Call My Agent (or Dix Pour Cent in its native France), was the very definition of a sleeper hit. First airing on the continent in 2015, the cameo-laden series about a troubled Parisian talent agency didn’t blow up abroad until it arrived on Netflix during the pandemic.
With French style, lush directing, dry wit, and highly investible characters, it was a breath of fresh air for an audience bloated on banana bread and Tiger King. Following the main agents of Andréa, Mathias, Gabriel, and Arlette at ASK (Agency of Samuel Kerr), the comedy-drama saw them zooming around the streets of Paris as they bent over backwards and beyond to keep their clients happy. They fought as often with each other as they did against financial ruin, outside influence and saboteurs. Throw in some overblown cameos from Cécile de France, Monica Bellucci and Charlotte Gainsbourg – all playing heightened versions of themselves – and you had the funniest subtitled series for ages.
So, it was with some apprehension that we attended a two-episode screening for the London-set remake, Ten Percent. How could it possibly have that same… va va voom? Reader, we needn’t have worried. Written by John Morton (W1A), this interpretation carries all of his usual hallmarks sardonic touches with a spot of pathos, as well as carrying all the grace from the original but with a little more heart and piercing British humour.
The boujee streets of Paris are replaced with the wonky charm of Soho, and the new cast bring fresh enthusiasm. Heading up the Nightingale Hart Agency are Jonathan Nightingale (played by Jack Davenport), Rebecca Fox (Lydia Leonard), Stella Hart (Maggie Steed), Dan Bala (Prasanna Puwanarajah), and Jonathan’s returning estranged secret daughter Misha (Hiftu Quasem). Oh, and there’s a lovely Easter egg tribute to the original in Stella’s dog, who is called Mathias.
Plot-wise, it’s more or less the same. Episode one has the agency coming to terms with the death of its founder (albeit here given a more human feel with the casting of Jim Broadbent). We see immaculate cameos from Helena Bonham Carter, Kelly McDonald and Olivia Williams playing themselves, while Tim McInnery excels as fallen stage lovie Simon Gould. After the first two episodes, the storyline differs quite significantly from the source material – but if the quality remains this high we won’t mind.
As well as the new UK series, Call My Agent has also been adapted in Turkey and South Korean, Bollywood, Italian, Indonesian, Polish and Malaysian projects are already in the pipeline. How well those turn out remains to be seen, but the Brits at least have done a bang up job. If you missed the imperious French show, then here’s your chance to make up for it.