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For many people, one of the most natural ideas in the world involves watching Jean-Claude Van Damme kicking people’s asses in an episode basis on the small screen, but somehow the actor has never been at the center of a scripted TV show. Fortunately, that could all change with Jean-Claude Van Johnson, a long-gestating action-comedy that can move out of the conceptual stages now that Amazon has put in an official pilot order. This could be the best thing ever. Or the worst thing. But maybe the best thing.
Jean-Claude Van Johnson’s future is a tad more bright with a pilot at Amazon over one at a broadcast network, as the streaming service generally picks up the more noteworthy pilots it orders, without very many left floundering without a home. And the concept of Van Damme playing a danger-chasing version of himself is one of the most noteworthy pitches out there.
For the show, Jean-Claude Van Damme will play a famous actor skilled in martial arts – are you still with me? – that leaves his temporary retirement behind to reenter his life as undercover private contractor Jean-Claude Van Johnson, while also taking on an action film version of Huckleberry Finn. He probably doesn’t need to get himself mixed up into dangerous situations all the time, but this life is actually one that the character secretly yearns for. And maybe that has a little something to do with reconnecting with a former co-operative Vanessa, who also happened to be the love of his life. This plot sounds outstanding, and could end up being the closest we ever get to a live-action spiritual sequel to Archer.
An interesting bunch of Hollywood figures are behind the scenes on Jean-Claude Val Johnson. The pilot was written by Dave Callaham, best known for co-writing The Expendables. (Van Damme starred in that film’s sequel.) According to THR, the episode will be directed by Peter Atencio, the guy behind a huge number of Key & Peele episodes, as well as the upcoming feature from that comedy duo, Keanu. Callaham wrote the script on spec in 2014 for Van Damme and Ridley Scott’s production company Scott Free, with comedy legend David Zucker also serving as a producer.
Amazon is currently running on all cylinders, with two of its first dramas, Transparent and Mozart in the Jungle, getting both critical acclaim and the awards to back it up. The future looks pleasant as well, with upcoming projects that include Jeremy Clarkson’s new show, Woody Allen’s first TV show (with Miley Cyrus starring) and another round of the popular alternate history drama Man in the High Castle. The service doesn’t have much by way of action-comedy, so here’s hoping Jean-Claude Van Damme is just the actor to fill that void.
Production on the Jean-Claude Van Johnson pilot is scheduled to begin in Los Angeles in mid-May. Amazon doesn’t really have a set schedule for when the execs like to make decisions on pilots, so there’s no telling just when we’ll find out that this show got ordered to series. Because it will get ordered to series. Or they’ll have to answer to Kurt Sloane.