11 October 2020

The Guardian: “Call My Agent: the French comedy gem A-listers are desperate to star in”

If the show’s premise is somewhat predictable, its handling of fame is altogether less so. Each episode features a titular guest star – BéatriceDalle, Cécile de France, Guy Marchand – but rather than being written as the focal point, the big name is instead that day’s worry to assuage, the problem to be fixed. Call My Agent does that rare thing that interviews often fail to achieve, and makes these people, who live decidedly abnormal lives, very normal.

There are administratively challenged actors who need help answering emails and vetting nannies, and matrimonially challenged stars who want help finding a date. There’s the actor who can’t drive, the actor who can’t swim and the actor who suddenly can’t act. There’s one who, as Andrea puts it, is “doing a Day Lewis”, and can’t stop acting, unable to come out of a very intense Revenant-style survival role. He ends up being dropped from his subsequent gig as a clean-shaven banker when he literally attacks the producer’s dog, with his teeth.

The material for all of it comes from co-creator Dominique Besnehard, an actor and director who spent two decades as the most well-known agent in France. The man’s CV reads like a history of contemporary French cinema. From Jacques Doillon onwards, he’s worked with everyone. Which is to say that not only are the guests in Call My Agent mostly names in Besnehard’s own address book, the storylines are rooted in his lived experience. It all happened, he repeatedly tells the press.

Dale Berning Sawa

I recently finished watching this series on Netflix – binged from start to finish in a little over a week, since each season only has 6 episodes – and I have to say it was phenomenally fun to watch! I know few French actors, so I have not picked up on the premise that real actors are playing themselves until the forth episode – I remember Audrey Fleurot from another French series I watched on Netflix, Le Bazar de la Charité. This innovation aside, the real interest for me were the four agent, their daily trials and tribulations dealing with their clients’ fickleness, but also with each other’s chicanery and intrigue. Some situations felt a little over the top, especially in the lives of the main characters, but at the same time this made the watching experience that more exciting. I was glad to find out there is another season coming, even if it will be the last.

Dix Pour Cent TV series poster

Not entirely unrelated, it made me think (again) about how streaming and Netflix in particular are changing the TV landscape. Leaving aside the change in behavior caused by having all episodes available simultaneously, what I appreciate most about streaming is having access to quality TV from various countries that would have otherwise never made it to my screen! It also gives me a chance to practice my language skills, as I always watch in the original language with local subtitles.

Definitely recommended!

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