The BT Tower. A dank Soho alley. A pub. The highly anticipated anglicisation of the French series Call My Agent! begins with a montage reminding us that we’ve left Eiffel, Haussmann and café culture behind. The venue is now unmistakably London, but it’s a famous French idiom that comes to mind while watching the new series: plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.
Ten Percent, which airs on Amazon Prime Video, is not so much inspired by Fanny Herrero’s comedy-drama about a talent representation agency as it is an exercise in translation. The figure in the title doesn’t only refer to commission charged by an agent, but seemingly also to the amount of original material to be found in the British version’s eight déjà-vu-filled episodes.
For the uninitiated, the French show revolved around a team of agents who scramble to save their company and solve problems for a host of real-life leading actors playing largely unflattering versions of themselves. Although it became a global hit once picked up by Netflix, it’s easy to see why an adaptation that uses the basic premise to send up celebrities with more renown on this side of the Channel might appeal.
But writer John Morton (Twenty Twelve, W1A) seems to make little attempt to alter the story or give it a distinctively British feel. Beyond superficial changes, the characters are essentially mirror images of their Gallic counterparts. Jack Davenport leads the cast as Jonathan (formerly Mathias), the unsmiling, underhanded agent who seeks to seize control of the company after its founder dies suddenly. The formidable, short-fused Rebecca (Lydia Leonard) maps on to Camille Cottin’s Andrea; sensitive, Vespa-riding Gabriel is now sensitive, bicycle-riding Dan (Prasanna Puwanarajah), while old-hand Arelette becomes Stella (Maggie Steed) — again with a yapping dog in tow.
The main narrative arcs — including the company’s slide towards bankruptcy and the arrival of a new assistant who has a secret connection to Jonathan — also play out in almost exactly the same way as before. But the most disappointingly complacent aspect is how the series squanders its big-name cameos. Where the French VIPs were given tailor-made scenarios specific to their personalities and reputations, here the likes of Kelly Macdonald, Helena Bonham Carter and Dominic West have to make do with acting out stories that were written for others.
Viewed in isolation, Ten Percent is a competently put together and gently entertaining look at the struggle to maintain the sheen of showbiz stars, but it has nothing to offer existing fans of Call My Agent! And even newcomers would be better off giving the exquisite original a go tout de suite.
On Amazon Prime Video from April 28