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Series / Jean-Claude Van Johnson

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"My name is Jean-Claude Van Damme. I used to be super famous. Perhaps you remember my first starring role in Bloodsport. It is on television all of the time. Or maybe you've seen Timecop, which is like Looper, starring Bruce Willis, but like a million times better. But this is not a movie. And that man is not an actor. He's trying to kill me."
"The man himself making the disclaimer before the start of the pilot episode."
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Jean-Claude Van Johnson is a Prime Video original series starring Jean-Claude Van Damme, Kat Foster, Moises Aras, and Phylicia Rashad. The pilot was released in 2016 and the first full season is scheduled for release on December 15, 2017. The show is based on the premise on what if Van Damme is using his acting career as a smokescreen for his real job: A covert black-ops agent who's operated all over the world since the 1980s?

The show takes place in the present day where the actor himself finds himself burned out, thanks to the years he spent in Hollywood making a name for himself as an actor away from his native Belgium. After some time reflecting and meeting Vanessa, a woman he knew during his rising career, while having dinner out in Los Angeles, he decides to come back to the spy game and have himself reactivated with his old code name: Johnson. For his first mission back, he's ordered to go to Bulgaria and halt a drug smuggling group's operation in smuggling a new drug in the black market known as Hong Kong or HK.

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An Amazon press release on January 2018 mentions that the show is not going to be renewed.


The show has examples of the following tropes:

  • Adam Westing: Jean-Clade Van Damme plays himself and is very willing to poke fun at how the public perceives him as a faded washout whose time has long since passed.
  • Actor Allusion: In-Universe and out of universe, there are several to JCVD's career.
  • As Himself: Half. JCVD plays himself, but "himself" is also a retired black-ops agent known as Johnson who pretends to be JCVD.
  • Better Than a Bare Bulb: Most action tropes get mocked or analyzed one way or another.
  • Biting-the-Hand Humor: The show takes a jab at Amazon's Alexa product line and the difficulty the AI has in recognizing certain accents.
  • Bland-Name Product: JCVD is represented by the United Morris Agency, which is a combination of the names of two real talent agencies: United Talent Agency and The William Morris Agency.
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  • Character Title: Jean Claude Van Johnson.
  • Chekhov's Gag: The pilot opens with JCVD musing about Time Cop and that Looper is also a good film about time travel (but not as good as Time Cop). Much later, he tries to talk himself out of a situation by claiming to be from the future, leading to a tangential discussion of time travel mechanics and how Looper is a good film about time travel but not as good as Time Cop.
  • Covert Group with Mundane Front: The secret intelligence organization JCVD works for fronts itself as United Morris Agency, a Hollywood talent agency.
  • Darker and Edgier: Parodied with HUCK, an action retelling of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn where JCVD plays Huck as an action hero fighting against his villainous Pa. It also includes an actress half JCVD's age playing "Tom Sawyer" as Huck's love interest.
  • Decon-Recon Switch: The story zigzags between mocking the action genre and poking fun at its absurdities and reconstructing those very same absurdities. One example is the Mook Chivalry concept, which a character mocks as unrealistic, but a later scene has another character providing a plausible explanation for it (see Zerg Rush below).
  • Dramedy: It tends to switch between silliness and parodying action movie tropes and portraying some genuinely tragic moments of JCVD as a character.
  • Fantastic Drug: Hong Kong. It's heroin mixed with ketamine.
  • Genre Savvy: One of the bad guys working at a drug smuggling plant has seen most of Van Damme's movies, Timecop included, when Johnson tries to pass himself as his future double.
    "You're not me from the future... Like matter cannot occupy like space."
  • Genre Shift: The show begins as a parody of Darker and Edgier spy dramas but, by the first season's mid-point, has shifted to parodying sci-fi action movies.
  • Jaded Washout: JCVD is a retired man living a boring life and mostly forgotten by the general public, a shadow of his former self.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: The "fake" fight scene JCVD is filming for a movie ends up remarkably similar to the actual fight he has later in the pilot.
  • Loser Protagonist: JCVD's star has fallen significantly since his glory days in the eighties and nineties. His ending monologue in the pilot is mostly observing how he bungled up everything in his life up to this point.
  • Luxurious Liquor: Parodied. Jane, a woman of wealth and taste, enjoys drinking toilet wine that comes from notable prisons around the world. She and JCVD have a discussion about the stuff that shows that, in this universe, such drinks are enjoyed and highly coveted by the well-heeled.
  • Meta Fiction: It proposes JCVD's life as we know it is a cover for a Hired Guns career.
  • Mook Chivalry: Parodied, but then played straight and justified: The mooks observe if they charge all at once it'll be a confusing mess in which they'll end up hitting each other, thus they go one-by-one.
  • Prima Donna Director: Gunnar treats the trashy HUCK as if it's his magnum opus and spends most of his time on screen throwing tantrums at things that go wrong around the set.
  • Protagonist Title: Like JCVD, this time to highlight Van Damme's dual identities.
  • Retired Badass: Johnson/JCVD is a former black-ops/Hollywood star.
  • Self-Parody: JCVD mercilessly mocks himself and the tropes in his films.
  • Sequel Hook: The first season ends with a maimed JCVD being recruited for "The Time War" by cyberpunk versions of Luis and Vanessa.
  • Show Within a Show: Part of the first season revolves around JCVD trying to film an adaptation of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.
  • Signature Move: The splits. In particular the splitting flying kick and the split crotch punch, both from Blood Sport.
  • Spiritual Successor: To JCVD, this time as a TV series.
  • Take That!:
    • JCVD notes he starred in Time Cop which is like Looper, except a thousand times better.
    • Early in the pilot, when a snobby waiter asks if he as any Direct-to-DVD movies coming, JCVD claims to be really retired not "Nicolas Cage retirednote "
    • The prospective scripts Jane at UMA presents to JCVD are trashy action re-imaginings of stories like "Rikki-Tikki-Tavi" or Anne of Green Gables. They're all from Paramount with Channing Tatum attached.
  • This Is Reality: The main point of Van Damme's... willingness to return to black ops. He's being reminded that it's different from TV/film acting gigs that one wrong move in the field can get him killed.
  • 2-for-1 Show: Equal amounts of time are devoted to JCVD's "action movies" career and his "actual" black-ops career.
  • Unfortunate Implications: invoked The fact that the original The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn prominently features a character named "Nigger Jim" is discussed, along with whether or not it would be appropriate to include the character in a modern adaptation. The HUCK production tries to get around this issue by recasting the part with an Asian actor but runs into more of the same problem because the character is now known as "C-Word Jim".
  • Zerg Rush: Zigzagged. The bad guys in "Pilot" tried to rush at the intruder, but one of them objects to it.
    "No, no, no. One at a time, or you run into each other. Could get confusing."
  • Whatever Happened to the Mouse?: The first season ends with no explanation as to when Filip went to using Future!JCVD's time travel device.
  • White-Dwarf Starlet: JCVD is portrayed as this. Once one of the greatest action stars of all time, now he's a sad shadow of his former self basking in his old glories.

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