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Amazon has hit pay dirt again with John Morton’s reboot of Call My Agent! A French sitcom created by Fanny Herrero, which ran for five seasons, this resurrected and renamed incarnation comes on like Extras with lashings of PR farce. Slick, stylised and polished in every sense, Ten Percent hits Prime Video on 28 April.
Nightingale Hart is a family run talent agency based in London’s Soho, headed up by Richard Nightingale (Jim Broadbent) and Stella Hart (Maggie Steed).
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Second in command is Richard’s son Jonathan (Jack Davenport), while below him and slightly to the left is Rebecca Fox (Lydia Leonard). Elsewhere on this far from level playing field are Dan Bala (Prasanna Puwanarajah), plus assistants Ollie (Harry Trevaldwyn) and Julia (Julia Fincham).
Dysfunctional in an authentically farcical fashion, Ten Percent succeeds primarily because of these characters and the actors who inhabit them. Coupled with the steady stream of acting talent who pop up in expanded cameo roles, playing exaggerated versions of themselves, this show quickly becomes genuinely engrossing stuff.
With aspiring actresses on reception in the shape of Zoe Spencer (Fola Evans-Akingbola) alongside washed up thespians like Simon Gould (Tim McInnerny), it is also choke full of eccentric oddities at every turn. Only newcomer Misha Virani (Hiftu Quasem) comes with no obvious psychological baggage, but soon slots right into the mayhem with a few secrets of her own.
What separates Ten Percent from Extras and other shows of this ilk, comes down to the smallest things. On the face of it, this Prime Video show should tick over employing its engrained formula and seasoned star power, without making waves. Instead, what this cast manages to do is make this series engaging and vaguely addictive, by adding a degree of pathos to the proceedings.
As a whole the cast also prove adept at delivering a punchline, even if Rebecca Fox and Prasanna Puwabarjah do walk away with the show in other ways. As father and son, both Jack Davenport and Jim Broadbent also create a tangible dynamic between them, which in turn sells the more outlandish elements of Ten Percent that play out.
Watch a trailer for Ten Percent
The upshot of having Broadbent onboard as an elder statesman, is that Nightingale Hart feels like a family. There is a degree of comfort to be had from spending time with these characters, who muddle through life insulated by entertainment. It is also nice to see actors like Helena Bonham Carter, Kelly McDonald and Dominic West playing it for laughs.
Although the humour is gentle and Ten Percent never really moves out of its comedic comfort zone, these characters are fully formed and relatable. In terms of writing, John Morton also keeps things moving without settling too long in one place. Scenic segues to on-set locations are mixed up with professional moments back at headquarters.
For cinema goers this show also offers plenty of opportunity to join the dots in a nerdy kind of way. Past film productions are framed in the background of numerous shots, while certain guest stars match up to them in reality, giving Ten Percent a certain meta vibe. Not only blurring the line between fact and fiction further, but giving audiences something else to engage with.
On the downside, fans of the original French incarnation are bound to make comparisons, which would be doing this series a disservice. Although Ten Percent does possess a distinct European vibe when it comes to the relaxed comedic vibe and character interpretation, farce remains a universal language which translates well regardless.
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What this show also succeeds at is embracing the artifice of show business, by tapping into some established cliches in a good-natured way. Whether that means gently exploiting theatrical insecurities for comedic affect, or taking pot shots at the value of growing old in a business obsessed with youthful good looks.
By weaving gender identity and sexual attraction into the fabric of these characters, John Morton is also turning this show into a contemporary platform. In so doing, he ties it back to the creative nature of film and television, where these topics have become increasingly relevant. However, at no point does this particular narrative thread feel forced or intentionally employed to gain brownie points.
What audiences are offered instead, is a gentle Prime Video dramedy which contains some fully fleshed out characters, engaging in some absurd behaviour. Distinctly inoffensive, subtly on point and carried through by an ensemble cast on sparkling form.
Proving to be not only one of the better adaptations of a foreign language intellectual property, but adapted by someone savvy enough to retain what made it work.
Ten Percent is available to stream from 28 April on Prime Video