Maybe you’ve seen TimeCop, which is like Looper starring Bruce Willis, but like a million times better.
A new crop of original TV-pilots has arrived on amazon prime and as a customer you can vote which one of those will be continued as a series.
When I saw that one of them had Jean-Claude Van Damme aka JCVD starring in the lead, with the mysterious title Jean-Claude Van Johnson, my interest was piqued, to say the least. As an old JCVD fan, there was no way I could miss this, no matter how crappy it would probably be.
But thankfully, it turned out to be quite good and even more important, pretty goddamn funny!
This is the premise, roughly:
Ageing action movie actor Jean-Claude Van Damme (the man playing himself) finally retired from his job -“really retired, not Nicolas Cage- retired”- trading straining film shoots for a hedonistic, but increasingly boring life behind the walls of his luxury villa, which is equipped with an endless supply of pop tarts and coconut water running through the water pipes.
One day he accidentally meets Vanessa (Kat Foster), a past movie set affair, at a restaurant and the old feelings flame up again, at least from Jean-Claude’s side. Vanessa is not to keen on reuniting with him, as he once abandoned her without warning, yet she tells him about a “job” in Bulgaria she was hired for.
JCVD pulls a few levers to get the lead role in said project, a braindead action film adaptation of Huckleberry Finn, called Huck. At this point it is revealed to the audience that JCVD movies have never been just movies, but the shoots served as a front for the actions of a secret agency, whose top agent Jean-Claude (code name: “Johnson”) has once been . Has been…
The trailer gave off the vibe of a serialized version of Mabrouk El Mechri’s masterful JCVD (2008), but it’s a completely different beast. A soul striptease like the former would not have been good material to stretch out over a season anyway.
What we get instead is a humorous, over-the-top look at the DTV- action movie business and Van Damme’s career. Knowledge about the Muscles from Brussels’ filmography is not essential to enjoy the pilot, but definitely enhances the experience.
Van Damme again shows a great sense for self-deprecating humour and excellent comic timing. Some of the jokes are cleverly set up and result in a payoff later, like the introductory line about TimeCop and Looper which gets a deeper meaning in the third act. Others are more simplistic -like a hilarious sight gag referencing Hard Target– but are nonetheless pretty funny. Not sure if this concept holds up over several seasons, but there should be enough material for one or two.
I also appreciate that the running time of an episode clocks in at 30 minutes, the only acceptable maximum length for a comedy series. Speaking of, what was the last truly worthwhile entry in that genre?
If you think like me and want to support the career of the living movie legend that is JCVD and if you are longing for an escapist TV-comedy outside the usual boring family- and workplace settings, vote for Jean-Claude Van Johnson.