In 2016, Netflix bet on an unconventional show when it started streaming Call my agent!, a French comedy-drama that premiered on France 2 the previous year. The show centers on the agents of a Parisian talent agency and their difficult-to-manage clientele, and is titled Ten percent in French (referring to the agent’s ten percent commission). It was a slow burn, becoming a cult favorite during the pandemic and becoming one of Netflix’s biggest international hits over the course of four seasons. The show owes its popularity to clever and fun writing, great performances (especially from star Camille Cottin) and a rotation of cameos from some of France’s biggest movie stars, playing exaggerated versions of them. themselves as clients of the fictitious agency ASK.
While the show was originally supposed to end in its fourth season in 2021, its popularity prompted producers to add a fifth season and a movie. He also spawned fallout in india, Turkey and South Korea. But most notable is the new UK remake, which released its first two episodes last weekend, available on Amazon UK in Britain, and Sundance Now or AMC+ in the US. (Both services offer a 7-day free trial; you can eventually binge for free on Amazon Prime.)
The UK version, titled ten percent, stays close to the original, borrowing characters, plots and jokes, with a British twist. Set in London instead of Paris, the show follows Nightingale Hart agents as they attempt to coddle and control their high profile clients. In the first two episodes, it involves wonderful cameos from stars Kelly Macdonald, Helena Bonham Carter and Olivia Williams.
Each of Nightingale Hart’s agents is an avatar for their ASK counterparts, and together they form something of a showbiz family that often bickers. Camille Cottin’s Andréa Martel, a queer, brash, no-BS senior agent and fan favorite, is replaced by Lydia Leonard’s Rebecca Hart. Between the physical resemblance and the identical representation of the character, it is clear that ten percentThe producers of Cottin aimed to recreate the success of Cottin by sticking as much as possible to the original formula. Although Leonard gives a great performance, he lacks some of Cottin’s swagger and sex appeal, and it might have served the show better to head in a completely different direction with this iconic character, instead of trying to replace her with a doppelganger.
Rebecca’s rival is the stoic and scheming Jonathan Nightingale (played by Jack Davenport), a replacement for Mathias Barneville de Thibault de Montalembert. (In a little joke, one of the agent’s dogs in the remake is named Mathias.) In the original show, Andrea and Mathias act like competitive siblings, vying for control of the business after the death of its founder. But that dynamic is somewhat off-kilter in the remake, as the company’s founder, Richard Nightingale (played beautifully by Jim Broadbent), is the actual father of the Jonathan/Mathias character. Richard dies at the end of the pilot, as in the original show, leaving his agency in a dodgy financial situation and without a clear successor.
Davenport’s casting is another confusing choice, and he seems to be trying hard not to lean into the pretty-boy nepotism the role offers. He’s stripped of the smugness that makes the Mathias character so fun to hate, and is characterized more by heartbreak than cunning in these early episodes, following his father’s death. As in the original, his character’s life is complicated by the appearance of his illegitimate daughter, who goes behind his back to get a job at his agency. But the casting of the daughter, Misha, with South Asian Scottish actress Hiftu Quasem creates an interesting disruption in the multi-generational storyline. Now, instead of being the story of a wealthy white man leaving his business in the hands of his wealthy white son, we can see the next generation of the film industry, diverse and female, rise from the ashes.
At the plot level, ten percent is close to being a shot-by-shot remake of Call my agent!, with the reworked stories for the British stars they feature. In the pilot, Kelly Macdonald is deemed too old for a role in an American film and has the option of having plastic surgery or losing the role. (Cécile de France has the same script in the original pilot.) In the second episode, drama erupts when Helena Bonham Carter and Olivia Williams, both clients of the agency, are accidentally offered the same role. It’s the same story as the second episode of the original show, in which the same thing happens to Françoise Fabian and Line Renaud. Above all, the appearances of the guest superstars in the British version are less excessive and ridiculous than in the French version. In the original, the underlying premise is that agents get into goofy shenanigans because they’re forced to bend over backwards to cater to their clients’ whims and egos. In the remake, however, the customers are more reasonable, and therefore the agents seem more outrageous and less sympathetic. It’s worth wondering if Macdonald, Williams and Bonham Carter saw the original and decided they didn’t want to give in to the self-deprecating spirit of Call my agent!
References to famous British actors could make the series more relatable to British and American audiences, who may not have been familiar enough with French cinema to understand all the jokes in the original. There are great gags, like when Rebecca’s assistant accidentally sends Phoebe Waller-Bridge a cake meant for Dame Maggie Smith, while Maggie receives Phoebe’s intended gift of designer nipple pasties.
It will be interesting to see if ten percent finds a way to diverge and evolve from the original source material, but in its early stages the show seems to stick to the script. It says something that Netflix refused to buy and stream the show, hence its somewhat niche appearance on Sundance Now and AMC+. Future guest stars include Himesh Patel, Emma Corrin, Phoebe Dynevor, Dominic West and David Oyelowo. So stick around if you want, but expect a good dose of deja vu.