It’s a French television show that actually makes sense.
“Call My Agent” — or Dix Pour Cent, as it is called in its native land — is a French Netflix Original revolving around ASK, a Parisian talent agency. At its center is twenty-two-year old Camille (Fanny Sidney), who moves from the Cote d’Azur to Paris hoping to find work in the film industry. She is abruptly hired as an assistant in ASK’s book-filled, many-windowed office which immediately causes Some Problems. I will not reveal these Problems because Donald Trump is about to become your president and you need to savor every moment of mildly pleasurable narrative surprise as a sort of bulwark against the horrified shock which will, soon enough, dominate your actual emotional life.
Wide-eyed, provincial and good-hearted, Camille is easy to root for and a fine enough center of this entertaining and relievingly French story, but she’s not especially fascinating. Or at least that’s how I felt. Someone else might watch this show and say, “My favorite character is Camille,” and I would nod at them and say “Oh, cool,” but as soon as they turned around I would mouth, “Camille? Really?”
At any rate, I care about Camille, and I want what’s best for her, but it’s the agents themselves I really want to hang around with. I most strongly identified with the beautiful, gay, bitchy, refreshingly large-nosed—I doubt we will ever see a woman who is not a character actress with a nose this big on an American television show—Andréa (Camille Cottin). I was also fond of her BFF, the fortyish Gabriel (Grégory Montel) who is boyishly attractive, romantically shy, and lacks the decisiveness Andréa has too much of. Then there is mid-fifties Mathias (Thibault de Montalembert) — the most senior partner, who has expensively cut flopping gray forelocks and the assured air of a man who has gotten very rich pretending to love art more than money. My favorite character is the late sixties-ish Arlette (Liliane Rovére, in her eighties in real life!) the poorest and artsiest of the bunch. She retains a whiff of rock-star worship in her otherwise age-appropriate dress and it’s easy to imagine her fifty years ago, shopping and scoring coke with Anita Pallenberg. Arlette goes everywhere with her little dog, named Jean Gabin after the famous French actor.
Other characters include Gabriel’s assistant, the very gay, very weird, very French Hervé (Nicolas Maury); the ridiculously gorgeous receptionist Sofia (Stéfi Celma), who wants to be an actress; and Mathias’s assistant, Noémie (Laure Calame) who worships him with a dotty ardor that might be offensive if I did not just love this show so unreservedly and—given that our president-elect is a known sexual predator—also not really give a shit.
“Call My Agent” is not the best television show ever. But it’s good. It’s solid entertainment for adults who don’t necessarily want to watch someone die in an awful manner before they fall asleep, and also for adults who thought “Entourage” would be good until they realized it was just about a bunch of douches who were all dudes. It’s funny and well-acted, a delightful foray into a world where rich, slightly damaged, slightly odd people try to please and make money off of richer, more damaged, even more eccentric people. In Paris. Another big bonus of this show: It makes sense. No one will ever have to write a think piece called “What ‘Call My Agent’ Tells Us About Plato and The Human Heart.”
But it’s not a big piece of fluff either, or certainly not just one. There are deeply tender moments, like when Arlette lights a dejected Camille’s cigarette and essentially tells her life is hard but that it’s still O.K.—great advice if I ever heard it. But the moment I liked best, and found most personally meaningful, comes when Arlette and Andréa are headed to see a late-night film after a long day, Jean Gabin in tow. Arlette says to a heartbroken Andréa, “When things are getting you down, there’s always the movies.” I am going to substitute “television” for “the movies” in this sentence, and promise you that “Call Your Agent” will give you six blissful hours in a world where all anyone does is drink wine, traverse nicely designed rooms in expensive shoes, and argue about how much money people should get paid to make art. I loved it so much. If you have read this far I am sure that you will too.