“Call My Agent!,” a six-episode 2015 French series on Netflix, is not the first cable/streaming-service show to go behind the scenes in the entertainment field. But it distinguishes itself by getting its focus right.
Screenwriters, directors, producers and agents are more interesting than actors. They are smarter, less self-obsessed. This is why hot-headed but loyal agent Ari Gold (Jeremy Piven) captivated more than movie star Vince (Adrian Grenier) on HBO’s “Entourage.” Yet much of “Entourage” followed Vince and his equally vacuous minions.
“Agent” wisely highlights the people who work at a boutique Paris talent agency rather than actors from whom they earn 10-percent commissions (the series’ French title, “Dix pour cent,” translates to “10 percent”). Real stars such as Nathalie Baye and Cécile de France appear as clients. But they are not there to merely inject star power or comic relief. They inform agent characters’ arcs.
De France fires her agent, Gabriel (Grégory Montel), in episode 1 because he avoids telling her Quentin Tarantino rejected her for a role because of her age. This storyline, and the likable Montel, quickly reveal Gabriel’s essence. A softie working in a cutthroat business because of its proximity to art and artists, Gabriel wanted to spare de France’s feelings.
There are no Ari-style sharks here. Andrea (Camille Cottin), who often erupts in anger at the office and cuts a swath through Paris’ lesbian circles in her off time, comes closest. Cottin is good at at playing bravado, and better at showing it evaporate when Andrea meets a woman she likes.
This relationship blooms under inappropriate professional circumstances, as do most in “Agent,” which sometimes undercuts its light, satiric tone with melodrama. The series starts with new-to-town ingénue Camille (Fanny Sidney) worming her way into a job as Andrea’s assistant. Camille is the secret daughter of buttoned-up agent Mathias (Thibault de Montalembert), who cheated on his wife with Camille’s mother two decades ago in Cannes. Camille came to Paris to confront Mathias, who hides their relationship from colleagues.
Series creators Dominique Besnehard and Fanny Herrero might have been winking with the love-child cliché. Or they might just have been French. Regardless, Sidney often seems at a loss at how to play half-wide-eyed, half-conniving Camille.
De Montalembert saves this storyline by keeping Mathias’ feelings close to the vest. Though Mathias objects to Camille working at his agency, he does not make her quit. Quiet and authoritative, Mathias is a cool-headed counterpoint to his emotional fellow agents. You might not want him as a dad, but you would as an agent.
Call My Agent
On Netflix. In French with English subtitles.