TV

French drama 'Call My Agent!' is a more human take on the showbiz hustle

Talent agents have evolved into an agressive breed, says Sam Delaney. Enter the French, to bring a little class to proceedings

I’ve been watching this French drama called Call My Agent! It’s about talent agents working in the glitzy entertainment world in Paris. There have been shows about this line of work before, most notably HBO’s Entourage, which portrayed agents as ruthless, superficial, bullshitting stereotypes. That’s how most people probably imagine them. But because this show is French it paints a more three-dimensional and thoughtful picture of the creed. The protagonists agonise over the conflict between art and money on a daily basis. They share love/hate relationships with each other and their clients. There is sex and sleaze, of course, but the showbiz universe is generally portrayed as a more human place than we’re used to seeing it.

But, from my experience, agents are very different depending on where they’re from. I have a couple of British agents myself – one for broadcast work and one for books. As Brits, working in the relatively dreary world of British entertainment, they lack the romantic notions of their French counterparts who see themselves as patrons of the arts; but they also lack the unpalatable dramatics of US agents.

In fact, some of the Brits are so restrained that they almost seem indifferent. A former agent of mine thought nothing of loudly yawning through meetings while I excitedly outlined career plans that she evidently regarded as utterly delusional.

My friend Phil was once at a showbiz event with his agent. Halfway through the evening, while they were talking about the ups and downs of the business, the agent turned to Phil and asked: “Who’s your agent anyway?”

“You are!” Phil replied.

“Am I?” said the embarrassed agent. “Sorry, I forgot.”

When I briefly edited a showbiz magazine in the late Noughties, I had many dealings with many sorts of agent. By far the most difficult to deal with were ones from the States. They liked to shout, scream, threaten and bully on behalf of their clients. It was very entertaining.

A former agent of mine thought nothing of loudly yawning through meetings while I excitedly outlined career plans

I would stay late in the office in order to call Hollywood and negotiate deals to interview B, C and sometimes D-list celebrities. The agents were combative and had ludicrous names like Shnooky Zakowski or Lorne Fandango. “How DARE you even call this office after the LIES you have printed about my client in your BULLSHIT magazine!” they would shout down the phone at me.

The best way to counter, I found, was to go a bit Hugh Grant – stutter and mutter and apologise and maybe, if things got really desperate, throw in the odd “Gosh!” or “Well I never!” Eventually, the agents would shamelessly relent by saying something like: “My client would ONLY contemplate appearing in your magazine if you could offer a CONSIDERABLE compensation to make up for all of the HURT and UPSET you have caused her in the past.”

We would eventually find a price that was much more than I wanted to pay and much less than they wanted to receive; and the recently-out-of-rehab reality star or soap actress would sell us her HONEST and SENSATIONAL personal story.

That’s the way it worked. Tawdry? A little. Debasing? Perhaps. Fun? Absolutely. Being an agent probably isn’t easy wherever you do it. But judging by what I’ve seen on Netflix it all seems considerably more classy in Paris than in Hollywood.

Call My Agent! is on Netflix now

Support the Big Issue

For over 30 years, the Big Issue has been committed to ending poverty in the UK. In 2024, our work is needed more than ever. Find out how you can support the Big Issue today.
Vendor martin Hawes

Recommended for you

View all
Rebus star Richard Rankin on TV reboots, defying his late dad's advice and getting his arse out
TV

Rebus star Richard Rankin on TV reboots, defying his late dad's advice and getting his arse out

Steve Pemberton and Reece Shearsmith on friendship, TV and saying goodbye to Inside No 9
TV

Steve Pemberton and Reece Shearsmith on friendship, TV and saying goodbye to Inside No 9

Doctor Who star Millie Gibson on hope for Ruby Sunday and lessons learned from 'magical' Ncuti Gatwa
TV

Doctor Who star Millie Gibson on hope for Ruby Sunday and lessons learned from 'magical' Ncuti Gatwa

Marge starts a union and fights for workers' rights in powerful new episode of The Simpsons
TV

Marge starts a union and fights for workers' rights in powerful new episode of The Simpsons

Most Popular

Read All
Renters pay their landlords' buy-to-let mortgages, so they should get a share of the profits
Renters: A mortgage lender's window advertising buy-to-let products
1.

Renters pay their landlords' buy-to-let mortgages, so they should get a share of the profits

Exclusive: Disabled people are 'set up to fail' by the DWP in target-driven disability benefits system, whistleblowers reveal
Pound coins on a piece of paper with disability living allowancve
2.

Exclusive: Disabled people are 'set up to fail' by the DWP in target-driven disability benefits system, whistleblowers reveal

Cost of living payment 2024: Where to get help now the scheme is over
next dwp cost of living payment 2023
3.

Cost of living payment 2024: Where to get help now the scheme is over

Strike dates 2023: From train drivers to NHS doctors, here are the dates to know
4.

Strike dates 2023: From train drivers to NHS doctors, here are the dates to know