Imagine a world where JCVD, the action movie star of decades past, was actually a spy. The acting was always a cover for a multitude of international top-secret missions. When JCVD runs into Vanessa (Kat Foster), his former partner and lover, he decides to come out of retirement and dust off his spy moniker, Jean-Claude Van Johnson.
JCVD’s agent/handler, Jane (Phylicia Rashad) is the M of the series. Tasking JCVD with his assignment despite worries that he isn’t ready for it. She sends Luis (Moises Arias) to watch JCVD’s back. Luis doesn’t get enough screen time but becomes one of the most likable characters in an easy to like cast.
No spy movie is complete without an over-the-top zany big bad. Enter Dragan (Carlo Rota). The evil genius bent on world domination (of course) who loves to chew up the scenery and spit it out while he and JCVD go toe to toe in who can live it up more.
Hilariously tongue-in-cheek, Jean-Claude Van Johnson puts all the ridiculousness on front street. The opening scene is JCVD being struck in the face with a metal baton because he lost his ability to do badass splits in his older age. The action lays under a monologue comparing Time Cop to Looper; except that Time Cop is about a million times better. The series pulls no punches in the writing as the main character constantly screws up while making jokes at the actor’s own expense.
The comedy doesn’t just revolve around JCVD’s age or body of work. That would get old fast. Jokes fly at a rapid pace about the movie business in general, spy tropes, and general insanity. Even the dumb jokes have a sharp wit to them. The show is very intelligent for being a spoof.
Somewhere along the way you’ll find yourself not just in it for the jokes. The spy story and the characters are actually likable despite being a mockery of themselves. The good product wrapped in a spoof isn’t quite as magical as Shaun of the Dead or Hot Fuzz, but saying it isn’t quite perfect isn’t meant to tear down JCVJ.
Despite his age, and the constant jokes about it, JCVD still has that spark that made him an action hero in the first place. This isn’t Bloodsport or Kickboxer but there is some terrific choreography (and some more jokes about choreography). As the movie progresses the semi-titular star rediscovers who he is in the world of acting and the world of espionage. He tackles demons from his past mentally while beating down throngs of goons and big bads with his fists. He even proves to himself, and the audience, that he is still the king of splits… ow.
At times the story goes so far off from what the audience would expect that you almost lose grip on the series. Almost. The series isn’t meant to be serious anyway and when the insanity starts to cross that line it’s better to just lay back and enjoy the ride. The characters take it in stride which just adds to the joyful ridiculousness of it all.
The episodes are short. It’s easy to watch the entire series in a day or two. The length along with the blend of levity and action make Jean-Claude Van Johnson quick and easy to digest.