, and, of course, Canada. It's not airing in all these places, though. Just because a show is bought doesn't mean it will air.

Are there commercial videotapes of ONCE A THIEF?

Only of the pilot. The X-FILES Official Magazine #4 (Winter 1997) reported that "Big Bang Theory," the first episode of ONCE A THIEF, is being released on commercial videotape by A-Pix Entertainment. But the description they give sounds like the pilot. I think whoever wrote this blurb just made a mistake.

In Canada, tapes of four other episodes (edited into two "movies") are also available. (The same "movies" shown on TMC: JOHN WOO'S ONCE A THIEF: BROTHER AGAINST BROTHER and JOHN WOO'S ONCE A THIEF: FAMILY BUSINESS.)

Was OAT filmed in Toronto or Vancouver?

It is filmed in Toronto. The pilot was filmed in Vancouver, but they moved to Toronto for the series.

How are the ratings of OAT?

The Nielsen ratings were disappointing. The first episode of ONCE A THIEF, "Big Bang Theory," was ranked #7 in the weekly Canadian ratings. The second episode, "Rave On," ranked #14. None of the succeeding episodes cracked the top 20.  

Will ONCE A THIEF be renewed for a second season?

Probably not. The show has been officially cancelled, and the actors released from their contracts. Perhaps if it's a big hit when it's aired in the United States, there might be TV movie sequels or something, but I'm afraid the chances are pretty slim.

Question or correction?

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