'Ten Percent' 100% Wishes It Was 'Call My Agent'

Ten Percent Key Art

Despite what you may have heard, Netflix is not dead. The streaming service is still head and shoulders above the rest when it comes to a subscriber user base, and though the vast majority of its ~60 originals that it churns out every month may be utter junk, it is still one of the best ways to make broadcast shows into hits. The Netflix bump has done wonders for everything from Breaking Bad back during its initial run to Schitt's Creek in the last two years. (One could argue Netflix was partly responsible for the latter's Emmy sweep in 2020.) Case in point: Call My Agent, the French comedy that no one in America would know exists if it weren't for Netflix and whose popularity has swelled as a result.

Anything in a foreign language that Americans enjoy is ripe for English remake, even shows like the ones on Walter's Choice, whose original aim was to bring over these hit series intact and help English speakers over the one-inch tall barrier of subtitles. The new version of the hit series is titled Ten Percent after Call My Agent's original French title, Dix Pour Cent, and set in London instead of Paris, but otherwise, it's a mirror image of the across-the-channel series. It joins the ranks of Ben Miller's Professor T and Lesley Sharp's Before We Die in the "English remakes no one needed," though (unlike the other two) it at least has the good sense to understand what made Call My Agent work in the first place. 

Like the original, Ten Percent begins with the death of the Nightingale Hart Agency's founder, Richard Nightingale (a far kindlier version of the French character, played by Jim Broadbent at his cuddliest). Rather than allow it to fold, the top agents, Jonathan Nightingale (Jack Davenport), Rebecca Fox (Lydia Leonard), Stella Hart (Maggie Steed), Dan Bala (Prasanna Puwanarajah), step up to keep things running, eventually folding in Jonathan’s estranged secret daughter Misha (Hiftu Quasem). The main four are each the same archetypes as their French counterparts, and their troubles ⁠— like breaking it to an actress client, she's been dropped from a film ⁠— are direct retreads from the corresponding French installment.

Ten Percent will be perfectly fine if one has not seen Call My Agent because French is difficult or Netflix's algorithm is cruel. The vagaries of French film becoming the details of U.K. productions easily slot from one to another. Both countries have the same problem that Hollywood is an American invention. They must kowtow to the flat accented visitors from overseas while hiding their eyerolls. And John Morton's satire — which made his W1A a must-watch of its time — still works wonders. The actors bounce off each other, and the dialogue crackles when things get going.

For all that the first two plots are retreads of the same stories, a level of value-added comes with the move from Paris to London. After all, though both French and U.K. versions find themselves beholden to Californians, at least the British have infiltrated Hollywood at a much higher level. ("Who will play the next James Bond," for example, is a storyline Call My Agent could never have done, as there is nothing even close to a Euro counterpart.) And, of course, the high-profile actors playing themselves (like Helena Bonham-Carter) are having such a damned good time parodying how they are perceived; it's hard not to smile. Ten Percent may not be necessary, but at least it's having a lot of fun.

It helps that Leonard, Davenport, Puwanarajah, and Steed have the right chemistry, even if fans have seen most of these situations play out precisely the same way in French. As those who remade The Office for the U.S. market recognized quickly, there's something about the fake camaraderie of those forced to work together eight hours a day, five days a week, that quickly becomes a twisted sort of dysfunctional family you wish you hadn't found. The assistants are the best part about this, with newcomer Harry Trevaldwyn's assistant Ollie as one of the show's genuine standouts.

The cast of Ten Percent
Jonathan Birch/Sundance Now

But the problem is that there is already a version out there on one of the broadest streaming services available. Ten Percent is tucked away on Sundance Now and AMC+, two smalltime services that are niche at best and underperforming at worst. No series located there can reasonably be expected to reach your average viewer. (And considering that many who have AMC+ are there for The Walking Dead universe, they're not going to be interested in lighthearted British comedy.) Those who seek out and watch Ten Percent are likely going to be those who are already fans of Call My Agent, and those first two episodes being direct retreads means that the show isn't going to get a fair shot at winning them over to a new version.

Moreover, it's hard to miss that we live in a time when life is short, and peak TV is vast. There's already may too much to watch as it is. Remaking foreign language shows was an innovative enterprise back in the 1970s and 80s when something like Call My Agent would never have found its way to America in the first place. Remaking foreign language series now, when Squid Game is the highest performing series on streaming anywhere, feels gratuitous, and well nigh insulting, as if somehow the show needs to be improved or fixed by redoing it in another language.

That being said, Ten Percent will work for those who have not seen the original because Morton has the good sense to understand how the soap opera aspects of the French version wormed characters into viewers' hearts. Audiences found themselves caring about these cut-throat people in horrible jobs in the French version, and they'll do the same here. That's a significant upgrade from some of the other straight retreads (Looking at you, Professor T). The unneeded adaptations made everything worse by not understanding what made the original tick. In the pantheon of shows, we didn't need, at least this one has the good sense to try and make us want more.


Ani Bundel has been blogging professionally since 2010. A DC native, Hufflepuff, and Keyboard Khaleesi, she spends all her non-writing time taking pictures of her cats. Regular bylines also found on MSNBC, Paste, Primetimer, and others. 

A Woman's Place Is In Your Face. Cat Approved. Find her on BlueSky and other social media of your choice: @anibundel.bsky.social

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