Monday, August 31, 2015

Van Dammage: The One After the Superbowl

 "You can't even go to the toilet because they shove a camera up your butt."
Jean-Claude Van Damme 
- On if playing himself would lead to a reality show

Friday night we randomly watched the Friends episode after the 1996 Superbowl featuring a bevy of guest stars including Brooke Shields, Chris Isaak, Julia Roberts and Jean-Claude Van Damme. Shields was having a career lull, Roberts was dating show co-star Matthew Perry and JCVD was still looking for his Hollywood breakthrough after almost doing so with flicks like Universal Soldier and Timecop. In the episode, Van Damme is the star of fictional film Outbreak 2 which features Ross' (David Schwimmer) former pet monkey. Monica (Courtney Cox) has a huge crush on The Muscles From Brussels while Rachel (Jennifer Aniston) has no clue who he is. After Wham Bam charms Rachel, it creates a friction with Monica and the two both end up going on dates with our man Van. Playing himself, Van Damme makes references to threesomes with Drew Barrymore, cracking walnuts with his butt and telling Rachel he thinks she's cute with nary a roundhouse kick or shirtless scene in sight.

The episode was a two-part event for NBC with ad rates going for an astronomical $600,000 per 30 second ad. Their gamble worked as the episode was watched by 52.9 million viewers, by far the most viewed chapter in the show's 10 year history. Shields would go on to headline her own sitcom, Suddenly Susan for 4 seasons, Roberts would rebound from big budget bust Mary Reilly with My Best Friend's Wedding but Van Damme's box office clout slowly diminished with quality efforts like The Quest and Maximum Risk producing middling returns. 8 years later he would play himself on another NBC show, Las Vegas, where he seemingly dies in a movie stunt gone wrong. 7 years after that he would end up letting cameras follow him around the world for reality series Jean-Claude Van Damme: Behind Closed Doors. Reflecting on his experience, Van Damme would state that "Friends was so big at that time and I had been doing low-budget film after low-budget film. Then they asked me to be on the show, but I didn't really know Friends that much. TV is very powerful, people still talk about it. It let me show a different side." Rumor has it that JCVD is considering a television series where he would play a spy posing as an actor.

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