Forget Emily in Paris, with its clichéd berets-and-baguettes take on French working life, because Call My Agent! is the only slice of Gallic chic you need right now. Set in a Parisian talent agency whose clients include A-list French actors and filmmakers, its four-season run has come to end – just as the rest of the world finally cottons on to what French audiences have known since 2015: it’s one of the sharpest, smartest, most moreish things on the small screen at the moment. If you’re late to la soirée, here’s a few good reasons to get stuck right in.
Andréa, Gabriel and ASK owner Hicham Janowski (Assaad Bouab)
1. You’ll fall in love with the characters
The five big-hitters at ASK – tough-as-teak Andréa (Camille Cottin), high-strung schemer Mathias (Thibault de Montalembert), cuddly boho type Gabriel (Grégory Montel) and Liliane Rovère’s industry old-timer Arlette (‘She represented the dinosaurs in Jurassic Park’ notes a colleague) – are so brilliantly drawn, you’ll find yourself hanging on their fortunes after about two episodes. Call My Agent! pulls of that Mad Men trick of giving us a relatable but flawed group of people who are haunted by past fuck-ups, love each other like a family, and scrap like cats and dogs. The other ASKers, receptionist-turned-actress Sophia and worked-to-the-bone assistants Hervé, Camille and Noémie are a joy to hang out with too, even if Noémie’s skittish, Jenna-from-30-Rock energy occasionally wears a little thin.
Juliette Binoche is a hoot as a clumsy, pizza-munching Cannes master of ceremonies
2. It’s like Entourage without the testosterone
If it’s fun to ride shotgun with Vincent Chase and co in Entourage, its male-gazy perspective on Hollywood life occasionally has the feel of a horny teenager’s cheese dream. Call My Agent! Is a very different beast. Sex looms large, especially for Andréa and, for different reasons, Mathias, but indiscretions always come with consequences. It’s set in a recognisably #MeToo-era world, where handsy media moguls still hold sway but the mood music is slowly changing. So much so that season two’s climax celebrates a Cannes Film Festival line-up featuring 12 female directors. Considering the record to date is only four, that’s probably a sly dig.
Sigourney Weaver in season four
3. The celebrity cameos are stellar
While some TV shows have contented themselves with wheeling on a big name for the sake of it (hello, Baywatch), Call My Agent! is not one of them. It’s justly famous for attracting French (and in Signourney Weaver’s case, American) acting royalty for one-off appearances as exaggerated Entourage-style versions of themselves, but it’s the hyper-self-aware scenarios they play out that make them sing. Juliette Binoche is a hoot as a clumsy, pizza-munching master of ceremonies at Cannes, while Isabelle Adjani features as a Game of Thrones obsessive who will steal a car to land a gig. Other familiar faces include Isabelle Huppert, Jean Dujardin, Charlotte Gainsbourg and Jean Reno.
High anxiety: the tight-wound Mathias is haunted by his past
4. It’s funny and emotional
Call My Agent! pulls off a serious tonal juggle, with elements of bedroom farce, sitcom-like scenarios involving doped-up driving tests, dogs eating film scripts, and that comedy staple, the humorously shaped sausage, abutting moments of real pathos that spring from subtle character arcs. Relationships begin and end, old wounds are reopened, and heartbreak, in many different forms, is endured. Somehow it all works, testament to the confident writing and actors who clearly connect deeply with their characters.
It showcases those Parisian icons: the Eiffel Tower, The Grand Rex cinema, and Isabelle Huppert
5. It’s perfect lockdown escapism
If you’re missing any of the following things – Paris; your crappy old office; parties; other, even more glam bits of Paris – Call My Agent! is so for you, it hurts. This is a show that proudly showcases those Parisian icons: the Eiffel Tower, The Grand Rex cinema, and Isabelle Huppert. And while the creators probably didn’t intend for the bits where the characters hang out in the ASK kitchen chewing the fat to seem quite so exotic and enviable, that’s just where we’re at now.
6. It’s deeply in love with the movies
Call My Agent! is one big ‘heart’ emoji the movies. Sigourney Weaver, explaining why she wanted to cameo, called it ‘a love letter to the business’ – and it’s a long one at that. The walls of ASK are adorned with posters of old Claude Autant-Lara movies, Arlette’s loyal pooch is named after French Silver Screen idol Jean Gabin, and Andréa, Mathias and co frequently steer their clients towards arty projects with risky filmmakers, pushing them to prioritise the medium over money in a way that would have, say, Ari Gold lobbing one of his cell phones at the nearest wall. Best of all, when the team rocks up at Cannes at the end of season two, it’s as starry-eyed movielovers rather than jaded, seen-it-all-before professionals. Vive la cinéma!
Call My Agent! is on Netflix worldwide now.
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