Watch: Call My Agent (Netflix).
Call My Agent is like Borgen about Hollywood or a more realistic Entourage: It’s a French workplace mostly-sitcom about a talent agency in Paris, Agence Samuel Kerr. The ensemble of characters in the agency is compelling from the first episode, which I recently rewatched: Mathias is the manipulative business shark; Gabriel is a bumbling but lovable and loyal agent; Andrea Martel is both successful and ethical, if a little overwrought; Arlette is an aging tastemaker from an earlier era of French cinema forever carrying her cute dog. The agents are surrounded by a set of assistants, Herve, Noemie, and Camille — each has their secrets but it doesn’t spoil much to note that Camille is secretly Mathias’s daughter, who has arrived in Paris to reconnect with him and ends up with a job at the agency.
Hijinks ensue: Most of the episodes are problems-of-the-day as the agency wrangles real-life French stars, who play themselves on the show. An actor doesn’t want to do a nude scene, hates the director, is stuck in method mode for an 18th-century soldier, is in love with the cinematographer. Meanwhile, the agents have relationships and affairs of their own while trying to preserve the agency’s business from overzealous investors and competitors. Essentially, it’s delightful, well-produced, very scenic, high-cultural comedy — what Emily in Paris wishes it could be. It’s absolutely worth watching.
The problem is that the setup runs out of steam after season 2, and there are 4 seasons. There comes a point in some shows or movie series at which the characters still look and speak the same but you can tell the writers have just thrown up their hands — it jumps the shark. After season 2 of Call My Agent, Camille gets a big makeover and starts dressing like a proper Parisian, the plots of the day become overtly wacky, and the agency business battles feel totally arbitrary and repetitive. Season 4 is better than season 3 but not enough to reclaim the pure joy of the first 2.
At the end of season 4, the agency has been pillaged by a rival for the third time and is shutting down imminently. Camille is launching her own youth talent agency, the dog dies, and all the famous actors are gone. The true twist of the knife is when Andrea announces that instead of being an agent she might write a TV show — about agents. The show we just watched! Ouch.
Sometimes you hear that you have to stick through a show’s first season to get to the good stuff. But there should also be warnings when viewers should bail before things get ruined (although quarantine makes just about any continuation desirable). Maybe take a break halfway through Call My Agent and then save the rest for a desperate moment — there’s plenty of other stuff to watch. — By Kyle Chayka