Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Pilot Review: Jean-Claude Van Johnson

Jean-Claude Van Johnson (Amazon)
Premiered August 19

It’s that time again - Amazon pilot season! This cycle, it’s just three half-hour comedies, the first of which I watched was this predictably disappointing attempt to revive or revisit - not sure which - the career of one of the most popular action film stars in recent film history. To be honest, I don’t think I’ve ever actually seen any of his movies, which is part of the reason that I totally forgot until I sat down to write this review that he’s already had a chance to reflect back on his career in the relatively well-received “JCVD” film in which he played himself back in 2008. I don’t know who thought this show would be a good idea, and it’s always strange to me to see relatively unsophisticated humor like an old man unable to do splits coupled with foul language throughout, though this show doesn’t feel like it really tries to go for unfiltered in either arena. Jean-Claude Van Damme is not known for his acting abilities, and therefore casting him in a comedy designed to poke fun at himself is only going to be so effective. Far more productive choices are Kat Foster from “Weeds” and Phylicia Rashad of “The Cosby Show,” who have more experience in this genre and are fully equipped for the challenge. The action on this show isn’t good enough to merit its existence, and it’s not too funny either. I will admit that I chuckled at the notion of an action-style P.F. Chang’s origin story with Jackie Chan playing General Tso, but jokes like that can only go so far.

How would it work as a series? Bringing a script to practice lines while in the middle of an undercover job doesn’t recommend JCVD’s ability to think and perform under pressure, and that kind of juvenile humor doesn’t allow this show to be terribly sophisticated. It’s also not a very fresh idea since dual identities on television with a protagonist living one life at home and another undercover are actually pretty common. I wouldn’t watch this show.
Will it live on to be a series? Don’t count on it. While it does appear that most reviewers enjoyed this show more than I did, I don’t see this as the same type of sustainable quality programming that Amazon has offered so far. The newly popular streaming service isn’t quite as adventurous as Netflix with all its offerings, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing since it’s more discerning, and I think that will lead to this show not being picked up.

Pilot grade: C

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