Jean-Claude Van Johnson – Season 1 Review

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Series: Jean-Claude Van Johnson
Created by: Dave Callaham
Starring: Jean-Claude Van Damme, Kat Foster, Moises Arias
Episodes: Six
Running Time: 30 minutes
Genre: Action, Comedy
Where to Watch: Amazon Prime

Summary: The mussels from Brussels, action icon Jean-Claude Van Damme plays himself, using his globe-trotting film shoots as cover to take on covert missions as the world’s best undercover agent given the alias of “Johnson.”

Full Disclosure: I’m a die-hard Van Damme fan, he was my childhood hero. The first R-Rated film I saw was “Bloodsport” when I was maybe five or six. I have most of his movie posters, all his movies (even the new ones) & framed laserdisc of Hard Target, Timecop & Nowhere To Run decorating my home.

FYI: The pilot was part of Amazon Studios Pilot program and premiered over a year ago as one of many pilots Amazon puts out before deciding to move forward with a series order, so this has been an incredibly long wait for the series to be released finally.

Season Review: The pilot episode set things up nicely. Jean-Claude Van Damme is playing a heightened version of himself, playing on his public image & it works beautifully the first time we’re brought into his life. He lives in a big gorgeous celebrity home; a beautiful naked blonde model type walks out of the shower as he wakes. Van Damme throws her out, slips out of bed and into his JCVD branded slippers wearing JCVD branded pajamas. He walks into the bathroom. One look in the mirror, and it’s a daily reminder to him that he’s not the Jean-Claude of the 1990’s anymore.

His home walls are covered with his own movie posters, framed photos of him are scattered throughout. He lives an empty life now, one that feels pain, that’s gotten older and has regrets. It’s sad.

Kat Foster as Vanessa with Jean-Claude Van Damme

We’re introduced to Vanessa the for the first time as they bump into one another at a popup dry ramen shop, a scene filled with plenty of good jokes about mistaken identity and dry ramen. It’s been a while since the two have seen each other and you can feel the tension of history and pain involved between them.

Van Damme now motivated to win Vanessa back calls his agent to tell her he’s ready to go back to work. Jean-Claude is clear that he is no longer retired and would like to get back to work as soon as possible. A meeting is set.

Phylicia Rashad as Jane

Phylicia Rashad playing his agent Jane does good work in the role and has some delightful moments of her own throughout the series. She lists off ridiculous script log-lines to him at their first meeting. Van Damme finally interrupts her telling Jane that he’d to appreciate going back to the other work. Jane touches a button and the blinds that wrap around her office lower shut. She says he’s too old, has been retired for too long. She claims things have changed and the world is a different place now. Van Damme pleads with her that he’s in the shape of his life and ready to go back. JC tells her Johnson is still the best. Jane hesitantly agrees to make some calls and get back in touch.

Later he gets the call and that he’s got a job. A fun montage plays for some good laughs as we watch Van Damme work out, apparently not in the best shape of his life.

Next stop is Thailand, and Van Damme is on a film set, packed with trailers. Vanessa and JC meet at the same trailer. She’s visually upset that he somehow finagled his way into the mission.

Inside they have words about the way things once were, how things are now and how Van Damme better not fuck this critical mission up.

Van Damme in disguise as “Johnson”

It’s a pretty standard mission, heroin smuggling, a microchip, bad guys, typical secret agent stuff. The fun of the show is watching Van Damme play on his career, his iconic moves, cheesy catch lines. A fun interaction about Timecop versus Looper and which was the better movie had me rolling with laughter.

The movie he’s in is an action adaptation of Huckleberry Finn, and this is also where a lot of the comedy is. Hucked is the name of the film they’re shooting & it’s another low budget, straight to iTunes action movie. The director is some young, extremely cocky, irritating kid named Gunner who wins the title from Entourage’s Billy Walsh as the most annoying director ever portrayed on a series. I hope Van Damme hasn’t sunken so low that he’s stuck having to work with filmmakers like this, even if they’re lesser irritating versions of Gunner.

Of course, the romance between JCVD and Vanessa plays out as you’d expect and the short six-episode series sets things up nicely for a possible second season.

Final Word: Jean-Claude Van Johnson is fantastic IF you are a Jean-Claude Van Damme fan. If you’re a die-hard fan like myself, you’ll get even more enjoyment out of it. If you’re not a fan or don’t know who Jean-Claude is, you may want to avoid the entire series. Van Damme has always had a natural knack for comedy and timing which is why its so odd its taken this long to put him into something pretty funny. He still struggles with English at times and not everything works as it should. In the end, though it’s an excellent little season and a real treat for Van Damme fans around the world.

Check Out the Trailer Below: