‘Call My Agent!’: Final Season Laughs and Cries at the Cutthroat Antics of Working in Entertainment
“Call My Agent!” has all the excitement and frustration that comes with being part of a team effort. This French import, now streaming on Netflix, has released its fourth and (presumably) final season, granting a final bow to the team of talent agency ASK. It will be a missed affair considering how classy, sharp and subtly satirical of a show it is. Since premiering on French TV in 2015, “Call My Agent!” has recycled some of what we know about the entertainment world, including how it’s a savage arena of egos, but at the same time, it’s a character-driven ensemble that is more endearing than vicious. The finale may inspire more warmhearted tears than laughs. Now all four seasons of the show can be enjoyed in the U.S. by American audiences that have discovered it like a hidden menu item.
As the final season opens ASK is in meltdown. Current agency head Hicham (Assaad Bouab) informs his team that the place is both filing for bankruptcy and needing to downsize. The solution for now is to cut out any artists who are not bringing in profits. But at the same time old pro agents like Andréa (Camille Cottin), Gabriel (Grégory Montel) and Arlette (Liliane Rovère), must scramble to make sure the big names stay, or at the very least, find viable projects for their talent to shine. A cutthroat like Mathias (Thibault de Montalembert) has meanwhile left the agency business to seek greener pastures as a producer. And as the agents deal with stars demanding better scripts or screen veterans feeling they are past their time, personal lives are also going through transitions. Andréa for example, is still trying to juggle being a high-power agent with motherhood, which leads to tensions with partner Colette (Ophélia Kolb).
Much of the inviting style of this show is found in its structure, which combines a vignette-like format with some broader storylines. Throughout season four the big question is if ASK can survive, but as everyone involved struggles to keep the office afloat, they go through their own compact adventures. The season premiere has a hilarious storyline involving Charlotte Gainsbourg accepting a terrible sci-fi script Andréa passes along to her, without having bothered to read it. Gainsbourg would love to get out of it, but it turns out the director is a childhood friend with a fragile personality. She admits she didn’t quite get the script for Lars Von Trier’s “Antichrist” at first, so there’s no harm in giving this schlock a chance. This is in keeping with another fun trend in “Call My Agent!,” which is finding satirical cameos for major stars. Previous seasons have brought in screen giants like Juliette Binoche and Monica Bellucci. This season along with Gainsbourg we get Sigourney Weaver, who does a brilliantly funny scene to prove her dance skills while considering a role. Jean Reno, another name famous on both sides of the Atlantic, closes this season with a great performance where he’s allowed to look tired and wise. He may be ASK’s last hope when the chance lands to star in a grand French Revolution historical drama.
Yet without major cameos this would still be a great series to binge because of the recurring cast. Camille Cottin is the experienced agent who knows how to get tough, even with threatening rivals who turn out to be sleeping with a power player responsible for funding the French Revolution epic. She also has a particular maturity missing from many American comedies, including the ones claiming to be about France, like the recent and absurd “Emily in Paris.” Her arguments with Colette about child-rearing and possible infidelities feel like real adults dealing with life. No one feels like a caricature, including the cunning Matthias, or characters like Sofia (Stéfi Celma), the receptionist with dreams of becoming an actor. Yes there are those cliché moments, like Sofia being nominated for a César Award (the French equivalent of the Oscars), thus proving she can chase her dream, or Jean Reno drinking after being reduced to playing Santa Claus. But their dialogue has more sincerity. Some cast, like Liliane Rovère, are entertaining just with their own individual quirks, like Arlette’s love for her dog.
“Call My Agent!” may feel more warmhearted and human than your average movie industry takedown, but it never loses a satirical edge when poking fun at the very nature of the business. Gabriel is so thin-skinned he creates bigger problems when attempting to cut big deals for his clients, like actor Franck Dubosc, who is suffering from age insecurities during his new movie. By negotiating pushing out a younger cast member from a magazine cover in exchange for Franck, Gabriel is reduced to shrinking in shame when friction develops between the actors. As the clock begins to tick for the fate of ASK, the way possible deals and negotiations are carried lack any romanticism or feel-good heroism. Andréa and everyone else will have to make some real hard choices. The final moments of the finale are more nostalgic than anything, with that melancholic feeling of a chapter in life coming to a close.
For those surfing the world of streaming in these stubbornly quarantined times, “Call My Agent!” is a welcome alternative to more crass brands of entertainment industry humor. It’s hilarious but also insightful. Working in a talent agency, as in any sector of the entertainment world, is a unique mixture of corporate ambition and artistic inspiration. Many of the individuals involved truly love the idea of making movies or television shows, but nurturing talents and building careers is its own jungle. This is a series about the highs and lows that come with the territory, as well as the big laughs. It will confirm that the idea of maneuvering in the business can be fun and dangerous at the same time. The game is the same whether in Paris or Los Angeles.
“Call My Agent!” season four begins streaming Jan. 21 on Netflix.