The summer can mean many things to many people. For the school children, it signals freedom from education and six weeks of doing whatever the hell you want, for others it’s a time to go abroad and look vaguely cultured for a couple of weeks; later boring the socks off your co-workers as you show them the fiftieth photo of you pretending to lean against the Eiffel Tower (you know who you are). Finally, there are those who spend the summer waiting for autumn and a new onslaught of televisual favourites. In an attempt to tide you over until your pangs can be sated, Amazon have released three new pilots for delectation; John Claude Van Johnson, I Love Dick and The Tick.
Without further ado, let’s answer the question on everyone’s lips: “Are any of these shows worth your time?”
Jean-Claude Van Johnson
First up is Jean-Claude Van Johnson, starring everyone’s favourite purveyor of ice cold light-alcoholic refreshment, Jean-Claude Van Damme. The premise for the show is… interesting. Van Damme plays himself, an actor who was big in the eighties, but not so much now, who comes out of retirement to win back the woman he loves. The twist is, he’s not just an actor, but a former black-ops agent who uses film shoots as a cover for performing missions.
Unfortunately, the show doesn’t feel like it knows what it wants to be. Is it action or comedy? There’s far too little of the former to suggest it is anything but the latter, but many of the jokes fall flat when delivered. That being said, there are a few chuckles to be had, predominantly when Van Damme is discussing his previous films and when they are pointing out the common themes in eighties’ action movies, though there is nothing particularly new that you won’t have seen in other parodies. Unfortunately, the good jokes are overwhelmed by the observational humour and clichés that pervade the rest of the episode and make the overall quality of writing feel somewhat hackneyed.
Despite all this, Jean-Claude Van Johnson feels as if it needs a little time to come into its own. Perhaps if more episodes were commissioned, there would be a gem sitting within the muck, but until then, it’s a little weak.
I Love Dick
Next up is I Love Dick a show whose title is sure to elicit a snicker from those with an infantile mindset (myself included.) Unfortunately, that mildly comical title is the only thing that is interesting about the show, the rest is merely dull, dull, dull.
The story meanders along at an almost glacial pace, telling the trite story of an upper-middle class married couple who both begin to fall for the same person. Of course, that can only really be inferred from reading the synopsis of the show, as the first episode focusses solely on Kathryn Hahn’s viewpoint. It’s hard to care for the protagonists, and even harder to care for their problems as they are all so one dimensional and predictable.
In the end, there is so little to say on this non-starter of a series that it’s best to just move on and act as if the whole sorry affair never happened.
Which brings us to the final offering presented to us, The Tick. This is another response to Marvel and DC’s dominance of the superhero genre, and is most likely to be compared to Deadpool, although the similarities themselves are few and far between.
The Tick doesn’t try anything new with its formula of “everyday guy gets caught up in conspiracy theory that turns out to be true and befriends a superhero along the way” (my, what a mouthful,) but it at least attempts to leaven the humour through a wonderfully hammy turn by Peter Serafinowicz as the titular superhero. Despite it bringing nothing new to the table, there is plenty of potential to act as a deconstruction of the superhero genre and its idiosyncrasies, as well as the dichotomy between the Tick and Arthur.
Overall, nothing from the three shows screams “make me a series,” but there is a glimmer of potential in each of them. Jean-Claude Van Johnson is a more surrealist version of Hoff the Record, The Tick has the potential to be the small screen version of Deadpool and I Love Dick could be… the equivalent of a coffee table book I suppose? You know what I mean, the thing you leave in plain sight so everyone thinks you’re more intellectual than you actually are.
Regardless of what I say, go forth and watch these three pilot episodes and decide for yourself. After all, that’s the entire point of Amazon Pilot Season!