Kung Fu earned The CW its best ratings in almost a decade when it premiered on Wednesday, and hopes for the rest of the series are incredibly high. According to a report by Jo Blo, the revival reached a total of 1.4 million viewers, with a 0.2 Nielsen rating in the key demographic of viewers aged 18-49. This block was the network's best Wednesday night since The 100 premiered seven years ago.
Kung Fu follows a young Chinese American woman who dropped out of college to take a trip to China and discover ancient martial arts while staying in a secluded monastery. She then returns to her home in San Francisco and uses her new skills and perspective to combat the rampant crime and corruption on the streets. It is based on a 1972 TV series by the same name, though that version was set in the old west and starred a white man — played by David Carradine. For many viewers, this new take is the most exciting of The CW's many series premieres this season.
Kung Fu has proven that The CW can see big successes on a Wednesday night, nearly matching that of its hit shows on other nights of the week. This year, Walker premiered to 2.43 million total viewers and 0.4 demo rating, while Superman & Lois premiered to 1.71 million total viewers and 0.4 demo rating. Meanwhile, Nancy Drew followed Kung Fu with 666,000 total viewers and a 0.1 demo rating.
Kung Fu may credit some of its success to the original 1970s series, though more of it should likely go to Warrior. Warrior — originally on Cinemax and now on HBO Max — is based on a TV treatment written by Bruce Lee in the 1970s. It had a remarkably similar premise to the original Kung Fu, except it starred a Chinese American hero to be played by Lee himself. In her memoir, Bruce Lee: The Man Only I Knew, Lee's widow Linda Lee Caldwell claimed that Warner Bros. TV rejected Lee's pitch but then stole his idea and turned it into Kung Fu.
"Bruce himself had been working on the idea of a Shaolin priest, a master of kung fu, who would roam America and find himself involved in various exploits," she wrote. "The studio contacted him and he was soon deeply involved. He gave them numerous ideas, many of which were eventually incorporated in the resulting TV success, Kung Fu, starring actor David Carradine."
Lee himself speculated in an interview on The Pierre Berton Show at the time that the studio went ahead without him because it believed a white protagonist would sell the show better. However, in 2019 Lee's daughter Shannon Lee and producer Justin Lin developed Lee's original treatment for the show into Warrior, a prestige TV drama that realizes Lee's original vision. The show had two acclaimed seasons on Cinemax before Cinemax stopped producing original content, and it is currently seeking a new home. In the meantime, Kung Fu airs on Wednesdays at 8 p.m. ET on The CW.